Amsterdam - Schiphol
- A recently revamped and expanded space at KLM's home hub.
- Barista-made coffee, bartender service and respectable buffet dining.
- Solid WiFi speeds; working pods.
- An entire level of the lounge is only for guests paying extra for food and drink.
- The placement of some power points makes them unusable.
- Work, dine and relax in a variety of seats and zones, which keeps things interesting for regular travellers.
Following a recent overhaul to double the size of the non-Schengen KLM Crown Lounge at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the space now offers seating for over 1,000 travellers venturing abroad with KLM and its SkyTeam partner airlines.
Separate to the main lounge are 200 further seats across Blue Restaurant and Blue Bar, although using them – and ordering drinks and food there – comes at a cost.
Location & Impressions
For a first-time traveller to Amsterdam Airport, finding the right KLM lounge to visit isn't easy, because at transit security you're pointed to "KLM airline lounge 25" in one direction, and "KLM airline lounge 52" in the other, with no further explanation.
Here's what the signs don't make clear (but should): KLM lounge 25 is the Schengen lounge, used when travelling to most destinations in Europe. KLM lounge 52, however, is in the non-Schengen section, when you're jetting to places like Singapore or London.
It'd be much clearer for travellers if these signs simply read "Schengen" and "non-Schengen", but once you've found your way here, you'll know you're in the right place when you spot a wall of KLM's collectable Dutch houses.
Take the escalator upstairs and you'll be greeted by views across the airport, from behind the reception desk.
Inside awaits a lounge that's been recently overhauled and expanded, offering a wide variety of seats across various sections of the lounge.
There's signage inside to help choose where to visit among five "Dutch landscapes", although many of the features are duplicated in each space. For instance, business travellers seeking a working space with access to power are catered for in Polder, City and Sea, not only Polder as the sign indicates.
Here's a peek at City, for example, where you'll find buffet dining, but also some of those working benches:
The lounge is split across two levels, but the entire upper floor is given over to paid spaces, with 'Blue Bar' on one side and 'Blue Restaurant' on the other.
It's an interesting arrangement as the bar and restaurant can only be used by those who already have lounge access (with the exception of Flying Blue Explorer and Silver members who make a restaurant-only booking) – but everybody else can already enjoy the complimentary food and drink is served in that main space, competing with the allure of the chargeable products available upstairs.
Dining (and seating) in Blue Restaurant is by reservation, but travellers can walk into Blue Bar at will: yet, you feel there's an expectation to buy something if you sit there, as the staff hurry over with menus and snacks the moment you arrive, even if all you were looking for was a quieter place to work.
Being in the non-Schengen section of Schiphol Airport, this lounge caters for passengers jetting outside of the European Schengen Area.
For instance, flights to Singapore depart from this area of the airport, and so do services to London, as the UK is beyond the Schengen zone. As such, the lounge primarily welcomes:
- Business class passengers of KLM, Aeroflot, AeroMexico, Belavia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Garuda Indonesia, Georgian Airways, Kenya Airways, Korean Air, Saudia, TAROM and XiamenAir.
- First class guests of China Eastern.
- Flying Blue Gold, Platinum and Club 2000 cardholders prior to international KLM and SkyTeam member airline flights – from Schiphol's non-Schengen section, that's every airline on the list above except for Belavia, China Southern and Georgian Airways.
- Other SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers departing on an international KLM or SkyTeam flight.
- Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge cardholders travelling with KLM to Singapore, but only when booked on the Qantas codeshare (QF4234) flight number.
- VIP-tier KLM Skipper of the Flying Dutchman members travelling with any airline.
- Flying Blue Petroleum members transferring between two flights that are both operated by Air France or KLM, and where both flights are also booked on an AF or KL flight number.
- Belavia Leader Silver and Gold frequent flyers prior to Belavia flights only.
- China Southern Sky Pearl Club Gold cardholders prior to China Southern flights only.
- Flying Blue Silver and Explorer guests don't receive complimentary access, but may purchase access at reception using their Flying Blue miles or a credit card: contact staff for the rates applicable to your membership and journey.
Those travelling in first class or business class, or with their eligible frequent flyer account attached to their ticket, can usually scan their own boarding pass for entry at the door – but if there are any problems, staff are close by to assist.
Given the design of Schiphol Airport, passengers connecting from a non-Schengen destination onwards to the Schengen Area can also access this space before European passport control, opening the door to travellers on Air France and other SkyTeam airlines.
That said, KLM operates a separate Schengen Crown Lounge for these travellers after those passport checks, which gets these airport formalities out of the way early, and means you can settle in and relax until it's time to board.
If your visit demands a caffeine fix, follow the signs to "City" where you'll find fresh barista-made coffee throughout the day.
The barista station is located in a bright and warm-coloured area with plenty of natural light, giving a cafe feel to your visit.
It certainly beats the morning atmosphere and amenities at the opposite end of the lounge, known as "Polder", where light is much more scarce and the coffee comes DIY from a push-button machine.
This is something KLM could really improve, because the lounge's directional signage points to either end of the space for food and beverage, without using different logos to highlight that there's a difference: implying you'll find the same things whichever way you venture.
Less reliance on terms like "Polder" and "City", which are confusing to first-time visitors and don't mean much to your average lounge lizard, in favour of more descriptive words like "barista coffee", would be welcome.
In fact, thinking that one end of the lounge was the same as the other, we arrived and spent a few hours down at the darker Polder end, sipping machine-made coffee after an early start, just happy to find a spare seat with power in an otherwise-busy lounge.
