On May 15, 2019, the historic TWA Flight Center at New York JFK airport reopened to passengers once again, this time as the TWA Hotel.
Seeing the photos of the iconic building, a refurbished Lockheed Constellation displayed in front of the hotel, and of the rooftop pool overlooking the airport, I immediately put the hotel on my “to review” list.
I had a chance to do so last month and was left with very mixed feelings. I absolutely loved the “thematic” aspect of the hotel. It really felt like traveling back in time. At the same time, from the “accommodation” point of view, it was – considering the price – mediocre at best.
Read the review below to learn all you need to know about the only hotel adjacent to one of the JFK airport terminals.
Booking a Stay at the Hotel
Unlike most hotels, the TWA Hotel can only be booked directly through its website. You cannot book it through OTAs like Hotels.com or Expedia.
The hotel includes several different types of rooms with advanced purchase rate of a standard room starting at about $270 including taxes and fees. For a slightly higher price, rooms with views of the historic building or the runways, and suites are available as well.
Since I was traveling with Yukihiro and neither a runway-view twin room nor a suite with two beds were available on the day, we booked a “Deluxe Double Queen With Historic TWA View” – i.e. a standard twin room with views of the TWA Flight Center.
We paid about $315 for a one night stay including taxes and fees.
Besides overnight stays, the hotel also offers day stay packages in its “Deluxe” rooms starting at about $130 for four hours. The following time slots are available:
- Four hours: 7AM – 11AM
- Six hours: 10AM – 4PM and 12PM – 6PM
- Twelve hours: 8AM – 8PM
Visiting TWA Hotel as a Non-Guest
While staying at the hotel certainly made the experience better, if you are an aviation enthusiast and are on a budget – or do not need to stay near JFK airport – then visiting the hotel without staying there is certainly an option.
In fact, I would say that you can experience 95% of the hotel’s “charm” without staying there.
You can see the Constellation and even have a drink inside it, you can visit the TWA Flight Center, you can dine at the hotel’s restaurants, you can workout at the gym, and you can even visit the hotel’s rooftop pool and bar.
Visiting the gym as a non-guest costs $25 for a day (memberships are available as well). Visiting the pool is possible by reserving a table at the rooftop bar (minimum spend of $50 per person).
Getting to the Hotel
The TWA Hotel is the only JFK airport hotel adjacent to the airport and it’s located just a short walk away from terminal 5.
As such, unless you are flying in on JetBlue or one of the few other airlines using terminal 5, to get to the hotel, you will first have to get from your terminal to terminal 5. To do so, you can simply take the AirTrain, an automated train that connects all of the JFK terminals free of charge.
Once you get to terminal 5, the hotel is well signposted.
To get from terminal 5 to the hotel, you will first have to go to the arrivals level. From there, you will need to take a dedicated elevator up a floor.
I loved the fact the elevator’s entrance was TWA-branded and that rather than indicating the floor numbers, the buttons in the elevator were labeled as “1960s TWA HOTEL” and “PRESENT DAY JETBLUE.”
The elevator will drop you off in front of the entrance into the iconic tunnel that connects the terminal with the TWA Hotel. This area also features a mock-up of Howard Hughes’ office.
Before continuing, let me mention that the hotel rooms themselves are not in the former TWA Flight Center. Instead, they are spread across two newly-constructed buildings, the Saarinen Wing and the Hughes Wing.
The historic building, instead, houses the lobby, the restaurants, and some of the other public facilities. But, more on that later.
The Connie & the Rest of the Exterior
Before talking about the hotel’s interior and facilities, let’s quickly look at the exterior.
On the “terminal side” of the hotel, sitting on a “mini runway,” there was the signature part of the hotel – the Connie. This beautifully-restored Lockheed L-1649 Starliner was first delivered to TWA in 1958.
Now, the aircraft serves as one of the hotel’s bars. But more on that further down in the “Dining” section of this review.
Besides the aircraft itself, there were also some pieces of TWA-branded ground equipment in this area. The area also offered excellent views of the historic TWA Flight Center building.
Between the TWA building and one of the new buildings with hotel rooms, there was a park with a few benches and tables, and an Intelligentsia Coffee truck.
