!!! I HAVE ACCIDENTALLY PUBLISHED THIS TR WHILE I WAS EDITING IT. IT IS HALF READY AND NOW I DONT KNOW HOE TO DELETE IT, SO I AM JUST GOING TO LEAVE IT HERE NOW, BUT IT IS CONSTANTLY BEING UPDATED!!! Dominik, May 16, 1.30PM EST
Hello fellow a.netters,
in this piece I will report back at my most anticipated trip of 2019 (so far). It is a trip to the US for the sole purpose to stay at the TWA Hotel that is opening at JFK. Of course, as any avgeek, I tried to make the flight to the US fun as well, meaning hopefully a new airline, or a new aircraft type. For the sake of clarity, I will divide the report into two chapters.
Chapter 1 - getting to NYC on United B787-10
Chapter 2 - for those who are only interested in my very FAILED! TWA HOTEL Experience (scroll down) Chapter 1
I got to know about the plans to remake the iconic TWA Flight centre at JFK into a Hotel about a year ago. I got very excited and was hoping to be able to stay there so I quite wisely signed up for their newsletter. As I followed up with them, I saw that their opening deadline kept on being postponed, although only slightly. For some reason I anticipated that it would open in the autumn of 2019. If Im correct it was late January when the newsletter quite unexpectedly informed me that reservations are opening soon on February 14th. I even checked out from work earlier that day just to ensure that at 12pm, or in my case 18.00 in Copenhagen I was ready, set, go at the computer to secure a room with a runway view. All went smooth and after the room reservation I instantly started looking for airfares. In February it was the Star Alliance members that had very interesting (meaning cheap) offers to the NYC area. For a couple of days I was following offers from Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels Airlines. I however was determined to find a way to fly either the a350 or b787, as I have not flown these models yet, which is completely nuts, being an avgeek. That meant focusing in on Lufthansa and so I did. After hours of googling, twisting and turning I managed to find a fare that blew my mind.
United 787-10 from Frankfurt to Newark and Lufthansa a350 from Newark to Munich, which included Lufthansa connections from and to CPH all in return fare for 2015DKK, which is 270EUR. Gee, doesn’t life work this way, when you have to get to JFK, you find a dream fare to Newark, but i have of course zero ground for complaining here, because I am flying for me brand new models for a very competitive price. Plus I get to fly United, which is a new airline to tick off from the list. Date: Tuesday, May 14th, 2019
Flight: UA961 Frankfurt - Newark
Model: B787-10, Reg.: N12003, delivered to United Dec 2018
Departure: 11.20 (Actual Dep: 11.54)
Arrival: 13.50 (Actual Arrival: 13.39)
Flight duration: 7.45
My day started very early at Copenhagen Airport. I took the very first LH flight to Frankfurt leaving at 6:45. It was a LH A320neo, which is a model that I like a lot. It was a routine connection flight, so I wont go into details, but I will mention that I do like LH. Their overall product seems to be consistent and reliable, at least in my experience. I had a little over 2 hours at FRA, which I spent by filming the trip report video that you are very welcome to check out on my youtube channel when it comes out. I also walked around taking photos, which is probably my absolute favourite airport activity. Although there are wide bodies also in CPH, it is a different view when you have 10 of them on display parking one next to the other. My transfer through passport and documentation controls went quite swiftly. Here are some pics of my stroll at FRA. The United Flight
Boarding started 50min before departure. The interior of the aircraft looked neat and modern, but I was surprised that the majority of the windows were dimmed and once I got on board it felt like it’s the middle of the night at 11am. Some windows were dimmed, some were not, it was rather weird. For some reason I always presumed that for boarding, take off and landing they all have to be undimmed. But oh well, I kept mine clear because I wanted to film through it. We took off with a slight delay into the beautiful blue skies of this sunny day. The seat itself looked neat with nice blue leather, but honestly, it did feel narrow. I am tall and slim and I felt squeezed by the window. In the middle seat there was a man who was just a little big bigger than normal and I just felt that this will be an uncomfortable flight like this for both of us. I stayed for a while and made some footage. Very interestingly we flew exactly over London. It was insane seeing the whole city under me. I tried to make photos but the sun was really intensely reflecting and when I dimmed the windows that did not help much either. I just got fed up of the whole thing. Luckily, there were some free seats. I relocated to 60D, the very last aisle seat of the middle section. The middle seat of that middle section was empty too, suddenly it felt very comfortable. I am a window guy, because I really love looking at the scenery and mapping the regions in my mind, plus filming, but for long haul, aisle is the way to go. Or business/first class of course, that will do too. Too bad I haven’t experienced it yet. Take off at FRAThe city of FrankfurtFlying over LondonView from 60DI belong to the mysterious cult of people who love tomato juice when flyingThe very report you are reading right now is being written here on this picture. How inception is that?!
