Iconic Airports: Where Are They Now?

Original LAX airport design
Original LAX plan, courtesy LA World Airports Flight Path Learning Center

Yesterday, I went out to JFK Airport with no flight to catch and no visitors to greet. It was the annual Open House New York event, where private buildings and homes all over the city open to the public for a few hours, and it was a last chance to see the iconic TWA Flight Center before it is turned into a hotel. (You can see our photos from last year here.)

Native New Yorkers, retired flight attendants, tourists and architecture enthusiasts flooded the airy terminal, closed since TWA ceased operations in 2001, taking photos and sharing stories about the good old days of air travel. The mid-20th century was the high point in airport design; its airy and futuristic buildings can be appreciated by any modern day traveler who has ever had a layover at La Guardia.

We looked at some of the most iconic airport architecture in the U.S. and their current status. Is your favorite still flying?

%Slideshow-100872%DCA Terminal A – Washington D.C.’s first airport opened in 1941, and was considered to be the most modern in airport design at the time. In addition to its status as historic landmark and aviation icon, it’s also an archaeological site: the airport was built on a former colonial plantation and the birthplace of George Washington’s granddaughter.

Status: The original terminal was restored to its original look in 2004 and 2008, with the interior currently undergoing a massive renovation. You can still see many parts of the original lobby and building as it looked when President Roosevelt dedicated it. Check out some vintage postcards of the airport from the Boston Public Library.

IAD Main Terminal – One of Swedish architect Eero Saarinen’s airport designs, Dulles was designed in 1958 and dedicated in 1962, the same year the TWA terminal opened. The architect called the building and control tower “the best thing that I have done,” and inspired the design of Taiwan’s international airport. The “mobile lounges” were one of the most innovative concepts, carrying passengers in relative luxury from the terminal right to the plane

Status: Dulles wasn’t a popular airport from the beginning, as it didn’t allow jumbo jets until 1970 and the distance from the city is still off-putting, but it’s now one of the busiest in the country and is continuing to expand. The mobile lounges are still around, but the new Aero Train is more commonly used.

JFK Pan Am Worldport - The 1960 “flying saucer” was designed to bring the airplane to the passenger, sheltering the planes under the overhang for all-weather boarding. It was opened for Pan Am and renamed the Worldport in 1971 when it was expanded to accommodate the Boeing 747, and was the biggest passenger terminal in the world for several years. After Pan Am went bankrupt in the ’90s, Delta acquired the terminal and used it for many long-haul flights.

Status: Although it is on the list of the most endangered historic buildings and beloved by many airline and architecture enthusiasts, it looks like the Worldport is permanently grounded. While Delta just completed a major renovation of their other terminal at JFK, they need the room for airplane parking, and the flying saucer is already beginning to be demolished.

LAX Theme building – The distinctive Theme building is a perfect example of 1960s futuristic architecture, resembling something out of the Jetsons and actually inspiring the cartoon’s design. Part of the original ambitious plans for the airport was to connect terminal buildings with a giant glass dome, with the Theme Building serving as the main terminal, as in the picture above. One of the most famous buildings in the world, it’s photographed more than the Eiffel Tower.

Status: The Theme building has been a restaurant since 1997, and you can visit Encounter for a meal even if you aren’t flying. The free observation deck is open on weekends only if you just want to watch the planes taking off.

LGA Marine Air Terminal – For a passenger who arrives at one of La Guardia’s many dim and low-ceilinged gates, it’s hard to imagine that an Art Deco beauty is part of the same airport. Opened in 1940 and funded by the post-depression Works Progress Administration, the Marine Air Terminal originally served the glamorous Clipper planes, carrying 72 passengers on long transoceanic flights with sleeping berths and a high-end restaurant. The second World War made such flying boats obsolete, and the terminal sat unused for several decades.

Status: It’s now the main hub for Delta’s shuttle service to Boston, Chicago and Washington, even after a massive renovation to Delta’s other terminal at LGA. While it might have less modern facilities, it’s the only terminal to feature an original mural dedicated to flight (with a secret message).

LGB Main Terminal – The first trans-continental flight landed at Long Beach in 1911, but the Streamline Moderne terminal wasn’t built for another 30 years. The modernist building was considered avant garde at the time, but now feels classic and a bit romantic among airports, the kind of place you can imagine passengers boarding with hat boxes and cat eye sunglasses. Much smaller than nearby LAX, JetBlue made it a west coast hub in 2001 and put the California airport back on the map.

Status: Last year, LGB was fully modernized to make it more green and “resort-like,” with outdoor spaces outfitted with fire pits and cabanas. The renovation uncovered more of the mosaic tile art by WPA artist Grace Clements, then 28 years old, and covered by carpet for 70 years.