Finally, in front of the TWA building, there were the driveway and the parking lot.
Besides a nice TWA sign, there was also a pair of historic cars adding to the “retro mood.”
I should also mention that even the cones in the parking lot had the TWA logo on it, and that the valets were wearing TWA uniforms.
As for the parking, it cost anywhere between $10 for up to thirty minutes and $48 for a day.
Lobby & Check-In
Entering the hotel from the driveway led to the central part of the TWA Flight Center. As mentioned earlier, this building contained the check-in desks, some dining establishments, and so on.
The central part was, though, a large open space with a classic Solari board listing “fictional” flights to destinations all over the world. Most of the airline logos on the board were, of course, those that one could see at airports forty years ago rather than those that are around today.
Across from this area, there was The Sunken Lounge, another of the hotel’s bars. To the right of the central area, there was the Food Hall, a food court with a variety of fast food restaurants. More about those later, though.
On the left side of the central area (looking from the driveway), there was the check-in area. Besides the check-in desks, there was also an Intelligentsia Coffee outlet.
As for the check-in itself, I appreciated that the desks were made to look like those at an airport. At the same time, I was quite (negatively) surprised that the hotel uses self-check-in kiosks, though.
Considering the price of the hotel, I would expect the hotel to have actual front desk staff rather than just staff helping people with the self-check-in kiosks if necessary. It would certainly have been nicer if there was front desk staff in TWA uniforms instead.
Throughout the areas described above, there were items reminding people of where they are and “what year it was.” There were some more historic cars, as well as TWA uniforms and ground equipment. The walls featured some of TWA’s iconic posters as well.
The guest rooms were, as mentioned briefly earlier, split across two newly constructed buildings – the Saarinen Wing and the Hughes Wing. Those were accessible from the main building by tunnels similar to the one connecting the hotel to the terminal.
In case you are wondering, Eero Saarinen was the architect that designed the TWA Flight Center as well as the Washington Dulles International Airport among other facilities. Howard Hughes was an entrepreneur and an aviator that at one point owned a controlling stake of TWA. He was also the subject of the movie The Aviator.
Our room, 707, was on the seventh floor of the Saarinen Wing, right across the elevator hall.
The elevator hall was quite stylish, and the elevator itself – being decorated by a large TWA logo on the floor – didn’t miss out on the branding front either.
Inside the room, just like outside of it, many of the items were either TWA-branded or designed to remind the guests that they were “traveling back in time to 1962.”
Just past the entrance, on the left side, there was an open closet with a TWA bathrobe (only one even though it was a twin room and the reservation had two guests on it), as well as the drinks portion of the room’s minibar.
You can see the minibar menu here. In case you want to have the minibar removed for one reason or another, the fee for that is $25. While there are quite a few hotels that have similar “removal policy,” I just cannot wrap my head around it…
Under the minibar refrigerator, there was a safe. As you probably guessed by this point, the safe was red on the inside and featured a TWA logo.
The bathroom was across from the closet and minibar. More about that later, though.
Continuing further, there was the main part of the room. At the very end of it, there were floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the TWA Flight Center building.
Keep in mind that the windows were not one-way – i.e. one could see into the rooms from the outside just as easily as one could see the outside from the room. The only way to prevent someone from seeing into the room was by lowering the shutters.
A large part of the room was taken up by its two comfortable queen size beds.
Above those, three beautiful Fly TWA posters “advertising” California, Switzerland, and Africa were displayed.
Across from the beds, there were a counter with a chair and a large wall-mounted TV.
There was also a lounging chair in one of the corners by the windows.
On the counter, there was the snacks (and misc.) portion of the minibar. The selection was very good and tempting – although I managed to resist it.
Besides that, there were a rotary dial telephone offering free unlimited local and international calls, a cupful of TWA pencils (of course none were left behind…), and a trash can.
Actually, there was no trash can. There was a trash tray – something that I saw for the first time, and hope to never see in a hotel room again. While I am all for being “green,” and so on, I don’t see how placing one’s trash on the desk rather than into a trash can help that.
The one thing that caught my attention the most in the minibar was a 1962 edition of “Remember When,” a booklet series describing what life was like in each year.
