Airwayte

Airwayte
Virginia Hotels
Image by rockcreek
AirWayte hotel (1960), National Airport. From a 5/2/05 Post article:

The AirWayte opened in early 1960. Newspaper stories back then described it as a "Pullman-like" structure. A Pullman was a sleeping compartment on a train, so that description hinted at the pea-in-a- pod-like experience of staying at the AirWayte.

The hostelry looked a bit like a futuristic trailer home raised off the ground by a central, stilt-like lobby. (Imagine a squat letter T.) There were two AirWayte units at National, about 50 yards from the terminal and right near the parking lot. Each was 75 feet long and 20 feet wide, and each contained 18 rooms. Room rates were .75 for the first hour and 75 cents for each additional hour; rates were higher at night.

"The idea is to accommodate a flight passenger on layovers, and that’s why we have the rate structures on an hourly basis," AirWayte manager Ursula Harvey told a Washington Star reporter in 1962.

So what did you get for your buck seventy-five? A 7-by-61/2-foot carpeted room with bed, desk, telephone, toilet and shower. The AirWayte was open round-the-clock, and a call system notified occupants of flight departures.

"It was very convenient," said Paul Sonnabend, chairman of the executive committee at Sonesta Hotels, who in the 1960s was president of Hotel Corp. of America, the company that built the AirWayte. "The people who used them, I think, found them convenient. They were small. It was functional. It wasn’t meant for somebody to spend two or three or four days there."

Paul said his company had great plans for the AirWayte concept, hoping to open them across the country. A survey at the time revealed that nearly one-third of passengers at major U.S. airports were subject to delays of more than an hour. This was a market.

"We did this with U.S. Steel," Paul said. "They were building them, and we were going to use them at a lot of airports."

In the end, only National Airport got the AirWayte. The problem, Paul said, was dealing with airport bureaucracy. "It was a very difficult job to get approval to put them in. It became such a nuisance that we began to realize that it wasn’t worth the effort."

Hotel Corp. of America pulled the plug on the AirWayte in 1972.

Cemeterian has posted a nice chrome postcard of an AirWayte.

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