In June 2018, I passed through Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) prior to a great flight on the upper deck of a KLM 747-400. I found that Crown Lounge 52 was partially closed for remodeling and that the remodeled lounge was scheduled to open in March 2019.
In late January 2019, I connected at AMS returning to the U.S. after brief visits to Germany and Poland, including a stop at Auschwit-Birkenau. The connection of less than two hours allowed enough time to visit and take snapshots of the status of the renovation so far. Per the note from KLM pictured above, remodeling this lounge started in June 2017.
My Interim Verdict is “Wow!”
The AMS Crown Room lounges had remained essentially unchanged at least since 1997 when I started flying to AMS after the inception of the joint venture between KLM and Northwest Airlines. Those lounges were great then, but that was more than 20 years ago. As many of you can attest to, airport lounges have improved a lot since then.
There is a large area that is uncompleted and that I did not see. Still, together with conversations with staff there was enough that I could observe to confirm that the changes to the lounge are transformational.
Previously getting to the lounge required taking a public elevator from the concourse to the second level and walking 50 – 100 meters down narrow and boring passageways. Now the entrance to the lounge is on the concourse level in a “can’t miss” spot closer to the gates.
Unlike the old lounges check in is a breeze. There are several automated stations for checking in with a boarding pass as well as agents for answering questions.
The remodeled lounge incorporates interesting architectural features.
I asked one of the reps about the changes to the lounge. She was more than happy to give me a brief lounge tour and describe some of the new features. She noted that the lounge would be able to seat 1,500 (that sounds like an enormous number of people) and said the furniture was being replaced.
The lounge has an area for working that is more secluded than in the old lounge.
One of the most important features of a lounge is food. KLM is upping its game substantially in the food department. Before, when coming through AMS, I ate as little as possible in the KLM lounges. There was little to eat, basically soup, cheese and cold cuts, and little variety over the years. In addition to these tried-and-true KLM favorites, the buffet now includes warm entrees and side dishes.
Perhaps the most noteworthy food-related change is that KLM is adding an ala carte restaurant. According to the KLM rep, the restaurant will be the responsibility of a starred chef from the Rijksmuseum. Food in the restaurant will come at a charge. I look forward to trying it. Although the completion of the restaurant and lounge opening was schedule for March 2019, the rep I spoke with states the lounge will not be open fully until this summer.
Another huge improvement is adding a bar on the upper level.
The bar offers all of the brands KLM used to provide and now premium brands have been added. The really good news is that until the restaurant opens, all of the booze at the bar, including some premium brands, is free! I didn’t have time to partake, but it was obvious from looking at and hearing some of the people in the booths, many were taking full advantage of the free drinks.
Showers are in the portion of the lounge that remains temporarily closed. Until it opens, KLM will issue a pass to use shower facilities at the Mercure Hotel down the hall.
Wow! Many lounge makeovers just involve a little redecorating. This “renovation” is more akin to opening a completely new lounge. The remodeled Non-Schengen Crown Lounge 52 occupies a ton of new space (accommodating up to 1,500), adopts totally new design features, substantially upgrades the buffet fare, and introduces an a la carte restaurant and bar. KLM reports that this lounge should be fully open sometime this summer. Until then there is still much to enjoy in the part this is open, and partake of some of the free premium alcoholic beverages at the bar.
I agree that unlimited free drinks is not a good idea. I don’t know if there are restrictions on the offer of free drinks. Some were clearly having a good time.
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Free drinks before getting on a plane is probably not the best idea! But it looks very nice.