Historic JFK terminal gets new life as luxury hotel

  • Visitors arrive in the main lobby of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    Visitors arrive in the main lobby of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • The TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport comes out of retirement to open as a hotel, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    The TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport comes out of retirement to open as a hotel, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • The TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport comes out of retirement to open as a hotel, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The Finnish architect Eero Saarinen didn't have a hotel in mind when he designed the futuristic structure that opened in 1962. The AirTrain, which links terminals to the subway system, passes in front of the hotel.

    The TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport comes out of retirement to open as a hotel, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The Finnish architect Eero Saarinen didn't have a hotel in mind when he designed the futuristic structure that opened in 1962. The AirTrain, which links terminals to the subway system, passes in front of the hotel. Associated Press

  • People meet in the Paris Cafe during the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    People meet in the Paris Cafe during the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • Pierre Theodore, wearing a vintage TWA uniform, opens the door for visitors for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    Pierre Theodore, wearing a vintage TWA uniform, opens the door for visitors for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • A room at the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport has a view of the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    A room at the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport has a view of the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • A vintage telephone and notepad are placed in a guest room for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    A vintage telephone and notepad are placed in a guest room for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • People walk through the lobby of the famous winged TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The Eero Saarinen-designed terminal has opened as a hotel.

    People walk through the lobby of the famous winged TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The Eero Saarinen-designed terminal has opened as a hotel. Associated Press

  • A woman carries a vintage handbag for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    A woman carries a vintage handbag for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • A room at the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport has a view of the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    A room at the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport has a view of the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • Tables are set for visitors in the Paris Cafe during the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    Tables are set for visitors in the Paris Cafe during the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • Susan Meekma Stevens holds a photo of herself when she was hired by TWA at the newly opened TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Stevens was hired as a TWA stewardess in 1970.

    Susan Meekma Stevens holds a photo of herself when she was hired by TWA at the newly opened TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Stevens was hired as a TWA stewardess in 1970. Associated Press

  • Susan Meekma Stevens, who was hired as a TWA stewardess in 1970, poses for photos in front of a Lockheed Constellation outside the newly opened TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    Susan Meekma Stevens, who was hired as a TWA stewardess in 1970, poses for photos in front of a Lockheed Constellation outside the newly opened TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • Pearls Daily wears a vintage TWA stewardess uniform while greeting visitors to the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    Pearls Daily wears a vintage TWA stewardess uniform while greeting visitors to the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • Gabriel Alvarez poses for a photo in an early TWA pilot's uniform while greeting visitors and guests for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    Gabriel Alvarez poses for a photo in an early TWA pilot's uniform while greeting visitors and guests for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Associated Press

  • Mercia Clerge, wearing a vintage TWA uniform, poses for a photo next to a stairway to a Lockheed Constellation for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Clerge was hire as a ticket agent by TWA in 1989.

    Mercia Clerge, wearing a vintage TWA uniform, poses for a photo next to a stairway to a Lockheed Constellation for the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Clerge was hire as a ticket agent by TWA in 1989. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/15/2019 10:51 PM

NEW YORK -- The famous winged TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport came out of its decades-long retirement Wednesday with a new life as a luxury hotel.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony opening the $268 million project.

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He said he remembers seeing the terminal as a Queens boy "and saying, 'Wow! Wow! It was ahead of its time and it was New York's vision and creativity and boldness, and outside of the box thinking that made New York, New York.'"

The Finnish architect Eero Saarinen didn't have a hotel in mind when he designed the futuristic structure that opened in 1962.

Those were the heady jet-age days of the first space flights and President John F. Kennedy's promise of a moon landing.

Developer Tyler Morse hopes the proximity to the tarmac will draw travelers who don't want to fight nightmarish city traffic to catch their flights.

Beyond today's practical concerns lies a half-century-old dream.

"This TWA Flight Center was built as a cathedral to aviation," Morse said.

The history of TWA and its era will be on display in the 200,000-square-foot curving lobby that has no right angles, like the rest of the building, and is in TWA's red and white colors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hotel rooms are in an attached building.

The 512 rooms, starting at about $250 a night, have thick, noise-dampening windows near JFK's Terminal 5 in view of planes taking off. The Beatles arrived at the TWA terminal in 1964 to a frenzied crowd.

The hotel has six restaurants, including one operated by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. One of its eight bars is housed inside a vintage TWA aircraft Morse said was once purchased and used by South American drug dealers.

The hotel also features a 10,000 square-foot observation deck with a pool.

Kennedy is catching up with other international flight hubs that have hotels. Right now, most New York options are either a few budget accommodations in a neighborhood by the airport, or a very long train or cab ride into the city center.

New York's aging airport, which is itself undergoing a $13 billion renovation, was home to TWA until the airline went out of business in 2001 and was absorbed by American Airlines.

A lone TWA sign still marks its winged, white former terminal that remains a bold, elegant example of mid-20th century design.

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