Frequent flyers, your beer-loving prayers have been answered! Time to say goodbye to disappointing canned or bottled brew and hello to the real deal. Now you can get beer on tap up in the sky—if you’re flying KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
The airline recently announced it’s partnering with fellow Dutch company Heineken to become the first-ever airline with an in-flight draft system for all passengers. (Japanese carrier All-Nippon Airways debuted a similar system in 2010 but, with just 20 glasses available per flight, limited the service to premium cabins and domestic flights.)
The brew giant had been experimenting with different keg designs for several years before creating the prototype, which will be used on future KLM flights starting next month. Due to low cabin pressure, a regular beer tap would dispense too much foam. CO2 cartridges, a mainstay of home-draft systems, are prohibited on airplanes due to safety concerns, and pressure-fed taps are too large to fit on a drinks trolley. To work around these limitations, Heineken engineers created a whole new system.
““It was one big jigsaw puzzle,” says Heineken’s Edwin Griffioen. “The keg of beer, the cooling system and the air-pressure compressor all had to fit in an airline catering trolley.”
In the end, space considerations meant that designers had to leave behind one item: the cooling system. But fear not, the kegs will be delivered cold to the airport in a special cart with insulation that acts like a giant Thermos. The airline will continue to offer both canned and bottled beer straight from the fridge for passengers who prefer their beer ice cold or as a backup in case of problems with the new technology.
Draft beer will be available to passengers on European KLM flights starting next month, and each flight will be stocked with four kegs. The airline believes this new system helps to give it a competitive edge while showcasing the latest and greatest of its country’s products. “We’re always looking for typical Dutch products to set us apart from other companies,” says Miriam Kartman, KLM’s vice president of in-flight services.
Not planning on a KLM flight anytime soon? Here are some other options for getting your buzz on at cruising altitude: