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TWA Hotel Review | When to Stay & When to Skip

New York City’s JFK airport only has one hotel on property, but in true New York fashion they make it count. TWA Hotel breathes new life into the original TWA Flight Center that served Trans World Airlines from 1962 to 2001. This hotel has it all — a bar inside an actual plane, a rooftop pool open year round and serious Mad Men energy — but is it worth? And more importantly, is it actually convenient if you’re flying out of JFK?

In this post, we’ll answer those questions and more. We’ll share all the details about this hotel and what it was like to stay there. Then we’ll explain why one of our stays here was worth it, but the other wasn’t. If you are considering a night at TWA Hotel or if you just have a general interest in unique hotels, this article is for you.

In this Post

Brief(ish) History of TWA Hotel

TWA Flight Center first opened its doors in 1962, as it ushered in passengers of the so-called Golden Age of Travel. Serving as the main Transatlantic hub of Trans World Airlines, the TWA Flight Center quickly became iconic.

The TWA Flight Center was the first airline terminal to use enclosed passenger jetways. Passengers walked through long red-carpeted tubes to reach their departing planes, without stepping foot on the tarmac. And my favorite fun fact (that I just learned) was that when The Beatles first arrived in the US, they stepped off the plane at JFK to thousands of screaming fans at the TWA Flight Center.

Mostly though, the TWA Flight Center was famous for the building itself.

The TWA Flight Center was an architectural masterpiece. It was built by Eero Saarinen, who was famed for past designs which ranged from the St. Louis Gateway Arch to the Tulip Chair. I don’t know a lot about architecture, but I can tell you it’s nothing shy of stunning.

The original building had one fatal flaw: size. Designed during an era when planes sat fewer than 100 people, the TWA Flight Center wasn’t prepared for the traffic surge that came with the release of the massive new Boeing 747. The rise of jumbo jets was the fall of the TWA Flight Center … or so we thought.

TWA suffered financial woes as early as the 1970s, but in 2001, both the airline and its JFK flight center crumbled under the weight of a changing airline industry. TWA was acquired by American Airlines and flew it’s final flight in December 2001. And after that, the TWA Flight Center at JFK ceased all operations. The lease was left to expire in January 2002.

Fortunately for everyone, the iconic terminal building did not also crumble. The building was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1994 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Also in 2005, fast-growing JetBlue airlines announced plans to build a new terminal around the former TWA Flight Center.

JetBlue’s new Terminal 5, or T5, opened in 2008. It utilized portions of the old TWA building, but not the main head house. It wasn’t until 2015 that JetBlue announced plans to finally put the Saarinen building back to use in the form of a hotel. Now that we’ve seen the final product, we’re all thrilled that they did.

TWA Hotel opened in 2019 to much fanfare, from preservationists and influencers alike. The hotel is an homage to an era and an ode to the mastermind who gave it to us. Many of the original flight center’s iconic features, such as the Italian tile work, plush red carpets and the central Vulcain clock, were restored and/or replicated in the hotel today.

Stepping into this hotel is like stepping back in time. It’s not just the music, which cycles through classics of the 1960s. It’s the clanky flight board, which displays upcoming flights of yesteryear and the 1958 Lockheed Constellation prop plane permanently sitting on the tarmac just outside the window. And if you close your eyes long enough, you can almost see it as was in 1962 — TWA flight attendants zipping by in their slightly askew caps, men wearing suits unironically and passengers clutching un-wheeled suitcases as they wait for their flight to board.

For more history and detail, particularly from an architectural perspective, be sure to check out this great article on Curbed.

Booking TWA Hotel

When it comes to booking a stay at TWA Hotel, you have a two options.

First, is a traditional overnight stay for however many nights you need. Since it’s an airport hotel, most stays are typically one night, so there’s a lot of turnover. You can also add early or late check out (up to 6 PM) for an extra fee.

Since TWA Hotel is adjacent to a major international airport, they also offer day stays. You can reserve a room for 4 to 12 hours between the hours of 6 AM and 8 PM. This is a great option for long layovers or upon arrival after a very long or overnight flight. (We’ve done day rooms at airport hotels in the past and they can be amazing.)

