Airport Properties Emphasize Design, Amenities and Venues

October 25, 2017

Since opening its first airport hotel in San Francisco in 1959, Hilton Hotels and Resorts today counts 380-plus properties worldwide, the most of any hotel company. Following last year’s debut of the spectacular Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Hilton is also expanding to Turkey with the Hilton Ankara Airport, and in the U.S. via the Hilton Raleigh-Durham Airport/Brier Creek.

In February 2016, Hilton published “Travel Trends: Rise of the Airport Hotel,” part of its “Blue Paper” series. With airport hotel demand up to 65 million room nights in 2015 from 55 million in 2010, feedback from thousands of business and leisure travelers surveyed for the paper revealed three key insights.

Firstly, most choose airport hotels principally for business and due to missed or inconvenient flights. Secondly, many connect “their satisfaction with their hotel stay and their ability to perform their job well.” Lastly, “negative perceptions of airport hotels are ingrained.” This was “especially true among travelers who have stayed at an airport hotel in the preceding 12 months,” with “boring,” “expensive” and “outdated” among their complaints.

Yet virtually all respondents were open to next-generation concepts, especially where “amenities and modernization are differentiators.” That being so, new properties like Schiphol offer an exciting new take-off position for airport meetings and overnights, as the following other new projects reveal.

Back to the Jet Age

Could the resurrection of the TWA Flight Center at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as the TWA Hotel inspire a new Jet Age in hospitality and events?

Opened in 1962, TWA’s original terminal, from master architect Eero Saarinen, has long inspired flights of fancy with its winged, spaceship-like body. Shuttered in 2001 and saved from demolition, this now-landmarked icon of what was then Idlewild Airport, like the proverbial phoenix, is reawakening as JFK’s first on-site, full-service hotel.

Targeting a late 2018 opening following groundbreaking in December 2016, key elements include 505 guest rooms housed in two new curving “wings.” The LEED-certified restoration will faithfully return Saarinen’s masterpiece to its Mid-Century Modern glory, including characteristic elements such as the sunken lounge, carpeted in his signature chili pepper red color.

Groups will have 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space, with amenities including roughly eight F&B concepts, such as revivals of TWA’s Ambassador’s Club, Lisbon Lounge and Paris Cafe; a 10,000-square-foot observation deck; and a rooftop pool.

Access from every terminal will be via JFK’s AirTrain, and Saarinen’s iconic passenger tubes will connect directly to Terminal 5. Thrilling, too, is the reported connection to a restored Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft with its own restaurant and bar.

With plans also calling for an on-site museum showcasing TWA’s and New York’s storied Jet Age legacy, groups can get a dynamic hotel preview at the event-ready TWA Lounge. Serving as a sales office, this glam space on the 86th floor of One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan features TWA exhibits, furnishings honoring Saarinen’s design and views of JFK 12 miles to the east.

Crowne Jewel  

As airport hotels reach for next-generation appeal, airports are seeing their own dramatic transformation. Singapore Changi Airport, gateway to one of Asia’s preeminent MICE destinations, is a model for the future.

Crowning Skytrax’s “World’s Best Airports” list for the past five years, and in the top three for the last 15 years, Changi, featuring green walls and specialty gardens throughout, redefines the passenger experience with stunning architecture, technology, dining and other amenities.   


Seamlessly connecting to all three terminals (and futuristic T4, opening this fall), the architecturally striking Crowne Plaza Changi Airport (CPCA) in Terminal 3 sets its own high standard. Opened in 2008 with 320 “nature-inspired” rooms, CPCA has earned Skytrax’s “World’s Best Airport Hotel” for the last three consecutive years. Built in just 26 days using cutting-edge techniques, the new Jewel Wing extension, unveiled in August 2016, features 243 multifunctional business-oriented guest units with advanced technology, ergonomic work space, runway views and other comforts. Delegates on a stopover can also rent rooms by the day.

Eight meeting rooms, including the Chengal Ballroom, can flexibly accommodate groups of up to 360. For corporate events, Bar ’75 offers “a touch of Asia in the 1970s.” Other amenities include a rooftop pool, a spa, gourmet dining and VIP Meet & Greet Service, which features an escorted pickup from the arrival hall.

The hotel overlooks the dazzling next phase in Changi’s evolution, also called the Jewel. Targeting an early 2019 opening, this $1.7 billion, 10-story, mixed-use project will include a hotel, a domed garden with an indoor waterfall, aviation facilities and dining and retail options.

