Emirates is introducing a new Platinum level to its Skywards frequent flyer program, with the top tier membership matched to Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum as the Qantas-Emirates alliance comes into play on April 1.
After the airline emailed its members with some initial information over the weekend, Australian Business Traveller sat down with Brian LaBelle, Emirates' Senior Vice President, Skywards, to learn more about how Platinum membership will work for Skywards frequent flyers.
Business travellers clocking up 150,000 "tier miles" will be eligible for the most precious metal in the Skywards family. That's high compared with 50,000 tier miles for Gold and 25,000 for Silver cards, which also match up with equivalent Qantas frequent flyer tiers.
Emirates' LaBelle estimates that approximately five percent of Gold members — who number 110,000, LaBelle confirmed to us — will qualify for Platinum and be automatically upgraded to the new tier on 31 March 2013.
So if that's you, you'll be in company with roughly 5,500 other Skywards Platinum members, out of the global group of 8.6 million Emirates frequent flyers worldwide. An impressive one million Skywards members are in Australia, LaBelle confirms.
The perks of being Platinum
You've clocked up triple the number of "tier miles" than a regular Gold member, and your account ticks over to Platinum on 31 March — so what does that get you?
First class lounge access in Dubai for you and a guest, for a start. That's a step above Gold members, who are restricted to Emirates' business class lounges in Dubai and the Emirates Lounges internationally — and only get to bring a guest if travelling in business or first class.
A partner Skywards Gold card might help to soften the blow for your other half if they're travelling without you, and means that you'll both have lounge access when travelling together in economy.
And you can pick your favourite person, too: there's no requirement that your Gold be a legal spouse, Emirates' Brian LaBelle confirms to Australian Business Traveller: "The feedback from our frequent flyers is that they would like to share the benefits of being a frequent flyer. A Platinum member is very valuable to us, and we will give a Gold card to whoever they specify."
75 percent extra bonus Skywards miles hit Platinum frequent flyers' accounts after eligible flights, so you'll earn reward flights faster.
20 kg of extra luggage allowance regardless of which cabin you're flying will come in useful if you're packing materials for a conference or are burning your Skywards miles for a holiday and want to bring extra luggage with you.
And first class check-in worldwide lets you get rid of it swiftly at the airport, while first class baggage delivery at the other end will be equally welcome.
Guaranteed Business or Economy Class Seat privileges mean that even when you're flying out at the very last moment, you'll always be able to book a seat in at Emirates' Flex fare level — even if the flight is full.
"To achieve that, at the check-in or at the gate, we'll offer options to the other people on the flight: compensation or an incentive, and there are usually more volunteers than we need," LaBelle explains. Yes, that means Emirates will bump a non-Platinum off the plane if you need that seat.
"Last seat" Flex reward benefits for economy and business classes are also handy if you're a Platinum booking late: "as long as there's a seat for sale in business or economy, we're offering it to members" if they want to spend miles for it, LaBelle confirms.
"These are our very, very top customers, so we will do everything in our power to accommodate them before other customers, but we would prefer they give us twenty-four hours' notice," LaBelle asks.
If you can't give twenty-four hours' notice, you'll be first in the queue when the flight "closes" at the airport an hour or so before departure.
"When we do the instant upgrades, they're queued up until the flight closes. We would be able to accommodate the Platinum members ahead of everybody else in the instant upgrades as well, because we'd be holding all the requests until the flight closure. We'd give them top priority," LaBelle promises.
Your requalification clock resets anew when you tick up from Gold to Platinum, LaBelle confirms, so you'll have a full 13 month cycle from 1 April to maintain your status.
And you'll float back down to Gold next year in a "soft landing" if you don't reach that precious 150,000 "tier mile" threshold for Platinum.
Your Platinum partner Gold Card "will be linked to the validity period of the Platinum member," LaBelle continues. So both the Gold and Platinum members have that year to requalify.
We'll be bringing you more on the Skywards Platinum tier — as well as all the other business travel and frequent flyer news you need to know. For the very latest, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.