TWA Hotel is popular, but it’s quite large. It’s also located pretty far from the city center, so it doesn’t usually attract tourists or business people visiting NYC for extended stays. That means that the hotel tends to have rooms available up until the last minute. You might not get the exact room you want, but you can usually find a room available upon arrival.

You can sometimes book TWA Hotel on a handful of third party sites, including Expedia and Hotels dot com. However, these sites have a limited inventory and may show as sold out, when there is availability direct. Plus, you won’t always get the full selection of room categories, price points and custom options (e.g. day stays or early/late checkout.) For that reason, it’s a good idea to book direct.

How much it cost to stay at TWA Hotel

TWA Hotel is not cheap, but it is competitively priced for NYC. (We also stay at Disney Wold hotels a lot, so our judgement on hotel prices is quite skewed.)

As a general baseline, you can usually book a room with no notable view at TWA Hotel for about $250-$350 a night. Rooms with views of the historic main building start around $350 and rooms with runway views start around $450.

Let’s compare that to a few alternate hotel options. For this example, I picked a random Friday night 4 months out from when I’m writing this (May 24-25, 2024.) We’ll look at the cost for a King room that sleeps 2 for one night. Here’s what those prices look like right now.

  • TWA Hotel: No view for $346 or runway view for $441
  • Marriott New York JFK Airport: $254 (Near JFK but not on the property, with a complimentary airport shuttle available.)
  • Hyatt Centric Times Square New York: $363 (Manhattan hotel that you may consider for a longer NYC stay.)

This is a very limited example, but one that provides a good baseline. TWA Hotel is an expensive option for Queens near JFK Airport, but it’s about the same price you’d pay in Manhattan. In both cases, you’re paying a premium for location, it just depends what location you’re interested in.

If you have a late arrival or early departure, it might make sense to spend a night at TWA Hotel over an extra night in the city, for roughly the same price. We get more into this thought process at the end of this post.

Where is TWA Hotel at JFK

TWA Hotel is located at Terminal 5 (T5) at JFK International Airport, which is the main terminal for JetBlue.

NOTE: If you’re flying JetBlue, we have a review of the Even More Space seats and a guide to Flying JetBlue With A Baby or Toddler.

TWA Hotel is connected to JFK via the iconic red flight tubes, a famed feature of the original TWA Flight Center. The walk takes about 3 minutes and is fully indoors. The hotel is landside, though, so you will have to go through security when you enter the airport.

While the TWA Hotel lobby still looks like an old airport terminal of yesteryear, it’s no longer operational. If you’re flying in or out of Terminal 5 and not staying at TWA Hotel, you will not need to pass through the hotel lobby at all. Terminal 5 has a regular entrance and is directly accessible via the Sky Train or the main traffic loop. (That said, TWA Hotel is open to non-guests, so you can pop over to see the hotel even if you’re not staying there.)

Getting to TWA Hotel

TWA Hotel is adjacent to Terminal 5 at JFK, so you can get to the hotel all the same ways that you get to terminal.

If you’re taking public transportation, you can take the E, J or Z subway (or LIRR) to Sutphin Boulevard or the A train to Howard Beach Station. From either station, you can connect to the AirTrain. (The AirTrain costs $8.25 if you board at these stations.) Exit the SkyTrain at Terminal 5 and follow the clearly marked signs right to the TWA Hotel main entrance.

If you’re traveling by car, you can enter TWA Hotel into Google Maps or as the destination in your rideshare app and you’ll be routed accordingly. Otherwise, follow signs toward Terminal 5, and then from there, follow additional signs for the hotel. There is a vehicle drop-off area in front of the building, as well as paid valet parking. Parking is not included with the price of your stay, and costs and additional $80/night as of publication.

How to get to JFK from TWA Hotel

If you’re trying to get to Terminal 5 from TWA Hotel, you can simply walk. The tube on the south side of the hotel (the right if you’re looking at the departure board in the Sunken Lounge) and you’ll reach Terminal 5 in about 3 minutes.