Direct Connections

Since 1998, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been the world’s busiest airport, averaging 2,500 arrivals and departures and 275,000 passengers daily, generating $34.8 billion in economic impact for Greater Atlanta. The airport’s location of College Park and East Point, which includes the Georgia International Convention Center, more than 8,000 hotel rooms and corporate headquarters such as Delta Air Lines, is now the ATL Airport District. Reflecting the rebranding of former locally and regionally focused DMOs Meet College Park and Explore East Point, the new organization will market the airport campus as a national and international tourism, convention and meetings destination.

More than $6 billion in upgrades and expansions planned for the decades ahead involve at least three hotels, including the new Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel. Opened in May 2017, the 204-room property connects to the ATL Skytrain station, providing delegates with easy access to both the terminal and the Georgia International Convention Center.  

According to a Marriott release, the hotel was designed to “set a new standard for the staid airport hotel experience.” Rendered in a stylish contemporary decor with artful touches, including 11 original murals from artist Ryan Coman in a style inspired by his famed Disney animator father, the property “creates a sense of arrival before guests check in.” Equipped for groups of up to 350, nearly 6,000 square feet of versatile venue space includes the Alpha, Bravo, Foxtrot and Echo meeting rooms, and the chic 3,400-square-foot Tango Ballroom.

With Hickory & Hazel Southern Table and Bar serving classic Southern comfort food, unique programming options include local artist performances, interactive painting, cooking classes and wine tastings.

“Every aspect of the new Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel has been designed specifically for business travelers who may have 20 minutes, two hours or two days in Atlanta, and want to leave with surprising discoveries and a taste of this city’s dynamic culture,” said Donelle Zunker, the hotel’s general manager.

Another “super hub” is Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Larger than Manhattan at nearly 27 square miles and with its own zipcode, DFW, with its prime central U.S. location, contributes $37 billion in total economic output to North Texas as the world’s fourth-largest airport in operations and 11th worldwide in passenger volume, at nearly 66 million.  

Advantageously located inside the airport adjacent to Terminal C, the 811-room Hyatt Regency DFW International Airport is a standard-setter for airport hotels, including 24-hour check-in and complimentary shuttle to all terminals. Featuring a lodging mix that includes 117 View Rooms, 33 suites and 31 Business Plan Rooms, the upscale property, offering 92,000 total square feet of function space, is its own “super hub” for meetings.

With 70 meeting rooms, highlights include the Made-In-Texas Hall, featuring 18,000 square feet of space divisible into up to 13 meeting rooms; the 4,800-square-foot Innovation Ballroom, its glass doors opening onto the pool area; the 21,100-square-foot Enterprise Ballroom; 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, with a dedicated loading dock; and the Executive Conference Level, with 12 boardrooms.  

At Denver International Airport, the fifth-busiest airport in the U.S. and 10th-busiest in the world, the striking Gensler-designed, 519-room Westin Denver International Airport is bookable on its looks alone. Connected to the Jeppesen Terminal, the hotel, resembling a bird in flight, provides a seamless commuter rail link to Denver via the airport’s Transit Center. With 37,000-plus square feet of dynamic space, venue highlights include the 10,000-square-foot prefunction area with a panoramic three-story glass curtain wall and the 82,000-square-foot outdoor Plaza Courtyard.

In the Bay Area, the brand-new 187-room (seven suites included) AC Hotel San Francisco Airport is just five minutes from San Francisco International Airport via a free shuttle and one mile from Caltrain. Located in the Cove at Oyster Point, the design-driven property offers 8,100 square feet of total space in six meeting rooms, the largest accommodating up to 250 people. Amenities include an extensive catering menu, high-tech equipment, free Wi-Fi and an on-site business center.

Set within Newark Liberty International Airport with free shuttle service to all terminals, Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott completed an award-winning transformation in 2016 highlighted by the redesign and soundproofing of all 585 rooms and six suites, and the upgrade of its 27,000-plus square feet of meeting space, grand ballroom included.

Directly connected to Terminals A and E via pedestrian walkways, the 599-room Hilton Boston Logan International Airport is yet another highly efficient group choice, offering 30,000 square feet of flexible space on one level.

As the only hotel inside Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the 404-room Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport, located in the McNamara Terminal, offers the supreme convenience of its own security checkpoint. The hotel, which is undergoing a multimillion-dollar, multiphase room and meeting space enhancement, offers 34 flexible meeting rooms, including a 7,300-square-foot grand ballroom, and a “Room for a Day” offer for travelers on the go.

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.