KLM’s Dutch Houses Promoted Loyalty Before Loyalty Programs Existed

by Chris Dong

On October 7, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines celebrated its 100th anniversary amidst major fanfare. And for more than 65 of those years, KLM has been gifting finely-crafted ceramic Delft houses in business class at the end of intercontinental flights. These mini-Dutch houses are filled with gin and essentially have become a collector’s item with 100 now in circulation — commemorating each year KLM has been in operation.

The Intelligencer has a fantastic piece on why this unique KLM Dutch houses tradition is not just a cute gift idea, but a genius business practice that promoted loyalty — predating the world of frequent flyer programs.

KLM’s porcelain houses, first introduced in the 1950s, should be thought of as the physical, low-tech precursor to the status designations we see today.


Long before airlines had smartphone apps with bar charts showing how far you had traveled this year — and how much farther you would have to go to be considered truly important to the airline — KLM was giving passengers the figurines they needed to form a physical bar chart demonstrating their importance to KLM.”

Physical and tangible rewards give a far more lasting impression than any digital one. Customers do want to create an emotional bond with a brand, and it doesn’t even cost KLM that much.

Related: Review — KLM 747 Economy Comfort, A Delightful Throwback 

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