Ask Emirates about the greater-than-Gold status level in its Skywards frequent flyer program and you’re likely to be told “No comment” or “We don’t like to talk about that.”
Indeed, the aptly-named ‘Invitation Only’ tier is like one of those old establishment members-only clubs.
No fancy sign, maybe not even a brass plate on the door: if you don’t know what it is then you don’t belong in the first place.
And that’s exactly how IO works. It’s not mentioned anywhere in Emirates’ Skywards program or website, which talk only of the three tiers of Blue, SIlver and Gold.
Few people outside of Emirates know exactly how one qualifies for IO, and it’s fair to say even the members of this elite level wouldn’t know – they’d have more important things to do than keep a tally of their points.
One of the criteria for being deemed IO-worthy is rumoured to require some 50 Emirates flights in business or first-class (and at full fare rates rather than on any discount), which can mean clocking up hundreds of thousands of miles each year.
There are, however, said to be other less measurable factors which play into Emirates’ decision to extend an IO invitation.
Emirates' IO card (photo courtesy of FlyerTalk member 'Eightblack')
After being Chosen, the card (an impressively thick black card with a dark red motif, shown above) is allegedly hand-delivered by a senior Emirates sales manager – along with matching luggage tags and a Mont Blanc wallet. The Chosen One’s partner also receives a Gold card.
The IO card carries a private phone number, unique to each member, which connects to a personal travel manager who greets you by name upon answering your call. And your call is always, always, answered within the first few rings.
Benefits are said to include a ‘guaranteed’ business class seat on any Emirates flight with airport pickup and drop off in a chauffeur-driven Range Rover. You may have spied these at Dubai International Airport and around the city’s better hotels – they’re black and bear Emirates IO decals.
Bookings for IO customers are flagged by Emirates with an ‘HVC+’ marker, which stands for very High Value Customer (Gold members must be content with being a mere HVC).
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.