The mixed reviews of the TWA hotel on social media are not uncommon for a property that — let's face it — opened too early. What will keep customers coming, however, is the chance to experience a nostalgic hotel design that will hit home with travelers.
The TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport was one of the most-anticipated hotel property openings of the year. Yet it has received mixed reviews from guests since its ribbon cutting last month.
In its early days, following a “soft opening” on May 15, the consensus on social media and travel review websites Yelp and TripAdvisor was the hotel would have been better served waiting until all of the finishing touches — such as its rooftop pool and the remaining 30 to 40 unbuilt guest rooms — were ready for public use.
MCR Development, owner and manager of the TWA Hotel and more than 90 other hotel properties, has admittedly undergone some teething issues in the five weeks since the hotel opened, said CEO Tyler Morse.
These hiccups include an overnight power outage on June 21, which prompted staff to hand out glow sticks, according to guest updates on Twitter. Some food at the hotel additionally spoiled, which hurt café service the following morning, customers said.
“Rough night @TWAHotel. Total power outage, alarms going off randomly, no hot water this a.m., but the room was super comfy and the staff took great care of us in the morning,” one guest wrote on Twitter.
A majority of these early hurdles are due to plumbing and electrical challenges associated with converting the abandoned terminal into a hotel, Morse said. MCR Development is working on rectifying these problems daily, and expects all remaining construction on its new TWA Hotel to be completed in the next 30 days.
“This is quite a hairy and complex project that is more than just building hotel rooms,” said Morse. “The new systems run through the TWA Flight Center, the new buildings [behind the existing terminal] and every connection provides a potential failure from an electrical and plumbing standpoint.”
If given the chance, Morse said he would not open the TWA Hotel at a later date — though he had anticipated his team would’ve had more time to test out new systems after work was complete. Construction and permit delays heavily disrupted workflow, he says. Remaining LED signage for the hotel also just arrived this week, thanks to delays resulting from President Trump’s tariffs on China.
“We are experiencing normal new building teething issues, except we’re getting more attention than a normal hotel would,” said Morse “We probably set our expectations a little too high for a soft opening.”
What The TWA Hotel Got Right
MCR Development’s early hurdles in opening the TWA Hotel at JFK do not take away from the hotel’s nostalgic design. The look and feel of the property pays homage to the 1960s when the old TWA Flight Center was designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1962. Each room additionally has 4.5-inch glass curtain walls to drown out JFK’s surrounding noise.
The new offering is only one of a plethora of announced hotel openings in recent months from companies outside of the traditional hospitality industry, including the Shinola Hotel in Detroit. More concepts from the likes of West Elm, Equinox, and even restaurant chain Taco Bell will debut over the next year.
Back at TWA Hotel, a few celebrities, such as actor John Travolta, model Karlie Kloss, and members of the media have sung the hotel’s praises on social media. The TWA Hotel has also hosted a wedding and witnessed six marriage proposals so far, Morse added. The food & beverage scene, which includes a food hall, has also been well received by guests.
“The vast majority of people have had a great time at our hotel,” said CEO Morse. “Some that haven’t is because of our teething issues, but we are getting through it.”
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Photo credit: A standard double room at the TWA Hotel at JFK. TWA Hotel