If you’re traveling to any other terminal, you will need to take the AirTrain. To get to the AirTrain from the hotel, exit the main entrance toward the parking lot and head to your right. You can see the train from the hotel, and it’s about a 3 minute walk to the station entrance.

We mentioned that you have to pay $8.25 to take the AirTrain from Sutphin Boulevard or Howard Beach MTA stations, but the AirTrain is free if you board from the airport loop, including the Terminal 5 station near TWA Hotel. Since TWA Hotel is the only hotel on airport property, it’s the only hotel with direct, complimentary AirTrain access.

Even though TWA Hotel is right off the AirTrain, it can still take some time to get to the different terminals. The hotel’s website states that it’s a 5-minute trip to all terminals, but I think that is a very generous estimate. In our experience, it took closer to 45 minutes when we factored in the walk from our actual room to the train station and then the required AirTrain transfer (because the train wasn’t running in both directions in the early morning hours.)

Things to see at do at TWA Hotel

There are so many fun and interesting things to see and do at TWA Hotel. Even though one of the main perks of TWA Hotel is its convenient location near the airport, I’d highly recommend scheduling some time to actually enjoy the hotel and its amenities.

Here’s a few things to look out for at the hotel. This is not a comprehensive list, and it doesn’t account for seasonal or special events, but it’s the highlight reel of what to expect.

History & Photo Ops

  • The Sunken Lounge: This is the focal point of the main lobby. This area has a bar, serving light bites and vintage cocktails. You can also just hang out and soak in the Mad Men vibes. (NOTE: The service hours in the lounge are limited, and it sometimes closes for private events.)
  • Vintage cars & transit vehicles: You can’t miss the classic VW van sitting right outside the main entrance, but there’s more. Wander the main lobby area and you’ll find a few other vintage vehicles and luggage carts that you can climb inside and onto. My toddler scoped these out, and highly recommends playing in all of them.
  • Museum Exhibits: There are several different exhibits around the hotel, but I’ll highlight a few. You can step inside a 1962 living room or play a game of giant Twister just up the stairs and to the left (north) of the main lobby. There’s a collection of TWA flight attendant uniforms in a nice exhibit on the second floor, above the check-in desks. Also keep your eyes peeled for recreations of Howard Hughes’ and Saarinen’s desks, a 1960s salon exhibit and vintage travel posters dotted throughout the main lobby areas.

Bars & Restaurants

  • Connie Cocktail Lounge (4 – 10 PM): If you look out the back windows of the TWA Hotel lobby, you can’t miss the 1958 Lockheed Constellation plane sitting on the inactive tarmac. The plane is fully restored to its TWA heyday and repurposed as one of the world’s best hotel bars. This is a must-visit if you’re staying at TWA Hotel! (It does close occasionally for private events, though, so be sure to check the website if that’s important to you.)
  • Paris Cafe (7 AM – 10/11 PM): This is the main full-service restaurant and features the menu of Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges. It’s located on the second floor above the food hall.
  • The Pool Bar (11 AM – 11 PM): The rooftop pool is open year-round, and so is The Pool Bar. The restaurant serves a full lineup of drinks, snacks and pub-style meals, all with views overlooking JFK runways. The only catch is that during the summer/fall seasons there is a cover charge and reservations are required to get in. (Check the full details and schedule here.)
  • Food Hall: Just to the right of the main entrance is the Food Hall. Here you’ll find six different counters serving up a variety of quick-service items ranging from pizza to crepes to bagels. Each counter has different hours, but some of the booths are open 24/7.

It’s also worth noting that the hotel does not offer room service. If you arrive after the full-service restaurants close at 11PM, you’re only options will be the 24/7 counters at the Food Hall. This also means that you cannot get alcohol in the hotel after 11 PM.

