Well-known airlines such as Pan Am, TWA, US
Airways and Virgin America are long gone. And in just the past two years more
than two dozen other airlines went from soaring to shuttered.
So, it is noteworthy that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines turned 100 on October 7.
The Dutch flag carrier is not only one of the world’s oldest airlines, it is also the oldest airline still flying under its original name.
It’s also the only airline where the
guest of honor at its annual birthday party is the newest version of the three-inch
tall porcelain house gifted to business class passengers flying on the
carrier’s intercontinental routes.
The history of the houses
Back in 1952, KLM began giving its first-class
passengers a gift of a miniature Delft Blue pottery house portraying a
historically or architecturally significant Dutch building.
Because there were rules and limits regarding
the value of gifts to passengers, the airline filled the houses with gin so
that they were technically not gifts but free cocktails that just happened to
be served in souvenir containers.
New editions of the souvenir houses were created on and off for many years until 1994 – KLM’s 75th Anniversary – when the airline commissioned a bonus catch-up batch of miniature houses so that the number of souvenir houses in the series lined up with airline’s age.
Now one of the airline industry’s most
sought-after complimentary inflight amenity, a new miniature Delft Blue porcelain
houses filled with Bols Genever, a popular Dutch gin, is unveiled at the
carrier’s birthday party each October 7. The new house is cycled into the
assortment of miniature houses business class passengers can choose from on
A handy app helps passengers and collectors track the KLM houses they
have, or still need. Swapping is popular and there’s a robust secondhand market
in Amsterdam shops and online, with prices ranging from about $15 for the
common houses to upwards of $550 for some of the rarer editions.
Over the years, KLM’s miniature houses have depicted everything from the home of Dutch exotic dancer and spy Mata Hari to the Anne Frank House and the Rembrandt House.
In 2014, KLM’s miniature house portrayed
the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam.
Rotterdam’s Hotel New York, in the
former headquarters of the Holland America line, was the featured house in
2016. And the home in Haarlem where Dutch aviation pioneer and aircraft
manufacturer Anthony Fokker once lived was honored with a miniature gin-filled
house in 2017.
KLM’s 100th anniversary house
KLM’s much-anticipated 100th
Delftware miniature building was revealed at the carrier’s 100th
birthday party, held in a hangar at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on October 7.
The event was attended by more the 3500
people, some of whom had flown in just to be among the first to get their hands
on the newest miniature house.
The palace was built in the mid-17th century
for Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange and his wife Amalia van Solms and was
chosen to be KLM’s 100th miniature house to honor the strong ties between
the Dutch Royal Family and KLM since the airline’s early days.
The future of the KLM houses
While KLM’s Delftware miniatures
are highly collectible and closely tied to the carrier’s branding, KLM is also
committed to making aviation more sustainable.
To that end, the carrier uses electric baggage towing tractors, purchases carbon offsets, operates many flights using a biofuel mix and works to reduce waste and weight on flights.
But ditching the miniature
porcelain houses to lighten loads has not been considered.
“There are things you should do and things which you shouldn’t do. Period,” said KLM’s President and CEO Pieter Elbers, “For sustainability, we are investing in lightweight containers, trolleys, cargo nets, bottles, glasses and many other things to reduce weight on our planes,” said Elbers, “But those houses, we won’t touch.”
A great exhibit drawing from KLM’s extensive collection of more the 250,000 images has been on view at the Amsterdam City Archives.
And on October 7, a hoopla event will take place in a KLM hangar at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. During that party, the much-awaited ‘reveal’ of the 100th tiny Delft house filled with Bols Genever (a Dutch gin) will take place.
The small houses are a given out as complimentary gifts to travelers flying World Business Class and there’s always a wave of excitement in the cabin when the cart with the houses start being rolled down the aisle.
Stuck at the Airport will on hand for this year’s big reveal and we’ll share details on that as soon as we’re able.
Stuck at The Airport was honored to be on site for the reveal of KLM’s 97th miniature Delft House, which was made in the likeness of the Hotel New York in Rotterdam.
The hotel is on the site of the former headquarters of the Holland American Line and for many years, beginning in 1872, the company’s ships sailed between Rotterdam and New York and several other U.S. cities.
On Monday, journalists gathered at Hawaiian Airlines’ Honolulu headquarters for the carrier’s first global media day and the announcement that the airline is adding lie-flat seats to the premium cabins on its fleet of A330 aircraft.
During the event, refreshments were laid out for the attendees. And in with the coffee, water, fruit and trail mix were boxes filled with packs of Doublemint gum.
The gum seemed like an odd offering until it was explained that last November, when Hawaiian Airlines was celebrating the 85th anniversary of interisland passenger service, Doublemint gum was part of the festivities.
The reason: back in 1929, the first inflight amenity offered to passengers was a stick of Wrigley’s gum to help relieve ear pressure.
Hawaiian Airlines revived that tradition during its anniversary day celebration on November 11, 2015 by once again handing out Wrigley’s Doublemint gum to passengers (along with some other goodies) to the more than 12,000 passengers taking neighbor island flights that day.
But not all the gum Wrigley’s sent to Hawaiian Airlines for the celebration was used.
Not by a longshot. Which is why Doublemint gum is now there on the refreshment table at a lot of Hawaiian Airlines events.