Airlines

Miniature houses have big role in KLM history

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 each flight.

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.

Hotel New York in Rotterdam

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 Delft miniature house #98 depicted the home of Dutch aviation pioneer Anthony Fokker in Haarlem

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.

Courtesy KLM

The 100th house is a replica of Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, the current home of the Netherland’s King Willem-Alexander and his family.

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.”

(My story about KLM’s 100th Delft miniature house first appeared on CNBC.)

KLM turns 100 on Oct 7

KLM, Royal Dutch Airways, turns 100 on October 7 and celebrations marking the milestone event are already underway.

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.

Stuck at the Airport was also onsite for the reveal of KLM’s miniature Delft house #98 – which depicts the family home of aviation pioneer Antony Fokker.

In advance of its birthday, KLM has been busy with events, promotions and announcements celebrating the company’s past – and looking to the future.

Take a look at these two short videos, especially the “Fly Responsibly” video that actually encourages travelers not to fly.

Air New Zealand has a cool new safety video

Air New Zealand has a new in-flight safety video – Air All Blacks – which celebrates and supports the All Blacks rugby team. And, of course, shares important in-flight safety information.

Team members and staff, as well as a celebrity or two, are featured alongside crew members in the video, which takes place in the headquarters of an imaginary new airline – Air All Blacks – right when ideas for the airline’s first safety video are being discussed.    

The release of Air All Blacks marks the ten-year anniversary of the airline’s groundbreaking and unique take on safety videos.

Here are few of our favorites:

Global airline execs on flight shaming, 737 Max return and more

Courtesy Korean Air

Your next flight – and flights you take in the future – will benefit from discussions and decisions made by top brass from the global air transport industry in Seoul, South Korea last weekend.

More than a thousand airline CEOs and industry leaders were on hand for the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). On the agenda was everything from climate change and “flight shaming” to the future of the beleaguered 737 MAX, congested skies, baggage tracking and a myriad of ways to improve the flying experience.

Also on the list: A downgrade for the industry trade group’s 2019 profit expectations.

“Although 2019 is expected to be the 10th consecutive year of airline profits,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO told the group, “Rising costs, trade wars and other uncertainties are likely to have an impact on the bottom line. The prolonged grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft is taking its toll. And aviation, like all industries, is under intensified scrutiny for its impact on climate change.”

In December 2018, IATA forecast a profit of $35.5 billion for the global air transport industry in 2019. The revised outlook  downgrades that forecast to $28 billion.

“Airlines will still turn a profit this year, but there is no easy money to be made,” said de Juniac.

Restoring public trust when Boeing’s 737 MAX back returns to the skies

In his air transport industry report, IATA’s de Juniac said the two recent Boeing 737 MAX crashes and the grounding of the aircraft have damaged the aviation industry’s reputation,

“Trust in the certification system has been damaged – among regulators, between regulators and the industry and with the flying public,” said de Juniac, who called for improved coordination in the industry.

“To be clear, I am not advocating for knee-jerk reactions. But governments and industry must find a way to maintain public confidence in safety with fast and coordinated responses,” he added.  

Estimates for when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will give the 737 MAX the green light to fly again range from this summer to the end of the year. But even airline CEOs that don’t have 737 MAX planes in their fleets worry about what may happen if one country’s regulatory agency lifts the ban before others decide to do so.

“I do indeed believe this is what we are facing,” said Carsten Spohr, chairman and chief executive of the Lufthansa Group, during a panel discussion of airline executives, “Probably we will see the MAX flying domestically in the U.S. first before we see if flying somewhere else. But this is a global industry and we need global trust. [It will be] difficult to explain to our global passengers that the aircraft is safe in some part of the world and supposedly not safe somewhere else.”

To try to avoid this scenario, later this month IATA will meet with representatives from Boeing, 737 MAX customers and regulators from the FAA and other countries, said Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA’s senior vice-president for safety and flight operations. 

Airlines continue to combat carbon emissions

Climate change, and what airlines can and are doing to reduce and offset carbon emissions, is gaining more attention as global air travel is set to increase significantly and as the “flight shaming” anti-flying movement that started in Sweden starts to spread. 

In 2017, private and commercial aviation created about 859 million tons of CO2, or about 2% of all man-made carbon emissions, according to IATA.

To reduce emissions as air traffic increases, the industry has agreed to a wide variety of standards, mitigation measures and targets. And, at its meeting in Seoul, IATA members passed a resolution calling on governments to implement a global plan calling for carbon-neutral growth as of 2020 and a 50% reduction in the industry’s net CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

Fuel efficient airplanes, improvements in air traffic management and increased use of biofuels are among the tools helping the aviation industry reach reduced carbon emission goals and carbon offset programs are in the toolbox. But, while passengers tell IATA they support voluntary offset programs and more than 40 of the group’s member airlines offer them, IATA has found that take-up rates are low.

In fact, few hands were raised when a room full of airline executives were asked if they’d purchased carbon offsets for their own flights to the meeting in Seoul.

Airline industry’s to-do list:

Looking ahead, IATA member airlines, which represent more than 80 percent of all global air traffic, passed several other resolutions that could have a real impact on your travel experience.

One commits airlines to move forward with plans for using bar-coded baggage tags with radio-frequency identification (RFID) inlays, which can help keep checked luggage from going astray.

Another focuses airline attention on improving the air travel experience for people living with disabilities.

Celebrating route launches to London, Paris, Hong Kong and other cool places

Airports and airlines around the country hosted celebrations on Sunday for the launch of several new routes.

Dallas-Fort Worth International celebrated the inaugural Air France flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

The flight will operate up to five time a week on the Airbus A330 aircraft.

At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the party was to welcome American Airlines’ first nonstop flight to Phoenix from London.

In Washington State, United Airlines began flying daily nonstops between Paine Field (PAE) in Everett and both San Francisco and Denver.

And on Sunday, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) celebrated two new routes.

Japan Airline (JAL) started flying from SEA to Tokyo’s Narita Airport and Cathay Pacific began flying between SEA and Hong Kong.

The festivities for Cathay’s Pacific flight included a Lion Dance, a special cake and the ceremonial cutting of a roast pig, which is a symbol of good luck and prosperity.