A few other things …

  • Rooftop Pool: TWA Hotel has an outdoor pool that is open all year — it’s heated to 95°F in cooler months. The pool is open to hotel guests and visitors, but there’s a catch. Hotel guests can swim for free without a reservation during the winter/spring season and from 7AM – 10:45 AM everyday all year. Outside of those hours/seasons, guests must make a reservation and pay a cover charge. A more expensive cover charge always applies to non-guests, and in the summer/fall they will also need to make a reservation.
  • Fitness Center: TWA Hotel boasts the world’s largest hotel gym. At 10,000 square feet, they’re not kidding! Access is complimentary for guests (including day guests), and classes are available for an added fee.
  • TWA Shop: The hotel gift shop features a ton of really fun TWA goodies, ranging from apparel to swizzle sticks. I got a TWA sweatshirt, and I wear it almost everyday. It’s located just off the Sunken Lounge.
  • Seasonal Activities: The hotel offers a variety of seasonal events, too, that change throughout the year. During winter months, the rooftop pool bar gets a ski chalet overlay and they have curling on the inactive tarmac. Check their website for current offerings.

TWA Hotel Room Review

Let’s talk about the rooms.

We’ve stayed in two different rooms at TWA Hotel: Deluxe King and Deluxe Double Queen, both with runway views. (We love an airport hotel with runway views, and usually spend quite awhile watching planes.) Other than the bed configuration, the rooms were very similar.

Even the basic rooms are spacious and comfortable, with a mid-century modern aesthetic to match the rest of the hotels. They’re decorated in the iconic fiery red with TWA touches on everything from the pencils to the bath soap. Each room features a signature Saarinen tulip chair, along with other timepieces such as rotary phones and vintage travel posters. (The website notes a mini Etch A Sketch, though I didn’t notice one during either stay.)

Another feature promoted on the website is the in-room martini bar. While there was a gorgeous minibar setup in the room, complete with glasses and an ice bucket, it was not stocked with any beverages (alcoholic or otherwise.) From what I’ve read, the minibars used to be stocked. However, most recent reviews mirror our experience with an empty minibar.

The minibar wasn’t the only amenity missing in the room, either. TWA Hotel rooms also lack a few other things you might expect from a hotel room, like a closet (in some rooms, there are just a few hooks by the minibar), coffee maker (you’ll need to visit the Food Hall or the Intelligentsia cafe between 7/8 AM – 4 PM), and robes and slippers.

The beds and pillows were very comfortable, and I found that rooms were pretty well sound-proofed against the airport noise outside. However, the sound did carry into the room from the hallway, which is a common complaint.

TWA Hotel has Pack N Plays available for younger guests. I love that you can add this (for free) to your reservation when you book. However, I’m not sure what the point of that is because we have never had a Pack N Play actually in our room when we checked in. Both times, we had to call the desk to re-request one, and both times it took a long time (over an hour) to get one delivered.

Overall, I’d say the rooms are the least impressive thing about TWA Hotel. They’re good, not great. Operational, but not efficient. I’d definitely say they prioritized looks over functionality when it comes to the rooms. Fortunately, there’s plenty of things to do outside the room, which is how they justify the price point.

A Tale of Two Stays

For context, it’s worth noting that we live in Astoria, Queens. It takes a little over an hour to get to JFK on public transportation, taking 3 different trains. The drive is about 30 minutes, but can be much longer with traffic.

Night 1: International Flight Out of Terminal 5

Our first stay at TWA Hotel was on the eve of a weekend trip to Santo Domingo. We had an early morning flight on JetBlue out of Terminal 5. This stay could not have gone better.

We picked up our toddler after daycare, and took the train to TWA Hotel. Since this was a weekend trip, we didn’t have a lot of luggage, and traffic would have been brutal at rush hour. It was a fine commute and we arrived at TWA Hotel in time for dinner.

Our 3-year-old doesn’t have a particularly refined palate, so we grabbed a cheese crepe and some fruit from the Food Hall. I didn’t love the Food Hall — it was annoying to have to make three separate transactions at different booths to complete our meal — but I liked having a quick-service option.

After dinner and some time spent playing on the cars in the lobby, we headed to our room to put the little one to bed. Unfortunately, there was not a Pack N Play in our room, despite requesting one at booking and again at check-in. After calling the front desk, going to the front desk, and searching for house keeping, we finally got a Pack N Play an hour later.

