If you’re a fan of airline collectibles, you may already have a handful – or perhaps dozens – of the gin-filled miniature Delftware houses KLM Royal Dutch Airlines gifts to passengers flying in the carrier’s long-haul business class cabins.
KLM has been handing out these charming and, now, highly sought-after, souvenirs since the 1950s. And each one is a miniature version of a historically or architecturally significant building in the Netherlands or in a location abroad that has a KLM connection.
There are more than 100 buildings, plus some bonus editions, in the series. And a new one is unveiled each year on October 7 to mark the anniversary of KLM’s founding in 1919.
This year KLM turns 103. So, on October 7, KLM unveiled house #103 – a miniature Delftware replica of the Ecury House in Aruba. This is only the second time a KLM Delftware miniature has been based on a building outside the Netherlands. (A building in Curaçao got that honor on KLM’s 85th birthday).
The significance of the Ecury home
The Ecury home was chosen this year because Aruba will celebrate its centenary of aviation in 2023 and Aruba’s Nicasio “Dundun” Ecury played a significant role in the development of aviation on the island. His son, Boy Ecury, studied in the Netherlands and was a resistance hero during WWII who was betrayed and executed in 1944.
Built in 1929, the Ecury home is now part of the National Archaeological Museum of Aruba and sits near the site where the first aircraft to Aruba landed.
KLM’s connection to Aruba reaches back almost 90 years
A KLM Fokker-XVIII christened “the Snip,” first touched down in Aruba on December 23, 1934, as part of KLM’s first transatlantic flight. Scheduled service between Aruba and Curaçao began on January 19, 1935 and was the first flight operated by KLM’s West-Indian Branch (WIB). Scheduled service between Amsterdam and Aruba began in 1974, almost 50 years ago. And there are now daily flights between the two destinations.
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.”
Dutch flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of the world’s oldest airlines and the oldest airline still flying under its original name.
The airline celebrated its centenary on Monday, October 7 with more than 3500 friends, frequent flyers and supporters at a party inside an airplane hangar at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
At the birthday party, there was cake, of course. And speeches.
But everyone in attendance was anxious to find out which historical or architecturally significant Dutch building was being portrayed in KLM’s 100th miniature Delft blue house.
These small porcelain houses are filled with Bols Genever (a Dutch gin) and are highly collectible. They are gifted to passengers flying on intercontinental flights in KLM’s World Business Class cabins.
KLM Then and Now
While KLM was officially established on October 7, 1919, the airline’s first flight took place on May 17, 1920, on a leased De Havilland DH-16 flown from London to Amsterdam.
The airline started buying its own airplanes in 1921; transported its first large animal (a stud bull named Nico V) in 1924 and began flying with designated cabin crew to attend to passenger comfort and safety in 1935.
airline’s inflight magazine – the Holland Herald – was first published in 1966
and is now the oldest inflight magazine in the world
After a 2004 merger, KLM became part of the Air France – KLM Group and today KLM flies to 162 destinations, employs 33,000 people worldwide and has a fleet of more than 214 aircraft.
The airline carries more than 34 million passengers and more than 620,000 tons of cargo a year.
“Airlines operate in an incredibly competitive environment,” said Pieter Elbers, KLM President & CEO “Fuel prices, geopolitical issues, and exchange rates are among the many outside issues that affect our business and can make it tough to operate the airline.”
While other airlines
have come and gone, KLM’s longevity, said Elbers, has a lot to do with
innovative and pioneering with its operations and its ability to respond to
trends in a timely manner.
For example, KLM was
an early adopter of social media to serve and engage customers.
Today the airline has
a social media team of about 350, one of the largest in the world. Agents are
on duty daily, tackling about 35,000 customer service cases a week, in 10
different languages, via WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and
other platforms. Artificial intelligence systems help as well.
KLM and sustainability
KLM flew the first biofuel flight, to Paris, in June 2011. And in March
2013, the airline operated the first intercontinental flight with biofuel, to
The airline now has wide-ranging sustainability programs, including the unusual “Fly Responsibly” program which encourages people not to fly – or to fly less often.
Videos and ads ask customers, “Do you always need to meet face-to-face? Could you take the train instead? Could you contribute by compensating your CO2 emissions, or packing light.?”
“It may seem radical for an airline to ask people to consider other options than flying, but we see it as a pioneering approach to creating a more sustainable future in aviation for all of us,” said Boet Kreiken, Executive Vice President Customer Experience, KLM.
As part of the campaign, KLM recently announced that starting March 29, 2020, it will be replacing one of its daily flights between Brussels and Amsterdam with seats on the Thalys high-speed train.
KLM is also supporting the Delft University of Technology efforts to develop the Flying-V, a highly energy-efficient long-distance airplane design that puts the passenger cabin, the cargo holds and the fuel tanks in the wings of an unusual v-shaped aircraft.
The 100th KLM Miniature Delft house
Each year KLM marks its October 7 anniversary by
revealing a new Delftware miniature house.
Past miniature houses have depicted everything from the Anne Frank House and the Rembrandt House to the Palace on Dam Square.
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.
The airplane of the future may be shaped like a big V.
And it may be super sustainable.
On the heels of its announcement of an investment in a biofuel plant set to open in 2022, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has announced it will partner with Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) to fund the development of an innovative flying machine known as the “Flying-V.”
aerodynamic aircraft design incorporates the passenger cabin, cargo hold and
fuel tanks into the wings of a V-shaped aircraft.
As designed, the unusual shape would reduce an aircraft’s weight and use 20% less fuel than current airplanes. But it would allow the plane to easily land at airports and pull up to gates designed to welcome Airbus A350s.
Designers say the Flying-V will be able to carry the same number of passengers – 314 – and the same volume of cargo as an Airbus A350. But this new plane will be smaller than an A350 and more aerodynamic.
Although the Flying-V will initially fly on kerosene, it is designed make use of innovations in the propulsion system, such as electrically boosted turbofan engines.
Designers say not only will the Flying-V look different and be energy-efficient, it could offer a better passenger experience, with seating in the wings and with a unique new design for seating and lavatories.
A flying scale model and full-size section of the interior of the “Flying-V” is set to be unveiled in October, during KLM Experience Days at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, as a potential aircraft design of the future.