The TWA Flight Center at JFK is perhaps the most iconic airline terminal in the world. I was determined to see it one last time. Well, actually see it for the first time…in person.
The terminal isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will be restored to its original glory as the centerpiece of the new TWA Hotel. But I wanted to see it as it was now…essentially untouched from its 1960’s heyday.
Small problem: it was closed to the public.
During a long layover at JFK I headed over from the nearby JetBlue terminal to the TWA Terminal and marched right up to the front door. There was some construction going on, but the door was locked. At this point, thoughts of buying a hard hat and yellow safety vest were running through mind. But there wasn’t time before my connection…
If you’re familiar with the terminal, you’ll know there are two flight bridges that connect the TWA Flight Center to what is now the JetBlue terminal (T5). I figured it was worth checking if I could access the terminal from the other side and returned to the baggage area of the JetBlue terminal.
Finding a door marked “Flight Bridge” I pulled on it…it was locked.
The Magic Door
I walked down to the other end of the baggage area where I found another door. I pulled it…and it opened. My eyes lit up and my heart started to beat. It was like walking through a wardrobe and into Narnia.
Proceeding up the stairs, I encountered my first glimpse inside: the red-carpeted bridge to the main TWA Flight Center.
It is hard to describe the emotion of that moment, but I felt an adrenaline rush that must have been the byproduct of sneaking into an abandoned airline terminal and not just any terminal, but the TWA Flight Center.
I proceeded down the bridge, tiptoeing really, and soon found myself in the majestic terminal. It appeared I was alone inside.
Looking up and looking around, I began to take pictures. What beautiful curves this terminal has…there is nothing like it.
I then proceeded to the restroom, which still appeared to be functioning.
Suddenly I heard footsteps behind me. A uniformed security guard walked up to me and demanded to know what I was doing.
Uh, taking pictures…
“You’re not supposed to be in here!”
“But the door was open.”
He was not amused. I tried to cajole him into letting me stay a few more minutes, but he was insistent I immediately depart.
I did not want to let on how I entered, but I left my carry-on bag in the bridge. We walked back to get it then he walked me to the front door, opened it, and warned me he better not see me again.
So no pictures of the second floor, but I hope you enjoyed the ones above.
A couple weeks ago I was back at JFK and decided to try my luck again. Once again, the doorway to the bridge was open in the JetBlue baggage claim area.
But I encountered this inside:
Yes, the bridge entrance has been sealed shut with drywall (and yes, the door was locked at the top). What a shame.
I’m sure the restored Flight Center is going to be amazing. But I’m so thankful I found a way to see it before its restoration.