Bigger and busier: A Review of the renovated KLM Crown Lounge at Amsterdam Schiphol
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Dutch airline KLM, which recently celebrated its centennial, began renovating its flagship Crown Lounge at Amsterdam Schiphol in 2017 and has been completing the work in phases in the two years since.
Among the changes are an enormous expansion that will eventually increase the total area from 38,750 square feet to 73,195 square feet and seating capacity from 800 to 1,500 guests. The lounge already features a new à la carte restaurant and an outdoor viewing deck from which visitors can planespot.
Though one large section of the Crown Lounge remains to be finished with a scheduled completion date sometime in November, I had the opportunity to visit twice while passing through on recent trips to Europe. Here is how the lounge looks so far, and how the experience rated.
If you’ve flown through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and looked for lounges, you know the system there is fairly confusing, with signage denoting them by numbers rather than names. The specific lounge KLM renovated is Lounge 52.
It’s between concourses E and F in the non-Schengen part of the terminal, so it’s primarily for folks departing Europe. However, if you have a connecting flight and plenty of time, you might be able to visit as well.
It takes about 10 minutes to walk to the lounge if you’re entering via security and immigration. Otherwise, your walking time to your departure gate will vary. My gate was in the D Concourse, and it took me about 15 minutes to get there at a busy time of day.
Whereas the old entrance to the lounge was hard to find, since you had to take an escalator upstairs and walk down a corridor, this one was quite easy to spot. Just look for the glass walls framing hundreds of the airline’s famous little Delft tile houses.
Guests entered by taking the escalators or an elevator up one level and scanning their boarding pass at the kiosks, though there were also attendants on hand to help with any questions.
Entrance to the lounge is free for guests flying in business class on KLM and other SkyTeam carriers to non-Schengen international destinations. For example, I entered when departing Amsterdam in business class on a KLM flight one time. Another time, it was after I’d landed from the U.S. on a Delta business-class flight and had plenty of time before my intra-Europe connection on KLM.
Flying Blue Platinum and Gold elites along with SkyTeam Elite Plus flyers (including Delta Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallions) can get in along with one guest. Extra guests cost 50 euros (£43) or 9,000 Flying Blue miles each. You must be traveling that same day on a KLM-operated flight, an international SkyTeam-operated flight or a domestic SkyTeam-operated flight that is connected with a SkyTeam-operated international flight.
The airline says that business-class passengers, Flying Blue and SkyTeam elites with a Schengen destination can access the airline’s Lounge 25 instead. In practice, though, if you have a lot of time and are in the non-Schengen area, they will likely let you in anyway.
The lounge is open daily from 4:45 a.m. until the last KLM flight of the day.
As it is a massive space, the design firm KLM tasked with renovating the lounge, Concrete Amsterdam, broke it up into various zones with names like the City, where the food and drinks are; the Polder, with informal living-room-style seating; and Sea, with daybeds and shower facilities. While the signage is nice, it was just easier to walk around the lounge and see what part suited your needs for the day.
The first time I visited, it was around 2:00 p.m. and the lounge was crowded but not overrun. My second visit was from 11:00 a.m. to noon, and it was an absolute zoo, with few open seats in any section.
Upon ascending the escalators from the main concourse, I was greeted by airline representatives standing next to kiosks and behind desks in case someone needed help with travel arrangements or a tour of the lounge. I simply scanned my boarding pass at the kiosk and walked right in.
The first thing that struck me compared to how the lounge used to look was that, whereas the old space used to be dark most of the time, there’s now a huge wall of windows letting in tons of natural light. It makes a big difference to the experience and really brightened up the whole space.
The main area on this floor, the Polder, contains various seating areas. There are sofas and armchairs arranged around low tables, as well as swivel chairs along the windows. There are also various long communal tables where folks could plug in and work.
The most interesting section is the multilevel zone connecting the main floor with the one above called Dutch Mountain. With wooden floors and fixtures, there are small staircases leading from one landing to another.
There are also benches, chairs and a few booths where people were camping out and either enjoying a meal or getting work done. Luckily, a woman sitting in one of the booths left while I was walking around it, so I was able to stake a claim and set up my computer to work there during my visit.
A sort of trellis set against the window wall frames vintage KLM posters and other curios like sabots (wooden shoes) against the windows. Toward the back of the mountain is a small, terraced amphitheater with a large, wall-mounted flat-screen TV showing news and sports.
At the top of the stairs is a wall with Delft tiles based on those shown in the airline’s safety video, which is a cool touch.
Back on the main floor, there’s a food station tucked into the back corner, as well as a self-serve bar. The upstairs level, Sky Bar, is where I found the main bar, high-top tables, curtained booths, a few more casual sitting areas and a cold buffet.
Along the windows up here are casual lounging spaces with low sofas, chairs and coffee tables where people were just hanging out with friends and colleagues. I especially liked the overhead light fixtures, which display the names of various destinations where KLM flies and and resemble the lines denoting routes on a map.
The bar was busy both times I was there, but I had no trouble ordering a cappuccino from one of the attendants. It’s white stone lit from within, which created a sophisticated, clean look.