That was our only complaint of the trip. While I put our toddler to bed, my husband went out to explore. He got a drink in the plane and then Paris Club, before tagging me in. I took my turn checking out the hotel, and opted for a drink at the rooftop pool-bar-turned-ski-chalet.

We were up bright and early the following morning, but not as early as we would have been if we stayed at home. Our alarms went off at 5:45 AM, we were in the lobby of the hotel by 6:20 AM and by 6:40 AM we were already eating breakfast airside.

It was so convenient to have such a stress-free morning, not to mention the extra sleep we got not having to make the early morning commute. This stay was definitely worth it.

Night 2: International Flight Out of Terminal 4

Our second stay at TWA Hotel was about a month later. This time, we were headed out for a long trip to Dubai, India and Qatar. We had another early flight (Emirates Business Class to Dubai), but this time out of Terminal 4.

While these two trips sound similar, there were some key differences. First, the flight wasn’t as early — we needed to be at the airport closer to 8 AM vs 6:30 AM. And second, that one terminal difference made all the difference.

Things started out similarly. We took public transit to TWA Hotel and arrived just after 5 PM. This time we had cheese pizza for dinner at the Food Hall and then did a family visit to Connie Cocktail Lounge. (My toddler gives the gummy bears 5/5 stars.) Again, there was no Pack N Play in our room, but this time we knew to start our quest for one as soon as we arrived.

Our evening was pleasant, and this time we decided to spend our after-bedtime hours watching the planes from our runway-view room. Unfortunately, that never happened because bedtime never happened. At no fault of the hotel, our toddler (who normally sleeps like a dream anywhere) just decided not to sleep at all that night. No one likes a bad night of sleep, but it’s particularly stressful when you’re headed into a 12-hour flight and 9-hour time change.

When morning did arrive, it was time to head to Terminal 4. Though only one terminal away from where we were in Terminal 5, we ended up budgeting almost an hour to make the trip. The AirTrain wasn’t running in both directions, so we ended up having to make a connection. Combined with walking time from our room, it ended up taking a full 45 minutes to get from or room to the entrance to Terminal 4.

In hindsight, staying at TWA Hotel before this flight was the wrong decision. We budgeted 1 hour for the commute versus the 30 minute commute by car. We actually had to get up earlier because we stayed at TWA Hotel. Had we stayed that night at home, we could have saved $300, spent $50 on an Uber, and slept in an extra 30 minutes (not to mention our kid probably would have actually slept in their own bed.)

Is TWA Hotel worth it?

My knee-jerk reaction is to say yes, TWA Hotel is worth it. I’ve stayed there twice now, and genuinely look forward to having an excuse to stay there again. It’s a really fun hotel experience that combines period-perfect theming, epic runway views (from certain rooms and the rooftop bar), and award winning architecture. Not to mention the cocktail bar inside a vintage plane.

That said, TWA Hotel is not without its flaws. The rooms, the service and the complicated logistics (I’m looking at you rooftop pool) all leave much to be desired. The hotel lacks attention to detail on many levels, which is hard to ignore at the price point.

And while TWA Hotel is the only hotel on JFK property, that doesn’t automatically make it more convenient than other options. In some cases, there might be other solutions that can streamline your travel day more effectively.

So now we’ll explain when it’s worth it to stay at TWA Hotel and when it isn’t.

When to stay at TWA Hotel

TWA hotel is unique, fun and beautiful. It’s connected to Terminal 5 and offers direct access to the JFK AirTrain. There are plenty of reasons and situations that would justify a stay at this hotel. Here’s a few.

