On my recent trip to Prague for the EAA in Pilsen, I flew Air France out via Paris. On the return leg, I flew with KLM – Dutch Royal Airlines – via Schiphol, Amsterdam.
I like flying KLM when embarking from Manchester for Scandinavia and Europe. I have regularly noticed how KLM are an airline that overtly draw upon international stereotypes of Dutch heritage through their inflight drinks and food.
This particularly struck me in the recent flight. The transparent plastic cups I received with my beer had a series of cultural icons around its edge: bicycles, tulips and clogs. The snack I selected (or according to the wrapper, KLM selected for me), had a design made from an radial arrangement of clogs.
Best of all though was the packaging for the cheese sandwich that constituted the meal on the flight from Prague to Schiphol. The packaging is designed to be evoke a miniature wooden case. On the outside is the iconic Dutch windmill with a ear of wheat within it, while above and below are a triad of symbols denoting wheat grains. In vertical text is the word ‘windmill’ while the horizontal text says ‘the grain used for this bread was ground in an authentic Dutch windmill’. On the other side it says ‘Delicious local bread selected for you, KLM’ and ‘Carl Siegert, bakkers since 1891’.
Equally interesting are the details on the inside of the packaging, hidden when filled with sandwich and only partly visible afterwards unless you tear the package and read its contents. On one side is a detailed description of how to prepare whole wheat bread, on the other is the photo of a sleeping baker- presumably exhausted from baking bread for KLM – and a list of the ingredients used to make the bread.
It seems that the Dutchness of your international flight experience is being asserted, even though, for me, I am travelling through the Netherlands and not visiting there. Still, through food and drink, I can consume a tiny part of Dutch heritage without even leaving the airport!