After an intercontinental flight, the only thing you want to do is just chill out. After arriving at New York’s JFK, I breezed through Customs and walked about 100 yards to my next landing spot: the ultra swank TWA Hotel. At that very moment, it was everything and more and exactly what I needed.
The TWA Hotel resides in the original TWA wing designed by Eero Saarinen. He is the man who also designed the Saint Louis Gateway Arch. It was completely renovated a few years ago into the throwback hotel that exists today. After leaving the baggage claim, a quick elevator ride led to a long, arched and red carpeted hallway. The hallway sent you back through time like a space portal worm hole. Once you arrived in the 1960’s, the hallway led right to the check-in. Mostly self-help, the check in existed in the fashion of an airline check-in. After receiving a room key, I headed across the lobby to my side of the hotel.
The lobby was outrageous – a curved lounge, with the trademark TWA red and white everywhere. White lounge furniture sat alongside red couches and looked out the gigantic curved glass wall towards, well, towards the airport terminal. An old arrivals/departures board, still automated with the flipping letters regularly flipped through an array of messages and pictures. A couple bars, lounges, shops and a food court circled the open lounge, along with a few ‘secret’ lounge spaces tucked into odd corners. The style, sightlines and the entire operation are all 100% instagram approved.
The rooms followed similar stylings and branding. Red and white TWA pencils were next to an operational red 1960’s touch tone phone. TWA coasters, TWA soap and shampoo and TWA posters graced the bathroom and the walls. There are very few doorways and stairs, meant to make weary travelers feel welcome when handling their bags. It works. The small touches do add up. Outside the door is a little shelf – for coffee, keys, tickets, etc when you pull out the keycard to unlock your room.
The rooms were luxurious – a giant TV, thick, comfortable bed, and solid craftsmanship all the way around. The windows had a remote control to automatically raise and lower the blinds. I saw this option on Curb Your Enthusiasm once. I thought it was an outlandish idea and didn’t help the story out. But after one night with them, I’m completely sold.
Strewn about the lounge area and many of the open concourses were exhibits dedicated to the memory of the once proud TWA Airline. Exhibits of mod outfits from flight attendants and proper suits for the pilots fashioned their own catwalk views. Old luggage and other assorted memorabilia make it hard not to flash back to when air travel was not a chore. Eero Saarinen’s studio was recreated, as well as a posh 1960’s jet set living room. An old Connie airplane was kept company with cars from the 1960’s parked outside. Kansas City’s own TWA Museum donated a lot of the exhibits.
Up on the roof was a spa-like pool and a cabana that surely will be the liveliest spot during the summer months. It’s odd overlooking runways and planes and jet fuel when soaking in a pool. The convenience and other hotel guests outweighs any lingering weirdness.
There was a weird simulacrum feel to the entire hotel. The red and white scheme was everywhere lending to the otherworldly sensation of the space. The curves, arches, bends and rounded walls reinforced the 60’s mod/jet set vibe. The hotel is a pretty immersive experience, which of course, is all the rage these days, for better or worse. But the service, clean lines, and functional aspects of the ramps and winding corridors made for an enjoyable time. If travel could be 1/8 as pleasant and easy as a stay at the TWA Hotel affords their guests, that would be the best throwback ever.