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Inside the Historic TWA Flight Center at New York's JFK Airport

Where: JFK International Airport [map], New York, NY, United States
October 17, 2011 at 12:24 PM | by | ()

For years, the old TWA Flight Center at New York's JFK International Airport has taunted us. Situated right in front of the new-ish JetBlue Terminal 5, the Eero Saarinen-designed masterpiece was so close and yet, so far.

Opened in 1962 and closed in 2001 after TWA went bust and was taken into American Airlines, Terminal 5 is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and undergoing slow renovations (that's what happens when you've got asbestos and close proximity to functioning flights). It's not been open to the public since, save for a few short months in 2004 for an art exhibition. This weekend, however, the Open House New York event flung open the doors for four hours and half the city showed up to check out this historical gem.

For the most part, restoration of the first level is looking good and nearly complete. The scarlet carpets of the famous tube walkways are new, the seating area is cushy and the Departure boards are functioning. Upstairs however, the former Paris Cafe and Lisbon Lounge are bare, while the upper class lounge boasts a few seats and some banquettes with cracking leather. Regardless, it's not difficult to take a good look and close your eyes to imagine how it was (and how it will be again).

During the Open House event, many former TWA flight crew members showed up, some in uniform. Down in the snazzy orange Constellation Club three former flight attendants held court, telling their stories to a small gathered group of listeners and a slew of JetBlue people who wandered over on their breaks or before flights.

Will this building ever be used for air travel again? Probably not, although JetBlue had hopes a while ago (and there are still two unplugged JetBlue check-in machines in the foyer). We spoke to an official from the Port Authory of NY & NJ who said "ticketing buildings are a thing of the past. Passengers just want to print off boarding passes on their own to go straight to the gate." He also called Delta's Terminal 3 (the old Pan Am Worldport) the "shabbiest terminal at JFK," but then again, we knew that and it's up for demolishment anyway.

What will the future hold for the TWA Flight Center? Who knows, really? It's a gorgeous structure that's receiving a lot of TLC right now and it's anyone's game. We only hope it won't stay closed to the public for so many years again.

[Photos and video: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Wow -- Awesome!

This is the best thing I've seen on the internet this month...great photos...

GREAT TWA DAYS - incorrect reporting by Jaunted!!!

Great photos for those of us that worked terminal 5 on a daily basis and had the opportunity to work for a great airline!! IT DID NOT GO BUST... We negotiated for years with AA on a merger and agreed to an aqusition as we had to enter bankruptcy to get rid of Icahn contracts in order to heolp AA succeed. look what they did in return and never honored any contract! They fired 25,000 employees only months later.

calm down

@KJB Thank You! @Elizabeth Calm down, "going bust" is a quick, informal way of saying that they declared bankruptcy, which they did no matter the reason.