A while ago I wrote a post about Amsterdam Airport Schiphol's Privium, mainly spurred from curiosity. Well, I succumbed to that curiosity and bought myself a year's membership of Privium Plus for €205.
The enrollment process is very easy and I cannot fault them one bit. Just show up at the Privium Lounge located in Departures 2 hall, and give them your passport and a credit card. Whilst they tap your details into their systems you can have a few beverages and nibble on their limited range of snacks.
You are then directed a small office at the corner of the lounge where the Border Police (Koninklijke Marachausee) scan your retinas, and finally create a personalised Privium card for you, which looks something like this:
You are also given this gift pack, containing a €10 voucher for use in duty free, 2GB awkwardly-shaped USB stick (which I never bother using) and a luggage tag. The entire process took around 10 minutes.
Being a semi-regular traveller through Schiphol, hitting around 12-15 journeys per year, the €205 per year membership breaks down to a cost of between €13.6 to €17 per use. It's not a fantastic price, but it is not bad either. The true cash savings only really kick in if you drive and park at airport where you will get a discount. And if you don't hold elite status with other airlines you can use their footbridge too if you are flying intra-Schengen and only have hand luggage.
I have found the lounge and its food offering to be rather lame, sadly. The lounge feels like a glamourised prison, as it has no windows to the outside which I believe is a massive shame given the rich aviation activity happening out there. For food there are usually a couple of plates of cheese bits, some salami, olives and a salad. The hot food selection is usually soup and some pizza slices. There are drinks aplenty, but perhaps as a whole it is not the exclusive ‘executive' appeal they wanted to portray. You would be better off at one of the many eateries outside the lounge and the airport gives free endless WiFi anyway.
One of the best things of the Privium lounge is the direct access to airside. The gate takes you straight to the Arrivals 1 passport inspection area. The minor nuisance is if you happen to arrive at a time when the whole world is converging on Amsterdam, like a Monday, Friday and Saturday morning then you will feel like a fish swimming upstream. But it's tolerable.
And for security checks at gates, Privium members can make use of the ‘Priority Lanes', which never seem to be enforced anyway, so no benefit there. A word of note though, as Schiphol is transitioning to centralised security scanning areas. Departures 1 already has central security with Privium having its own line, but flights to destinations outside Schengen will receive their centralised security by Mid-2015.
Like my fish analogy above, if you arrive at passport control during a busy period then you will feel like you've been caught in a net. I usually arrive off British Airways flights in the D piers and therefore clear immigrations at Arrivals 1, which incidentally is the same place mentioned above.
At its peak I have seen queues of 50 persons long, and go up the stairs into the departures hall. Privium does come into its own here, but not if you have a bag checked in. Whilst it has been pretty awesome to sail right by everyone like a hot knife through butter, the occasions where I did have to wait for my checked bags took around 20 minutes and the whole queue had filed past me anyway.
I imagine if you are a US citizen through membership of FLUX though, this would probably be one of your biggest advantages, as you would be stuck in the non-EU passports line for ages. You could confidently cut your intra-Schengen minimum transfer times from a few hours to within 1 hour.
You would be better off buying Privium Basic, and not Privium Plus. But even still the cost-time saving is marginal if you're an EU citizen.
For a membership that costs over €200 per year I had far greater expectation than what is currently being delivered. The biggest let down is the food and the lounge which doesn't even have windows. Unless Schiphol entice me with a decent offer, I won't be renewing at Privium Plus level next year, but probably Privium Basic.
The electronic gates are definitely the highlight of Privium. You can clear passport control in around 10 seconds, which could prove vital if you're in a hurry to catch a flight.
Ease of Enrollment: 10/10
Welcome amenity: 4/10
Lounge hard product: 8/10
Lounge food and catering: 4/10
Speed of departure: 9/10
Speed of arrival: 9/10
Value for money – Privium Plus: 3/10
Value for money – Privium Basic: 5/10