Just in case you are wondering, 1962 is the year in which the TWA Flight Center opened.
Finally, while the bathroom looked fairly nice, it was very basic for what is supposed to be a higher-end hotel.
There was a counter with a large mirror above it, a toilet, and an open shower room. Considering that the shower room was quite large, it would have been nice if they fitted the room with a bathtub instead.
What was even more disappointing than the above, though, were the amenities.
On the counter, there was literally nothing other than a pair of (very nice) TWA-branded glasses and a single soap bar. There were no toothbrushes, shaving kits, or any other amenities. In fact, it seemed like those were only available for purchase at a store in the lobby.
Inside the shower, there were large body soap, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers.
I have to say here, that, if nothing else, I would have expected at least two soap bars considering that it was a twin room. And, that all in all, the amenities provided were significantly inferior to what even Holiday Inns offer.
Restaurants & Bars
Besides the extensive minibar – and the dining options at the airport itself – there were plenty of restaurants and bars at the TWA Hotel as well.
Connie Cocktail Lounge
My favorite one of those was Connie Cocktail Lounge, a bar inside the Lockheed Constellation displayed outside the hotel. While you can visit the bar without a reservation, if you want to be sure you’ll have a seat, you can also book it here.
The bar is normally open from 11AM until 12AM, however, during my visit, it was closed for a portion of those hours due to a private event taking place inside.
Inside the Connie, there were some proper aircraft seats, as well as regular couches installed along the cabin’s sides. With a wedding taking place at the hotel during our visit, the bar got quite busy at some point.
The bar counter was at the very back of the aircraft.
Besides a fairly wide selection of drinks, some light snacks were available in the Connie Cocktail Lounge as well.
Finally, as an aviation enthusiast, I appreciated the fact that it was possible to see the cockpit. The view through the aircraft’s windows was great as well.
The Sunken Lounge
Another bar that offered some nice views was The Sunken Lounge. It consisted of a pair of circular bars and a seating area which was popular even among non-guests (i.e. people not getting anything at the bar).
Being located in the heart of the TWA Flight Center, it offered great views of the building itself. Besides that, it also overlooked the “apron” where the Connie was displayed and featured a digital Solari board.
The Sunken Lounge was open from 11AM until 1AM, and you can see the bar’s menu here.
The London Club & Paris Cafe by Jean-Georges
On the second floor of the TWA Flight Center, there was another bar – The London Club – and TWA Hotel’s main restaurant, Paris Cafe by Jean-Georges. When I visited this area, both of those were already closed.
The London Club, besides some retro seating similar to The Sunken Lounge, had some TWA uniforms on display.
As for the bar’s menu, I am not sure given that it was closed when I visited and – unlike with the other outlets – no information is available on the TWA Hotel website. In fact, I am not even sure if the bar was in business when I visited.
Paris Cafe featured plenty of seating – both in the form of tables and counters.
Breakfast was served at the restaurant between 7AM and 11AM, lunch between 12PM and 4PM, and dinner between 4PM and 10PM.
You can see the menus here.
The Food Hall was the hotel’s food court. While not as fancy as the Paris Cafe, the options were much more reasonably priced here.
The outlets open during my visit were Antico Noe, Empanada Republic, and The Halal Guys. There was a Playa Bowls outlet as well, though that one was closed when I visited.
While I wanted to have a chicken platter at The Halal Guys, they were out of rice for the day. As such, I went with a chicken sandwich instead.
For the relatively low price, it was very filling and tasty.
For a quick cup of coffee or a light breakfast, there was an Intelligentsia Coffee branch inside the lobby, across from the check-in counters. As mentioned earlier, there was also their coffee truck in the park outside the hotel.
With opening hours from 4:30AM until 11PM, this was the earliest of all the restaurants, bars, and so on to open.
The Pool Bar
Finally, there was The Pool Bar located on the rooftop of the Hughes Wing. It was open from 11AM until 11PM, and as its name suggests, it was located right next to the hotel’s pool. It offered great views of some of the runway action at JFK airport.