It’s worth it to stay at TWA Hotel if …

  • … you’re flying out of Terminal 5. If you have an early morning flight out of or a late arrival into Terminal 5, staying at TWA Hotel is really convenient because you can walk straight from the hotel to the terminal and vice versa. In this case, try to plan for extra time on your non-travel day to enjoy the hotel amenities.
  • … you land late. If your flight to NYC arrives late at night at any terminal, you might not feel like traipsing all the way into the city after you land. It’s nice to hop on the AirTrain to TWA Hotel and get to sleep right away. After a morning at the hotel, you can then head out into the city.
  • …you land in the early morning after an overnight flight. Even in the best First Class cabins, it can be hard to sleep on planes. If you flew a red eye into NYC and aren’t quite ready to start your day just yet, book a day room at TWA Hotel. Get some extra sleep, take a shower, and grab a meal and you’ll feel a million times better.
  • … you’re hotel in the city costs roughly the same price. TWA Hotel is not cheap, but it’s roughly the same price as a hotel in the city. If you’re going to spend that much anyway, you might as well spend one of your nights on either side of your travels enjoying this unique hotel.
  • … you’re looking for a unique staycation in NYC. Whether you actually stay the night or just come for the pool and plane bar, TWA Hotel is perfect for a date night, girls night, or group hang.
  • … you’ve never been to TWA Hotel. If you’ve made it this far in this review, you probably have some interest in this hotel. I definitely think it’s a bucket list worthy hotel that is worth staying at least once.
  • You are interested in the 1960s aesthetic and/or history. If you ignore the fact that everyone is taking photos with their smartphones or typing away on laptops, you might actually feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you check into the TWA Hotel. Whether you lived through the 1960s or just wish you had, TWA Hotel offers an experience unlike any other.

When not to stay at TWA Hotel

As much as I loved both of our stays at TWA Hotel, our second stay definitely was not worth it. Here are some other examples of when you might want to skip it.

It’s not worth staying at TWA Hotel if …

  • … your transit from another location is <30 minutes. If you can get to the airport quickly, adding a night at TWA Hotel may end up taking more time and effort than it saves. (This was our situation above.)
  • … you have an early flight out of any terminal other than Terminal 5. This one could go either way, but I don’t think TWA Hotel is the most convenient option for an early morning flight out of a different terminal. You are likely better off staying at a cheaper hotel near the airport and taking an Uber to your terminal.
  • … you don’t have time to enjoy the hotel. The actual hotel rooms at TWA Hotel are nothing to write home about. I would save TWA Hotel for a visit when you can spend time at the rooftop or get a drink inside the plane.
  • … you have limited time in NYC. TWA Hotel is not the most convenient for getting to Manhattan. You definitely shouldn’t plan to stay at the hotel for your full NYC stay. It’s also not worth staying here if it cuts into your vacation time. If you are only in town for a few days, get to Manhattan as soon as you can and stay there as long as possible. (Looking for things to do in Manhattan? Check out our New York City 3 Day Weekend Itinerary.)
  • … you expect a luxury hotel experience. Despite what the price point may imply, TWA Hotel does not feel like a luxury hotel in terms if service. It’s a nice hotel and a fun hotel, sure. But if you are expecting doting customer service, helpful bell hops, or you know, even checking in with a person instead of an iPad, TWA Hotel isn’t that.

Closing Thoughts

Despite some flaws, TWA Hotel is great airport hotel. In our travels, we’ve only seen this level of theming at Walt Disney World resorts. It was really fun to have a themed hotel experience in a different context.

Not only that, but it’s really helpful to have a hotel option on JFK airport property. It is most convenient for JetBlue flights out of Terminal 5, but close and free access to the SkyTrain is also advantageous.

We tend to be low-key guests, so many of the complaints I read about didn’t even register with me. I honestly didn’t even note the plastic cups in the lounge, but people were not happy about that. We pack light, so I didn’t mind carrying my own bags, and even the long walk to our rooms didn’t bother me. That said, these issues can be deal breakers for others. Personally, my biggest complaint was how long it took to get a Pack N Play (twice) after having it specifically noted on our reservation.

That said, when I think back on my stays at TWA Hotel, I am flooded with fond memories. I thought it was an absolute delight to have a beer in an old timey airplane. I wear my TWA sweatshirt with pride on a near daily basis. And if you ask my 3-year-old, there is nothing better than a hotel with play cars in the lobby.

Overall, I think TWA Hotel does a good job honoring the history of the building, the space and the time. Plus, I’m a sucker for any airport hotel with runway views.