Schiphol Airport Gets Top Marks As Rated By World Travel Enthusiast Henry Tenby
As an avid world traveller for most of the half century I have been on this planet, and a full-fledged airline freak, I have spent a lot of time over the passing decades visiting airports for fun, travel, leisure and business. I am one of those people who actually loves spending time at an airport, soaking up the atmosphere, watching aircraft, hanging out at the gate, or putting my feet up in my favourite lounges.
That said, not all airports are equal when it comes to checking all the check boxes for the items that make a fun and memorable airport visit, in my books. But Amsterdam Airport is one of those airports that is a full-fledged destination in its own right, that as an aviation fan I can spend an entire 2-3 days visit encamped at and thoroughly enjoy my time.
It has a hell of a lot to offer, the time passes quickly, and it is an airport that I always enjoy visiting and look forward to visiting again. For all of the reasons I present below, Amsterdam Schiphol airport is actually my favourite airport in the entire world!
1. World Class Observation Deck
Certainly in North America, open air observation decks are a thing of the distant past. God forbid airports in North America can offer such a lovely facility to their community. They will say it cannot be done due to security concerns. What a load of bollocks. I am not going to get into that debate but I will say the more family orientated you make your airport, the better a place it will be and you end up with a wold class airport, not a highly crowded, unpleasant box of a building that processes passengers in a boring, sterile environment. Airport planners the world over need to take a page from the book at Amsterdam Schiphol!
2. Airliner On Top Of The Observation Deck
The real crowning touch for an airline buff, in addition to having an open air observation deck that is not behind thick glass or chain link fence, is to have an actual airliner on the said open air observation deck that you can actually go inside and soak up the atmosphere. Either rest your feet by taking a seat in the passenger cabin, or pay a visit to the flight deck. The choice is yours at Amsterdam Schiphol! They get top marks on this attribute. How many airports in the world other than Amsterdam Schiphol offer an actual, fully complete airliner that you can visit, that sits on top of their observation deck? The answer is zero!
3. The Airport is Home to the World’s Oldest Airline
This year 2019 is the year that KLM will be celebrating its 100th birthday. Very few other world airlines will hit this milestone soon. Perhaps Avianca, and Lufthansa might be getting close. But Lufthansa is not the continuation of the same company as it was re organized after World War 2 as new company. Whereas KLM has been a continuation of the very same company since its initial founding just a few years after the end of World War One! I love KLM, it is a great airline, the staff are super friendly and nice, and their global brand and image with the trademark blue and the Royal crown are recognizable the world over. You’d have to be living at the bottom of the ocean or under a rock to not be instantly familiar with the KLM Royal Dutch airline brand. It is a great airline that is headquartered at a great airport, and for me, that counts a lot!
4. The Airport Still Has Plenty of Passenger 747-400s On Scheduled Flights
A great airport has to be served by great aircraft, this is a must! If an airport only has boring airplanes then the airport gets very low marks in my books. This is my strong view as a hard-core airline freak.
Ideally I want to be able to fly out of an airport on classic jetliners. Of course the vintage first generation jetliners like the 707 and DC-8 are long gone (with exception to a small number of air forces that still operate some airframes as military and VIP transports and refuel birds). But that does not mean you have to accept second best like Airbus 340s or 767-200s. Today, I believe the 747-400 pax bird is the best classic jetliner you can possibly fly on.
All the US carriers have sadly dumped the 747-400s from their fleets. How stupid, given the aircraft are so iconic, safe, reliable and offer the passengers such a high level of comfort and passenger appeal. To phase them out in favour of plastic new gen Airbus and Boeing aircraft was premature thinking. Just look across the north Atlantic for common sense and inspiration. We have Lufthansa in Germany still operating their 747-400 classics. And of course we have KLM Royal Dutch Airlines still operating their beautiful fleet of Boeing 747-400 classics, all based from Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Where you can still fly on them on select North American routes and Caribbean routes to the ABC Islands.
5. The Lounge Has A 20 Out Of 10 Apron View
Not only do I like spending time at airports, I also very much enjoy my rest and relaxation time at the airport lounges. To be hurdled about an airport with the teaming hoards of Calcutta is not my idea of a good time. Thank you very much. I prefer to be in a quiet, luxurious lounge where I can put my feet up, check my emails, read, have a nice meal, enjoy a drink or two, or perhaps have a quiet snooze while I pass the time waiting for my flight. I would not think of travelling without having access to the lounge at any airport I happen to pass through on my travels.
That said, there are a lot of superb lounges that I have visited at airports pretty much everywhere. But, so far, I have only found two airport lounges that offer unparalleled views of the apron activity that is worthy of pulling out a camera to shoot photos or video. One being the old Air Canada Aeroplan lounge at LAX that was atop the concourse which offered fabulous airfield views, but I think this has since closed or been moved to a less impressive vantage point. The other, which exists today, is the international departures lounge at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.
This is a 20 out of 10 lounge in my books. The main reason being that it offers excellent amenities, good food and drink, and most importantly, the view from the windows is a full-on expanse of the apron activity below. The chairs are super comfy, it is a large and airy open space, and you can sit here watching the world go by and the time waiting for your flight’s boarding time will pass all too quickly. Actually far too quickly than you would want. Because if you are like me, you will want to spend an extended period of time in the lounge because it is so good.