The bar could be visited both by guests and non-guests (min. spend of $50 and a max. stay of 2 hours), and offered a slightly wider selection of drinks and food than the Connie Cocktail Lounge.
You can see the full The Pool Bar menu here.
Pool & Gym
The hotel’s pool – as mentioned above – could be found on the rooftop of the Hughes Wing. It was open rom 7AM until 11PM, and I should note here that larger bags had to be placed into storage before entering the rooftop.
While the pool wasn’t large (it wasn’t a swimming pool), it offered excellent views of the airport, just like The Pool Bar. The water was heated.
Around the pool, there were some lounge beds. Towels were available for rent (free of charge) as well.
As for the gym, it was open 24/7 and could be found in the basement of the TWA Flight Center building.
It was (unnecessarily) large, and featured plenty of cardio and weight-training equipment including 14 Peloton bikes.
Besides the restaurants and bars, pool, and gym, there were several other facilities at the TWA Hotel worth mentioning as well.
First of all, there was a TWA gift shop. A wide variety of items ranging from patches for a couple of dollars all the way to cashmere sweaters for a couple hundred dollars was available.
I couldn’t resist getting myself some of the items. After a bit of looking around, I settled for a TWA logo patch, a TWA L-1011 pin, and a T-shirt based on a Fly TWA New York poster.
There was also a more “practical” shop selling a variety of snacks and amenities. As I mentioned earlier in the review, though, I was quite surprised about the fact that some of these amenities were not available free of charge.
Finally, there was a pair of what seemed like luxury item shops in the lobby. The first one, Shinola, offered a variety of watches and leather goods. I am not sure what the other one, Warby Parker, offered.
Both of them were closed when I was looking around the area.
In a “hidden” part of the lobby, towards the entrance to the outdoor area with the Connie, there was the Reading Room. It featured Phaidon books and stylish Herman Miller furniture.
The books were available both to read on the spot as well as for sale.
Conference & Ball Rooms
As most major hotels, the TWA Hotel was equipped with a number of conference rooms, as well as a number of ballrooms for events.
When I visited the hotel, one of the ballrooms was being used for a wedding reception. (The wedding itself took place in The Sunken Lounge.
If you are interested in getting married at the hotel or holding an event there, you can see more details on the TWA Hotel’s website.
Shoe Shine Service & Phones
Finally, there were also a shoe shine service and a number of rotary dial public phones in the lobby.
The signs on the phones said “Out of change? Try your luck!” As such, even though I didn’t test this, I assume they were free of charge.
Plane Spotting at TWA Hotel
While some of the hotel rooms offer a view of the airport, the room I was staying at did not. As such, my plane spotting options were “limited” to the Hughes Wing’s rooftop – i.e. to the pool area.
Being situated between terminals 4 and 5, it offered great views of some of the aircraft parked at those terminals. It also offered views of some of the remote spots used by aircraft waiting for the gates at their terminal to open.
Finally, distant views of runway 4L and its adjacent taxiways could be had as well.
Since tripods were allowed on the rooftop, it was possible to take night photos of aircraft parked at some of the unobstructed gates and remote spots as well.
In my case, I was lucky to be able to photograph a Virgin Atlantic A340-600 in the farewell livery.
TWA Hotel Summary
As an aviation enthusiast, I was not disappointed. In fact, I loved the experience.
From the moment I stepped into the hotel until I left it, I felt like I was back in the 1960s. The TWA logo was everywhere, the Constellation was perfectly restored, and the architecture of the TWA Flight Center was beautiful. The background music in the lobby added to the mood.
That said, as a hotel guest, I was a bit disappointed.
The check-in, rather than being done by the front desk staff, had to be done through self-check-in kiosks. The rooms – while nicely designed – didn’t feature basic amenities like toothbrushes, and only featured one soap bar.
As such, if you are an aviation enthusiast with some time to spare at JFK, I certainly recommend visiting the public areas of the hotel. If you need to spend a night around the airport and have the budget, I even recommend staying at the hotel for a night.
However, if you are on a budget, I wouldn’t worry too much about skipping a stay at the hotel. After all, you can enjoy the vast majority of the “attractions” like the historic TWA building and The Pool Bar without actually staying there.