The IFE worked smoothly and quickly, so I watched a few tv shows or just stared at the digital map, lol. Another reason I wanted to move to a seat with more space was that I was hoping to do some work, namely, to start writing this report. I thankfully managed to do that. The seats have also a USB plug, which was great, because I use my iPhone for photo and videography, so it needs constant charging. Three seats share also two general electric plugs that are located in the bottom section of seats in front of you. The most surprising part of the flight for me was the meal. This was so far the best meal I have had on an airplane. Just to specify, I only flew economy so far. Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, American Airlines and even Turkish Airlines with their renowned cuisine did not impress me at all, not once. It was always fine. However, this chicken and rice with a small salad and the ice cream as dessert was really delicious and tasty. The FAs were friendly and attentive. For the landing I went back to my window seat to film. The Newark area was covered in thick clouds but we landed safely in rainy weather. Good stuffMore good stuff
To finish off Chapter 1 I will mention that I was very surprised that the Custom and Border control went quickly. My last time in the US was in 2011 through JFK where we were queueing for at least an hour. This time maybe we were lucky that there were not many international arrivals, so even though we landed at 13.39, at 15.00 sharp I was already inside the room of one of Newark Airport Hotels.Landing at EWR, I love flying in rainy, cloudy weather. There is no better feeling than breaking through the clouds in a big machine.CHAPTER 2
The Disappointing TWA Hotel Experience
TWA HOTEL as an architectural marvel: 5/5
TWA HOTEL as a hotel service provider: 2/5 (and I am being really nice here)
In case you read chapter 1, I wonder if you could feel, that I was in a great mood. Well that is because i wrote it before my disappointing experience at the TWA Hotel. Unfortunately, my experience there bumped me out so much, that I have to motivate myself even to write this part. One thing I want to make sure is that I am being objective. So let’s separate the TWA Hotel as an architectural place, that I still would recommend everyone who loves aviation to visit. And it seems that they made a terrific job conserving the TWA Flight Centre part. However, as a paying customer, not only am I unsatisfied with their service, they managed to completely ruin my mood for my one night stay. I have to say that I just seemed to have gotten unlucky, because there were others, who seemed to have enjoyed their stay. It sure is easy to do, when you get what you asked for.
I wonder to what extent they count with aviation fans as their customers. I can understand that avgeeks represent a niche market, a smaller piece of the business pie (in comparison to transiting passengers, although I suspect it will take a certain amount of time for them to get the transiting pax in the amount that they would like) Their problem is that if they ruin the experience of an avgeek, that goes a long way considering the very unique nature of this hotel. We are the ones, that travel here sometimes even for 1 night only, from all around the world and report back to travel and aviation platforms that could potentially boost their reputation. Well here is my contribution to that.
I took the airtrain to the airport and I arrived to the TWA Flight center sharp! at 16.00 when the check-in started. The place was buzzing with people and it was indeed a very exciting moment. I signed up for their newsletter and when they finally announced that reservations are going live Feb 14th at 12.00est, that day I actually got back home earlier from work just to make sure I am sitting in front of the computer at 6pm Copenhagen time ready with my card, to book a room with a runway view. I managed to do that, I think my reservation was ready 9 minutes after the reservation was opened. This of course made me very excited and I was planning pretty much everything around this. So when I arrived for the check in and they announced that my room was not ready yet at around 16.15, I was not at all suspicious, I just though all right, no worries, I can wait 25, 30 minutes. I noticed however that I was not the only one, as the same happened to the gentlemen in front of me and then more and more customers. The receptionist took my name and wrote it to a small list that was on their table, there were around 5 names at this point. At this point however I still was not suspicious of anything and I went around filming and exploring the amazing flight centre building.