6. Any Airport With a Boeing 747 I Can Sleep In Is Top of My List!
This is not a pipe dream! Very soon (late 2019) you will be able to sleep on board a de-commissioned KLM Boeing 747-400 at the Corendon Hotel at Schiphol airport. This will be the first time a retired airliner has been deployed as a boutique hotel at a world class airport location. The KLM Boeing 747-400 was retired last year and in early February of 2019, the big jet was re-positioned from the active area of the airport to its new hotel location (adjacent to the ibis) during the dead of night moving at a snail’s pace using a specially designed roller transport system. It will take several months for the 747 to be retrofitted with a new hotel accommodation interior. This amazing landmark is just another layer of icing on the cake as to why Amsterdam Schiphol airport has ten reasons why it my favourite airport in the world, and all the other airports in the world are not!
7. The Airport Has An Interesting Mix Of Traffic
Not all airports are created equally in this department. Some hub airports are dead boring. If an airport is 95% Delta or Ryanair it can get pretty boring for the visiting aviation fan rather quickly. This is not the case here at Amsterdam Schiphol. To the contrary, Schiphol has an excellent mix of international traffic and the observation deck is never a boring place. Some of the Amsterdam aviation locals have become part of the furniture, just like at Heathrow where grizzled spotters with telescopes have been encamped at their posts since before Wham! split up. If not longer (since the Beatles broke up!) Airlines from former Dutch colonies feature quite heavily at Schiphol including Surinam Airways and Garuda Indonesia. Delta maintains an impressive presence with some 10 plus flights daily to various US gateway cities. An interesting mix of cargo jets from Asia add to the flavour to make this European hub airport one of the best on the Continent, easily on a par with Frankfurt.
8. Any Airport With a Local Aviation Hobby Shop Gets Tops Marks
It was the British to created the airport based hobby shop concept back in the 1970s, with Brian Austria-Tomkins and his Executive Display Models based at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel at Heathrow airport. His lovely models were extremely expensive back in the 1990s, which was when I used to visit the shop to admire the fabulous models offered for sale. The Executive Display Models were primarily the domain of the resident oil sheiks who had models produced of their personal aircraft. I would take the bus from Heathrow over to the hotel just to dream about the models, and I have many memories of being outside the front of the Sheraton Skyline and watching the Concorde on full power take-off thundering down the runway reaching skyward for New York or Miami.
Just an easy ten minute bus ride from the Schiphol central bus station will take you to the world famous Aviation MegaStore which is the world’s largest aviation hobby shop. It is a destination in its own right for aviation fans, modellers, diecast and display model collectors, and pilots. The shop has a huge selection of hard-to-find aviation books and models curated from the four corners of the globe.
Half the floor space is dedicated to diecast airliner models, and there is whole room filled with filing cabinets loaded to the rafters with decals sheets, also curated from decal producers all over the world. It is not a problem to spend several hours at this shop checking out all they have to offer. The difficult task is narrowing down what you are going to purchase, unless you have an unlimited hobby budget. (Which I think many of you do have!)
9. The Attached Shopping Centre Is Excellent With Fair Prices
For a hard-core airline buff, you would not think that the presence of a shopping centre is of much importance when rating favourite airports. But it actually is, for several reasons. I use the airport as a frequent transit point between the hotel, city centre visits, and other side trips in the region. I find myself passing through the airport quite frequently when I visit cities for airline shows and aviation conventions. Often the food at hotels is costly and under par as they have a captive client base.
The Amsterdam Schiphol airport shopping centre is fantastic, and I love spending time there. The Albert Heijn supermarket offers a fabulous selection of high quality, and healthy, foods, salads, pre-made sandwiches, and yummy snacks that you simply will not find at North American airports. North American airports are all about pushing unhealthy, waist expanding comfort foods, like hamburger, pasta and pizza. The nice news at Schiphol is that you can eat healthy for very reasonable cost. Sure, they have the bad food choices too like Burger King, but there are more than enough healthy food options including the fantastic “la Place” French buffet restaurant, which is my favourite dining location at Schiphol airport. This buffet per unit costing so you pay for what you take, but the home-style cooking and fantastic atmosphere is well worth the price of admission.
At Amsterdam Schiphol airport shopping centre they have a very diverse selection of shops, with prices quite similar to what you would pay off airport. Which is a refreshing change from the elevated prices that shops charge at most other airports. I stopped in at the Rituals shop and bought some of their nice skin products, and recommend you pay them a visit if you’d like your skin to look and smell great. They are a Dutch company and I really like their products.
10. The Airport Is An Easy Commute To A World Top 10 Best City
No offence, but Toronto, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Dubai may all have excellent airports, but I personally would not classify those cities as world’s best destinations. Not even close. If I am passing through YYZ, DFW, or DXB I certainly do not feel compelled to break my journey to visit the city centre to soak up the action for a touristic visit, because the airport host city is overflowing with things to see and do for the tourist.
This is absolutely not the case with Schiphol Airport and the lovely city of Amsterdam. If you have not already been to see Amsterdam, then you have to make it part of your plan next time you pass through Amsterdam Schiphol airport to make the quick and easy journey from the airport to the city centre. Amsterdam and its famous canals is beautiful.
It is a great walking city with so much to see and do. You can easily spend a full day sight-seeing, all by foot, and you will be sure to fall in love with this destination. During my last visit, just a few weeks ago, I took the city bus directly from the airport to Leidseplein Square, the bus ticket was about 10 Euros return. I did a big circle route which took me to Antiek Centrum, Prinsengracht, Singel, and then to the Rijks Museum, and finally back to Leidseplein.
I stopped for a bite to eat at Albert Heijn whenever I felt hungry, but there were other neat food options everywhere you looked. Everything from stroopwaffel to haringhandel to Surinamese food to Falafel, Donair and pizza is readily available to suit every palate. The city of Amsterdam operates with a very high load factor and of course there are a loads of tourists, and foot traffic can be busy on the main streets. That said, without a doubt, no visit to Amsterdam Schiphol airport would be complete with a visit to the old city centre of Amsterdam.