Fashion Do’s And Don’ts From The TSA


When talking about airport security, we generally focus on what travelers are carrying, not what they’re wearing. But thanks to the TSA recently cracking down on passengers’ fashion choices, style is now a part of the airport security conversation. Forget regulations on liquids or weapons: the TSA’s new security threat is clothing, accessories and hairdos, or so they seem to think.

On July 16th, a TSA spokeswoman tweeted a photo of black pumps that had small replica guns as heels. The shoes were confiscated by the TSA at New York’s Laguardia Airport despite the fact that they could have been easily verified as non-weapons. Also in the tweeted photograph was a black belt lined with mock silver bullets. While mock weapons aren’t ever supposed to be admitted on planes, I have to wonder: how far does that regulation extend? Would a charm bracelet with a mock handgun be permitted?

The TSA’s fashion crackdown has also come to include dreadlocks. Numerous reports have surfaced involving hair searches if the passenger sports dreads. Other style conflicts include an instance in which a male TSA officer recently told a 15-year-old traveler to cover herself in a criticism of her tank top, leggings and button-down shirt (not that it matters; it’s not appropriate for a TSA officer to remark on the perceived modesty or lack thereof in regard to passenger clothing).The TSA’s Fashion Dont’s include (or seem to include):

  • Don’t wear accessories that include mock weapons or accessories for weapons, no matter how small or obviously fake.
  • Don’t wear loose head coverings, religious or otherwise.
  • Don’t wear body piercings.
  • Don’t wear thick shirts.
  • Don’t wear studded clothing.
  • Don’t have dreadlocks.
  • Don’t wear tank tops.

Do’s include:

  • Do wear slip-on shoes.
  • Do wear comfortable, layered clothing.
  • Do remove as much jewelry beforehand as possible.

Have your fashion choices been judged by the TSA? Share your stories in the comments below.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport Flooded

New Yorkers and residents along the Eastern Seaboard are just beginning to emerge today from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy – millions remain without power, thousands of flights have been cancelled and transportation throughout the region has been severely disrupted.

If you need further evidence of what it looks like in New York here on the ground, just check out this shot posted this morning by a flight attendant at LaGuardia airport. The airport, which lies in a low-lying coastal area remains severely flooded this morning.

For those of you in transit this week, stay patient. It could be a few days before normal flight, train and bus service in and out of the New York area resumes normal activity.

UPDATE: A special thanks to tireless LaGuardia airport worker Francesco Giannola for your photo.

[Photo credit: Francesco Giannola]

Give Delta’s New York LaGuardia shuttle service a try

Those that travel frequently between New York’s LaGuardia and Chicago’s O’Hare airport know that it is among the more tedious routes to fly, particularly if you’re traveling on a legacy carrier. Older, less comfortable airplanes, tiny overhead bins packed to the gills with carry-on luggage, and heavy flight traffic are all the norm, leading to plenty of stressed-out travelers.

It’s for exactly these reasons I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised in recent months by Delta’s stellar shuttle service operating out of LaGuardia’s Marine Air Terminal. It’s a service designed to cater to frequent travelers in key markets, concentrating only on those that fly between New York to either Boston Logan, Washington Reagan or Chicago O’Hare. The smaller, out-of-the-way terminal location means much shorter security lines and less crowds, and they’ve fitted the place out with comfy leather seats, lots of power ports, and complimentary newspapers and magazines. What’s more, the carrier announced this week that Wi-Fi is now available on all shuttle flights, always a nice perk. Pair that with complimentary beer and wine in economy class and you’ll begin to feel like you’re flying up in first.

True, there are downsides to the service. Skittish fliers that don’t like small planes probably won’t like the smaller Embraer 170’s Delta uses on the route. And for anyone not traveling to Boston, Washington DC or Chicago, you’re pretty much out of luck if you wish to try this one out. Still, for travelers looking to enjoy a little extra flying comfort leaving from LaGuardia, the airport most conveniently located near Manhattan (JFK, ahem, I’m not looking at you…) give Delta Shuttle a try.

[Photo by Flickr user redlegsfan21]

Sesame Street helps kick off summer travel season

Sesame Street summer travelDoes Cookie Monster have to buy two seats? Does Elmo travel carry-on only? You can ask them yourself this week as several Sesame Street characters appear at US airports this week to kick off summer travel with Delta Airlines.

Today, Elmo and Cookie Monster will be making gate announcements and welcoming travelers to Minneapolis-St Paul Airport, before meeting up with Grover at La Guardia on Tuesday. Elmo and Grover will wrap up the tour on Thursday at Atlanta‘s international airport.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Casey Fleser.

Want to travel more with Sesame Street? Check out Lonely Planet editor Robert Reid’s trip in the video below.