For years, hotel general managers trotted out the standard phrase: ‘We’re in the business of selling sleep.’ They have changed their tune with the rise of experiential travel and the urgent need to distract, entertain and delight guests as well as providing the means to help them get unconscious. One category has so far been exempt – the airport hotel.
Who would choose to stay in one of those characterless boxes with views of car parks and runways unless flight schedules and the need to grab a few hours’ sleep forced you to? Well, the answer may still be ‘no-one’. But that’s despite the heroic efforts of some operators to make the dull old airport hotel, well, an experience. And you can take first-class soundproofing as a given in the following selection.
TWA Hotel, John F. Kennedy International Airport
Layovers at New York’s JFK will never be the same. The abandoned TWA Terminal originally built in 1962 reopened in May 2019 as an airport hotel paying homage to the golden era of travel. Guests at TWA Hotel can sip retro cocktails in one of eight bars – including one in a converted Lockheed Constellation plane – admire passing jets from an observation deck and peruse the in-house museum.
Crowne Plaza, Singapore Changi Airport
Named the World’s Best Airport Hotel by Skytrax for the past five years running; and it’s hard to argue with the judges (you). Housed within a striking latticework design, it has ergonomic, sleek rooms and dining options that make you think twice about taking the 20-minute ride into the city. There’s a tranquil – you read that right, tranquil – rooftop garden and swimming pool that almost banishes all thoughts of flightpaths.
Sofitel, London Gatwick Airport
The atrium at this smart hotel connected to Gatwick’s North Terminal isn’t the hotel world’s highest or most glamorous. But it makes for a very agreeable, laid-back break from the rigours of international travel. Dining options like Asian restaurant Vanda are pretty reliable and save you a trip to sample the uncertain charms of nearby Crawley.
Jumbo Stay, Stockholm Arlanda Airport
If you love planes, why leave the cabin just because you’ve arrived at your destination? A short distance from Stockholm’s Arlanda Aiport, a decommissioned 747 has been turned into the airport hotel world’s funkiest hostel concept. You can book a business conference in first class, sleep in the en-suite cockpit or, for economy travellers, bunk up with a few friends in the dorm rooms.
Fairmont, Vancouver International Airport
A regular winner for North America in the Skytrax awards, the Fairmont may lack the wow factor of other hotels on this list but the views of the North Shore Mountains make this one of the most scenic layovers. You can also go to Flight School here: that doesn’t mean landing a 747 on a simulator, but tasting one of the wine, local craft beer or whisky ‘flights’ in the Jetside Bar. Just don’t try to fly a plane afterwards.
SkyCity Marriott, Hong Kong International Airport, China
The buzz in the lobby bars and restaurants suggests people want to be here – rather than having to be. It’s a pretty major conference and wedding venue, too, so you’ll have lots of partying execs and tottering bridal guests as well as bleary-eyed globetrotters for company. The Quan spa is a cut above the usual poky basement treatment rooms you find in airport hotels. And you might just get a view of the South China Sea and Lantau’s mountains – as opposed to a concourse.
This article was originally published in February 2017 and was updated in May 2019