At J.F.K., Your Hotel is Now Boarding


Already sold out on its opening night, May 15, the new TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in the former 1962 TWA Flight Center designed by the architect Eero Saarinen, will have 512 mid-century-furnished rooms, an infinity pool and lounge on the roof, a shop from the Detroit-based watchmaker Shinola and a restaurant by the chef Jean-George Vongerichten.

Nostalgia for both the period architecture and a defunct airline once considered the carrier to the stars is expected to be as much a driver of bookings as are Kennedy fliers enduring long layovers. But the TWA hotel is not alone among a new generation of airport hotels getting upgrades in style and amenities across the country.

As flying grows worldwide — the International Air Transport Association forecasts that passenger numbers will double in 20 years to 8.2 billion by 2037 — airports are betting they can capture some of these fliers at on-site hotels, which share revenue with their landlords. Better food, more diversions and calm settings designed to ease the stress of traveling aim to attract both long-haul fliers seeking an overnight en route and more transient airport users looking for a between-flight workout, craft cocktail or quiet plane-spotting perch.

“Airports recognize that when a customer goes off-airport to a hotel, the airport has zero chance of capturing that customer’s spend,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the founder of Atmosphere Research Group. “Where the real estate exists, I think you’ll see more airports exploring on-property hotels because they are so appealing.”

Newer airports and those able to substantially redesign have an edge over many that are hemmed in by highways and surrounding communities. The new Grand Hyatt at SFO, opening at San Francisco International in September, replaces an older Hilton that was demolished in 1998. The new 351-room hotel promises a spacious gym, a yoga studio and spa, and four food and beverage outlets, plus necessities like soundproof rooms. Eighteen meeting rooms will offer fly-in, fly-out conference space.

Approximately 25 miles east of downtown Denver, Denver International Airport had the space to expand when it added a transit center and Westin hotel in 2016. The Westin Denver International Airport, which vaguely resembles a set of wings, bills itself as a wellness hotel with a fully equipped fitness center, heated indoor pool and an emphasis on calm. Its 519 rooms have triple-pane windows to muffle the sounds from the runways in view.

“Travelers are rushed all the time. We look at airport hotels as great design opportunities to create architecture and interior design that provide a sense of calming,” said Steven Upchurch, a global hospitality executive with the architectural firm Gensler, which designed the Westin at Denver’s airport. The firm also redesigned the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel, home to a full-service spa, swimming pool and a restaurant that highlights aboriginal influences, in 2016.

He emphasized the importance of quiet communal spaces that serve as retreats for travelers, whether spending the night or just passing through.

Whether connected by a sky bridge or airport train or entered directly from the terminal, most airport hotels lie outside of airport security, meaning fliers who are not overnighting would have to resubmit to screening on re-entry after using the facilities of the hotel. That hasn’t stopped some from attracting non-guests. Mr. Gosselin estimates 80 percent of the lunch business at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport is from non-guests.

Most of the next-generation airport hotels are landing at busy international airports like Kennedy or hubs like Denver. There’s generally a premium associated with these convenient, amenity-filled hotels. Rates at the Grand Hyatt at SFO are expected to start at $329. A recent online search for hotels near the airport showed many with rates starting around $160.

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