Everyone wants to fly business. The seats are large and comfortable; you don’t have a neighbor to take up your arm rest; you can fully lie down; you get real cutlery, ceramic plates, and a menu; and the crew treats you like the Duchess of Sussex, even if you’re wearing sweatpants.

But if you fly with KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, as a World Business Class passenger, the legroom and the glass of Champagne before take-off are the least appealing perks of sitting on the left side of the blue polyester curtain — what you really want is the special gift.

Since 1952, KLM has been giving every World Business Class passenger a Delft Blue miniature traditional Dutch house, filled with genever (Dutch gin). Today, the gin comes from the famous Dutch BOLS distillery, but before the 1980s, the houses were filled with liqueur from Dutch distilleries Rynbende and Henkes.

 

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When the Delft Blue miniature houses were first given to World Business Class passengers, KLM was brought to court for not playing fair with other airlines — according to strict rules, only gifts with a maximum value of 75 cents could be offered to passengers. KLM defended itself by saying that they should be able to serve drinks to their passengers the way they wished. The rules did not specify that alcohol on board airplanes had to be served in a glass, so KLM argued that they simply served them in Delft Blue miniature houses. The Dutch airline won the case and, nowadays, more than 800,000 KLM houses are distributed to passengers each year.

Note that KLM business class passengers en route to Middle Eastern countries, where there are laws restricting the consumption of alcohol, are given empty houses. In the past, KLM gave these passengers miniature houses that served as ashtrays. When putting the cigarette in the hole at the back of the house, the smoke would come out of the house’s chimney.

The beauty of this gift does not only lay in the fact that it’s cute and filled with strong booze. What passengers love about the miniature houses is that they are little pieces of Dutch culture that are highly collectible. Delft Blue is world-famous pottery that’s been made in the city of Delft in Holland since the 17th century. Nowadays, only the Royal Delft factory creates Delftware in Holland and every piece is hand-painted according to the centuries-old traditional craftsmanship. However, since 1995, the KLM Delft Blue miniature houses are being made in Asia.

Most miniature houses are the replicas of real, traditional Dutch houses and there are currently 98 of them, all catalogued. Every year since 1994, on October 7th, to celebrate the anniversary of the airline, a new Delft Blue house is created, so #99 is not far off. There are also unnumbered, special editions that have become very sought-after for collectors because of their rarity. The Frans Hals Museum KLM Blue Delft replica is one of those. KLM explained that this miniature was only given to tourists from Japan in 1962. The World Business Class passengers from Japan to Amsterdam were given a voucher for them to go to the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem and, only upon their visit to the museum were they given the miniature.

 

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One KLM flight attendant created a walking tour of the historic Amsterdam houses that have served as inspiration for many of the KLM miniatures, including Rembrandt’s House (#48) and Museum van Loon (#83).

If you like the Delft Blue miniature houses but can’t afford to fly as a World Business Class passenger on KLM, you can still get KLM Delft Blue miniature houses. I found three of them in a shabby antiques store in rural Canada for $15 a few years back. I gifted them to my partner who collects everything aviation-related and, upon doing some research, it turned out that one of them is the rare replica of the Frans Hals Museum, now worth between $870 and $1,160. If you’re not into antiquing, you can now purchase most of them here. Buying them certainly does not have the same charm as getting one from a very nice crew member on a comfy KLM flight, but it can help start a lifelong obsession or fill the holes in your collection.

 

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KLM Blue Delft miniature houses are adorable keepsakes and, considering how valuable they can turn out to be, hang onto yours if you ever get one.