The side booths were all taken on my visits, and though they’re open to the rest of the room, they still felt semiprivate, thanks to the curtains around them.
You could also step outside onto an outdoor terrace from here.
The day I was able to get out there was cold and rainy, so there weren’t many people out and no cushions on any of the benches, but the views of the planes were still good.
Across the hall from the bar is the entrance to the lounge’s à la carte restaurant, Blue. Unlike the other food offerings in the lounge, meals had to be paid for.
I thought the décor was really fantastic. Overhead are the same type of light fixtures with city names, as in the main lounge.
The top part of the wall, meanwhile, is made up of vintage-style suitcases, a cute nod to the airline’s heritage.
The overall look of Blue is very midcentury modern, with dark leather banquettes, colorful, metal-framed chairs and lots of brushed-metal accents.
At the back of the restaurant is the open kitchen. There’s also a special cheese-and-wine room where you can make your own cheese plate or host a private event.
The lounge provides free Wi-Fi, and I found it was easy to log on to and worked well and fast on both my visits. Many of the seating areas feature plentiful (European) power plugs, so as long as it’s not too crowded, it should be easy to find somewhere to charge up your devices. There were magazines and newspapers on hand near the entrance, though most were in Dutch.
The lounge will eventually have 30 showers, but they are not all open yet, and they were completely booked while I was there, so I was not able to get a look at them or the amenities inside. I did go to Lounge 25 in the Schengen area on my first visit and used the shower there, though. The experience was pretty lackluster. I was given a threadbare, plastic-wrapped towel, and the shower itself only had a wall-mounted soap dispenser, so consider bringing your own supplies.
One of the other amenities I did not get to see was the new sleep cabins. Each has a queen-size bed and a 33-inch television as well as outlets for your own devices and a personal sink for freshening up. You can book one in advance via the KLM site or while you are in the lounge. Three hours cost 49.50 euros ($55) or 12,400 Flying Blue miles, and five hours cost 75 euros ($85) or 18,800 miles. The cabins are for individual use and are not available overnight.
Perhaps the best amenity, however, is the customer-service booth near the entrance away from the windows. There you can get help with travel plans and changes, and exchange Delft houses in case you had a duplicate or wanted a different one from what was available on your flight.
The final section of the lounge that will open in November is on the first floor across from the Polder and will contain a circular bar and buffet with booths and café-style seating and then another large area with sofas and armchairs. The extra space should help alleviate some of the congestion.
Food and Beverage
For a lounge this size and with this amount of traffic, the food options were surprisingly limited.
Toward the back of the main floor was a small, cold buffet with cold cuts, bread, cookies and premade options like couscous with vegetables, mayonnaise-covered pasta and potato salads, and various veggies.
There was also a hot station with attendants ladling out options like vegetable soup, tomato soup and bulgur with turmeric, olives and tomatoes.
There were self-serve beverages including various juices, tap beer and wine.
On my visit, the wines included Jaume Serra cava and Sterredal wines from South Africa.
Upstairs at the end of the bar closest to the Dutch Mountain was another cold buffet, this one with a few more options. On my visits, they included hummus, couscous, green beans, roasted curry cauliflower, lentils and more cold cuts. This, too, had been pretty well picked over by the time I got there.
If you have time and the budget and would like a nice meal, your best bet is probably to carve out some time at Blue. The restaurant was open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. If you think it’s going to be busy when you get there, you can even book a table online in advance by accessing your reservation on KLM.com.
I did not eat there, but I did get a look at the menus. The breakfast one included a basic set menu of coffee or tea, orange juice and brioche with butter and jam for 9.50 euros (a little over $10). You could also order things like an omelet with cheese, ham, mushroom and tomato; granola with yogurt, honey and fruit; or gravlax with crème fraiche, horseradish and cucumber. All came with coffee for 17.50 euros ($20).
The all-day menu included oysters on the half shell with fixings for 4 euros (about $5) each; North Sea crab with tomato broth and curry for 22 euros ($25); and a mille-feuille of beetroot with beurre blanc and parsley oil for 17 euros ($20).
The mains included a half lobster prepared two ways for 38 euros ($42), monkfish in brown butter with ratatouille for 34 euros ($40) and glazed lamb neck with peach, calamansi and rapeseed oil for 28 euros ($30). For dessert, there was rice pudding, vanilla panna cotta and cherry parfait, all ranging from 11 to 13 euros ($12 to $15). You could also do a “chef’s surprise” menu of two, three or four courses for 30.90 to 52.50 euros ($35 to $60).
The newly renovated KLM Crown Lounge is a stunning, much-needed improvement on the old lounge. Not only is it over twice as large, but the décor is much more interesting and vibrant, and the wall of windows provides a ton of natural light. There are plenty of different spaces and seating areas depending on what you feel like for your visit, and the Wi-Fi and power outlets are welcome amenities for business travelers.
On the downside, the lounge tends to be extremely crowded, so depending on the timing of your visit, you might have a hard time finding a place to sit. The food options are also limited for a lounge of this size, so you might want to bring in more interesting food from out in the terminal if you’re going to be here for a while.
Overall, though, the new KLM Crown Lounge is a great addition to Schiphol and a comfortable place to spend a couple hours before or between flights.