Former airline employees among its first guests
BY SHANE MILLER
Heads finally hit beds as the TWA Hotel finally welcomed its first guests last month.
Check-in began at 3 p.m. on May 15 following a morning-long ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 512-bed TWA Hotel is the only hotel actually located within JFK Airport.
Two new hotel wings are centered around the iconic TWA terminal, which closed for good in 2001.
When the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal opened in 1962, it epitomized the glamour of the Jet Age. It has been painstakingly restored to look as it did on the day it first opened.
Former TWA flight attendants Steven and Joseph LoBosco-Hammer, who combined worked in the terminal for 65 years, said it looked as magnificent as when they used to work there.
The two met while working a flight to Madrid. Now living in Florida, they were among the first guests to stay there on the first night.
“This is probably the first two minutes I haven’t been crying,” Steven said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We spent so much time here.”
Susan Stevens was a TWA flight attendant from 1970 to 1974. While she wasn’t among the lucky people to have a reservation for the first night, she plans to come back in the summer.
“It’s so exciting,” she said. “What wonderful memories it brings back.
Billie O’Hagan, a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines since 2000, was staying the night.
“I got tickets on February 15 right after they went on sale,” she said. “I’m originally from the Midwest, and TWA was always a hometown favorite.”
MCR and Morse Development were behind the massive project to convert the abandoned terminal into a world-class hotel.
Without a single right angle in the entire building, the restoration overlooked no detail, from the tiles Saarinen used throughout the space to the split-flap boards, which were manufactured by Solari di Udine in Italy, the company that made the terminal’s original boards.
“This terminal was built as a cathedral to aviation,” said Tyler Morse, CEO and managing partner of MCR and MORSE Development. “No detail went overlooked, from the millwork by Amish artisans to the custom font inspired by Saarinen’s own sketches to the one-of-a-kind manhole covers.”
The red-carpeted Sunken Lounge was also restored, as were the iconic tubes that were featured in the movie “Catch Me If You Can.”
“The attention to detail is everything,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “You have brought a creativity and brilliance to this project that is going to make it internationally spectacular.”
But there are some new modern amenities, too. There is 50,000 square feet of event space, a rooftop infinity pool, the world’s biggest hotel gym, and high-end retail shops, from Warby Park to Shinola, a custom watch bar and leather good stores.
The guest rooms feature the second-thickest glass windows in the world to block out the airplane noise from JFK’s runways.
To add even more flavor from the golden days of aviation, a Lockheed Constellation “Connie” L-1694A, which was used as a drug plane in South America after its commercial aviation days were over, was brought to the site and transformed into a cocktail lounge.
“Thank god for the drug dealers,” Morse joked. “They installed a giant cargo door in the back of the plane so they could airdrop the weed, but that giant entry is now our ADA entrance to the plane.”
The hotel’s first guests were primarily former airline employees and those looking to get a firsthand look at the architectural marvel. But the hotel aims to be more than just an Instagrammable locale.
“Whether airline customers are looking for a hotel room before an early morning flight or after a red-eye or are just interested in seeing this piece of aviation history before heading to their flight, the TWA Hotel will provide a variety of options to make the JFK experience even better,” said Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, whose terminal is connected to the hotel.