The Eero Saarinen designed Trans World Flight Center, part of Terminal 5 at JFK, opened in 1962 and was closed in 2001 when TWA merged into American Airlines. This terminal is amazing. While its practicality diminished, even before it opened, it’s the type of terminal that could make you look forward to waiting in the airport. I’d wait for my confirmed upgrade all day long in a terminal like this.
The terminal captures the space-aged mindset of the late 50s when Saarinen was commissioned to design the structure. With sweeping arches and cloud-like interior — it epitomized the jet-age. His design was very detailed from the grandness of the open space to the detail in the 5 million tiny porcelain tiles covering the building.
Upon entering the terminal you are in the lower lobby where the lines of the reception desk meld continuously with the arcs of the departures board. It’s one giant swoop.
I got photobombed!
After passing the information desk, at the top of the steps is the upper lobby area with the signature bright red lounge. In 1962, when the terminal opened (and long before T5 was built) the satellite terminals were very close. This lounge, and really any window in the building, provided amazing views of the aircraft and runways. Now, unfortunately, all you see is T5.
The couches have been reupholstered during the renovations over the past few years. They are soft and comfortable as you sink into them. They are far better than the current hard plastic seats with armrests found in almost every airport now. There was no concern about people sleeping on these couches when this terminal was designed.
Up the stairs is the first class Ambassador lounge. The lounge featured Eames love seats and a Noguchi fountain.
Glass on either side of the Ambassador Club entrance door
Ambassador Club Desk
The fountain and Eames love seats have not been renovated. With the rumored plans for the terminal to be converted to a boutique hotel it’s not certain what will become of this area.
After a nice stay I departed through the “flight tube” which would have taken you to a satellite for your departing flight. Today the flight tube connects with the new T5 in the baggage claim area near carousel 6.
It’s a wonderful terminal. I really felt a connection to the history of the terminal, the excitement of flying, the dawn of the jet age and a fascination for the incredible architecture it represents. Hopefully they’ll have another open house next year, or if it is converted to a hotel they will keep many of these great features.