I toured the Connie and went back to the reception area. All the receptionists were very busy as there were still many people arriving but he managed to tell me swiftly that my room is unfortunately still not ready and it will take some more time. I have to add that they were courtious and apologetic. At this point I was getting angry and told him that I traveled here from Europe to experience this very hotel and also told him that I am documenting my experience and it is not starting in a stellar way. Again he apologised and he assured me that it is only an issue with the cleaning of the rooms and if I just continue to be a bit more patient everything is going to be ok. I totally believed him, there was simply no reason for me to doubt what he was saying. I hung out again in the lobby, but at this point I was getting tired and anxious, I wished I could just finally put away my luggage and I wanted to change into my suit. I wanted to look neat for this place (and of course have neat photos of me, lol). After 3 hours of waiting it became quite clear that I am not getting the room that I booked for myself, when I saw that I really am not the only one with this issue and people started to talk and complain to each other. Quite a few of us were made to wait for the rooms to be cleaned when they clearly were not going to assign them to us. Reason: Unknown. I chatted with a sympathetic couple who just arrived and got told the same thing as I did. When I told them that I have been waiting now for over 3 hours, they were quite surprised that I was this patient. At 19.30 I went to the check in desk again. (I went to the check in desk about 4 times in the period of the 3 hours, but several times I simply walked away when I saw they were too busy with other clients and I got fed up by the wait)
This time the gentleman played the same game. Looking franticly into the computer as if he had to find the room in a maze game and was really doing his best to win. Then a couple of times running in to some backstage area, where he probably got the news that there simply will not be any room with runway view for me even though I had a confirmation of that booking in my emails, and he simply had to tell me that. So he did. I was of course expecting exactly this information at this point. He offered me a room with a view to the Flight centre. I was tired, jet legged, and quite frankly needed to stay somewhere for the night. It is not like I was in a position to just cancel or throw a tantrum. I flew here from Europe and I needed a place to stay.
He quite generously offered that the price of the room would be 35% less than my previous reservation. I like how he framed it in a way that it is him trying to give me a compensation, as if that room's basic price was not cheaper to begin with. No any other offer for compensation, totally ignoring the fact that at this point they wasted 3 and a half hour of my reservation. And of course no truthful explanation of the reason, not that I was expecting it anyway, I used to work in travel customer service myself so I know how it goes. I sent them an email a couple days earlier saying that I prefer the top floor or as high as possible. He seemed to have seen that with the reservation because he assured me that thenew room is going to be on a high floor. He also probably saw there that I made a reservation for the rooftop pool, because, he ASSURED me that it will be open tomorrow May 16, which is when my reservation for the pool was made for. I told him that I would really like him to confirm to me the new price of the room in an email. He definitely seemed busy, but he assured me twice that he will indeed send me the email very shortly. Suffice to say I have not received any confirmation email. As I was jet-legged I spent the night editing.
THE NEW ROOM WITH TWA FLIGHT CENTRE VIEW
The room I got instead of the runway view looks very neat, exactly as on the pictures but at this point I could not have been either bothered or enchanted with any aspect of it. From this room I could also see the other wing where my room was supposed to be and the rooftop bar above it. From this new room I could see construction workers in their yellow vests on the rooftop terrace. For a moment I though to myself, they were simply not ready in time with the rooms. I really wonder what happened. I also wonder what happened to the other clients that got the same issue and treatment that I did. As if this was not enough, 3 out of 3 the elevators in my wing did not work for some time, I used the stairs, however, they seemed to have 2 of them working by late night. In my bathroom, the hair dryer does not work. It has special instructions explaining what to do in case it does not work, but it does not work even after following the special instructions. Not mentioning that there really should not be any special instructions for such a trivial thing as a hair dryer, which worked fine even at the otherwise quite dodgy Ramada Newark Airport Hotel the night before. Here you can also see the room cards, nice design.
The towel seems to be so brand new that it diffuses these small white particles that looks like dust and it just goes everywhere like snow. And I would put up with all of this with no problem, because I really don’t care about these details, if I would have gotten the room I booked as one of the first customers (although it is clear to me that rooms are not given out according to first come first serve basis) Or maybe most importantly if I only was not mislead the way I was. Most of all, they ruined my mood. I put on my suit and went down to film around. I was hoping to cheer up and stay positive, I can not possibly ruin my own stay, but unfortunately it did not work. I did not feel a bit sociable or even comfortable at all. What a bummer.
The next day May 16th the plan was to check out at 11.00am, hang in the lobby and at 13.00 go to the rooftop bar. LOOOOOL, from my new room I saw how construction workers frantically work at the rooftop even that morning and I knew there would be no swimming for me. This was also confirmed at the check in. The same receptionist who yesterday at check-in ASSURED me that tomorrow I can swim around is now saying that the pool will be open in 1 or maybe 2 weeks. FML. Is this for real? Another fun fact, yesterday I even got an email where I was supposed to confirm that today I will come to the rooftop pool.
GUYS, THIS HOTEL IS SIMPLY NOT READY YET! AND I QUITE FRANKLY WONDER HOW COULD THEY GET A PERMISSION TO START HOSTING PEOPLE. At 7am I was coming back from getting breakfast at terminal 5, and there was construction noise. At 7.10am. That in my book is unacceptable. What a fail. Btw I am working on a youtube video. I will show the good and the bad. There is so much beauty to show about this hotel, too bad the customer service is a joke. So stay tuned for that.