Had the signs made clear that there was better coffee elsewhere, this would have naturally been our preferred choice.
Also in the mornings, buffet dining can be found at both ends of the lounge, although Polder tends to close after that morning peak, where you'll be directed to City instead – conveniently nearby the coffee bar.
At breakfast time, expect to find a good selection of pastries and fruits at either end.
Joining those are hot options such as bacon and potatoes (pictured further above), with sweets also available throughout the day for those so inclined.
Lunch and dinner find a broader range of hot food such as meatballs in stroganoff sauce, penne pasta with spinach and ricotta, turmeric flavoured rice, creamy tomato soup, and beef broth.
The meatballs and pasta were particularly flavourful, with other options available including poke bowls, fish, rolls and a range of juices:
Combined with a barista-made latte, these made for a nice lunch:
A host of salad ingredients are close by, and being popular with health-conscious travellers, were regularly replenished:
Alcoholic drinks are available throughout the day. There's no Champagne, although sparkling wine comes in the form of the Spanish Jaume Serra Cava Brut.
These wines are available at several self-service points throughout the lounge, with a tended bar offering a broader range of drinks: from which a simple gin and tonic hit the spot.
The bar stocks Bombay Sapphire, so if you'd rather sip something local, keep your eye out for Amsterdam's Damrak Gin on your next KLM flight – or, enjoy a locally-brewed Heineken.
There's a range of a seating around the bar including booths and tables also suitable for working, which wrap around to the buffet dining area on the other side.
A sea of individual dining tables are also planted further around, which offer more natural light by day, along with views towards the planes outside.
On the upper level of the lounge, there's also plenty of seating around Blue Bar – but what tends to happen at peak times is that the downstairs ('free') section of the lounge gets incredibly busy, while the upstairs ('paid') area often remains quiet.
While this does provide travellers with the option of buying something extra that otherwise wouldn't be available, the bar's seating does occupy a considerable amount of real estate in an area where space can already be limited.
It'd be great to see this opened up for the free use of all lounge guests, particularly at peak times. Those pay-extra options could then be served alongside complimentary drinks both here and at the bar downstairs, which would retain the purchase option and potentially even encourage more travellers to 'upgrade' their drink.
The star rating given for 'dining' in this review reflects the lounge's standard, included experience – not the premium bar and restaurant choices which are only available for-purchase and are chargeable to all guests, including KLM business class passengers.
First-time or infrequent visitors who follow the signs would be pointed towards "Polder" when work is the plan, finding a number of communal tables with AC and USB power:
However, those power points are hidden down inside the table's surface, and the space around them is incredibly tight. A simple iPhone travel charger doesn't fit with the cable connected, for example:
Other common types of chargers also can't be used here – including many MacBook power bricks, Microsoft Surface chargers and popular travel adaptors – because the restricted space around the power point doesn't allow enough room for either the transformer itself, or for cables to be connected to it.
Instead, travellers with bulky chargers – or those who avoid using public USB power ports – can connect at the dining area in City, which has more space around the outlets.
Alternatively, follow the signs to Sea, where two rooms offer a line-up of individual working nooks, which are only found by chance, as "Work" isn't shown on the signs:
Inside, each has an AC outlet with ample spacing – especially when using a travel adaptor, which adds an extra buffer between the location of the outlet and the metal frame above and below – plus, two USB power ports.
Each pod also offers an airplane-style tray table which can swing out to provide easy access to the chair: and as these nooks reside in what are otherwise quiet zones in the lounge, they're a great place to work in peace, when available.
Several tests of the lounge's WiFi speeds – taken across visits in the morning, afternoon and evening – showed downloads of 47-86Mbps, and uploads centred around the 69Mbps mark.
Despite what the signs again indicate, most of the lounge can be given over to relaxation, beginning with TVs and reading material just inside the entrance:
There's an ample sea of seating in this zone and nearby, combining the comfort of a sofa with the convenience of a beverage tray or cocktail table:
In the City section, banquette seats line the walls at a higher level than the dining area just in front, giving a feeling of separation:
Make your way around to the Sea area to find a line-up of high-backed chairs facing the windows:
Sea also offers other seats tailored towards kicking back: and coloured to reflect the name of the space, as well as the airline itself.
In the same space are more sofas, as well as day beds:
For a more serious rest such as with a long international transit, hotel-like cabins can also be reserved online before you fly, or with lounge staff on the day. Expect to pay €49.50 for three hours or €75 for five hours, with a queen-sized bed, TV, and personal sink in each room.
The pods don't have showers or toilets though, which are instead in the general lounge space. Of course, there's no charge for any guest to book and use the shower.
Finally, the upstairs level of the lounge has an outdoor terrace connected to Blue Bar: but the moment we'd stepped outside to take a few quick snaps of the view, the staff had already placed a glass of water, snacks and a menu next to our luggage in anticipation of taking a drink order, again creating the expectation that passengers have to purchase things to use the space.
Overall, KLM's new flagship Crown Lounge is a breath of fresh air at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, bringing more space and a modern feel for passengers jetting near and far in business class, as well as elite-tier frequent flyers.
That said, restricting an entire level of the lounge as a 'pay more' area makes the regular space downstairs incredibly busy: particularly in the mornings, when the prospect of buying bar drinks to sit somewhere quiet doesn't have the same appeal as a time-appropriate barista-made brew, even given the busier area downstairs.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of KLM.