Flying used to be fabulous. Before there were long security lines, checked-bag fees, crowded gates and silent battles for overhead bin space, catching a flight was an event. So much so that people wore suits on planes instead of sweatpants. Back then, air travel was classy, not chaotic.
Those days are gone, of course, but some hoteliers are trying to recapture their spirit by making airport properties that are chic and sophisticated instead of merely convenient.
One such property, the highly anticipated TWA Hotel, is scheduled to open its doors this week at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Located in the former TWA Flight Center -- a historic airport terminal designed by architect Eero Saarinen for bygone airline Trans World Airlines (TWA), which opened the terminal in 1962 and closed it in 2001 -- the new hotel will preserve and pay tribute to the terminal’s beloved midcentury modern design while providing guests with direct, onsite access to JFK.
Along with connections to JFK’s Terminal 5 via Saarinen’s iconic flight tubes -- made famous in the film “Catch Me If You Can” -- the TWA Hotel will have 512 soundproofed guest rooms, six restaurants, eight bars, a 10,000-square-foot rooftop observation deck with a pool, a 10,000-square-foot fitness facility with yoga and spinning, and 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space for groups of up to 1,600 people, not to mention an onsite museum dedicated to the Jet Age, TWA and the midcentury modern design movement.
Among the highlights that travelers are buzzing about most are: the Paris Café, a restaurant by world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten; The Sunken Lounge, a bar serving throwback cocktails in the red-upholstered seating area where crowds once gathered to watch the Beatles arrive in the United States in 1965; and Connie, a cocktail lounge that will be located inside a restored 1958 Lockheed Constellation “Connie” airplane parked on the tarmac outside the hotel.
“JFK Airport is one of the largest international transit hubs in the world and a key driver of New York’s economy,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the hotel’s groundbreaking in December 2016. “The conversion of the TWA Flight Center into a new state-of-the-art hotel will preserve this iconic landmark while cementing JFK’s status as a crown jewel of aviation.”
Four More Airport Hotels With Luxury Lodging
At the new TWA Hotel, guests can relive the Golden Age of travel. But groups don’t have to travel back in time to travel in style. Here are four more airport hotels that also are taking hospitality to new heights:
• Westdrift (Los Angeles):Westdrift Manhattan Beach opened in March 2018 as part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection -- making it the first Autograph Collection hotel in Los Angeles. Located just four miles from Los Angeles International Airport, the hotel occupies 26 acres in the South Bay region of Los Angeles, where it offers 393 coastal-inspired guest rooms and suites, 112 of which boast private balconies. The hotel also has an indoor-outdoor restaurant that specializes in communal dining, custom rental bikes for beach cruising, a nine-hole golf course, an outdoor pool with cabanas, a CrossFit-inspired fitness center and over 35,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space, including 18 meeting rooms, a traditional ballroom and three “industrial-chic” venues.
• Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach (Newport Beach, Calif.): Another SoCal hotel that’s redefining airport lodging is the Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif. Located less than 10 minutes from John Wayne Airport, the hotel previously was the Radisson Hotel Newport Beach. It reflagged as a Hyatt Regency in March 2018, however, and completed a top-to-bottom renovation in October 2018. Along with 343 guest rooms and suites decked in Italian marble and quartz, the remodeled hotel offers a resort-style pool and jacuzzi, a fitness center with a dedicated stretching/yoga rooms, a signature restaurant serving local California cuisine, a bar specializing in craft cocktails, a marketplace serving grab-and-go items and 28,000 square feet of meeting space.
• InterContinental Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (Minneapolis): Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport dates back to 1920. It therefore took nearly a century for the airport to get its first airport-connected hotel, the InterContinental Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, which opened in summer 2018 and connects via skyway to Concourse C in Terminal 1. The hotel has 291 guest rooms, a luxury spa and thermal pool, three restaurants, a fitness center with a Peloton bike, an outdoor courtyard and 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
•Fairmont Vancouver Airport (Vancouver, B.C.): Fairmont Hotels & Resorts properties are so luxe that you typically find them only in the most prestigious locations, like tropical islands and elite international city centers. An airport is the last place you’d expect to find a Fairmont. And yet, an airport is exactly where you’ll find the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, which is located a mere five-minute walk from the U.S. departures level at Vancouver International Airport. The hotel has 386 soundproofed guest rooms and suites, a dedicated “Quiet Zone” for day-use guest rooms that accommodate international travelers on long layovers, a recently renovated club level whose guests get access to a private lounge and a personal concierge, a signature restaurant, a bar with nightly live music, a health club with an indoor pool, a spa, an artist in residence, and 8,800 square feet of meeting and event space.