The Secret Elite Status Programs of Air France, Emirates and Other International Carriers
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You may have heard of American Airlines Concierge Key, Delta Air Lines 360 or United Airline Global Services, the exclusive levels of the carriers’ elite status programs, reserved for top-tier flyers. There’s no published way to earn them; you must be invited and need to spend a lot of money. However, the Big 3 aren’t the only airlines to offer exclusive status programs — we’ve examined similar options from international carriers, like Air France and British Airways, below.
Note that this information was pulled from multiple online sources, including FlyerTalk forum posts, and may not reflect the most current selection of perks, as they’re constantly changing and not publicly available. If you have any firsthand experience, please chime in with the details in the comments.
Air France Club 2000 / KLM Skippers of the Flying Dutchman
Air France and KLM largely share the Flying Blue loyalty program, which is set to undergo some big changes in 2018, but each has its own designation for top-tier elites. Air France has the Club 2000, while KLM has the coolest-named secret status: Skipper of the Flying Dutchman.
Club 2000 and KLM Skippers of the Flying Dutchman get the following benefits:
- Free lounge access when traveling on, or connecting to/from an international SkyTeam-operated flight on the same day
- SkyPriority services
- Guaranteed seat in economy class on long-haul flights
- Highest priority on the waiting lists
- Extra baggage allowance (reportedly one extra bag)
- 100% more award miles on SkyTeam flights
KLM Skippers of the Flying Dutchman get these additional benefits:
- “Being our special guest, no matter how many Level Miles you have earned.” We weren’t able to track down any additional details to clarify what exactly this means.
- Unconditional worldwide lounge access to all KLM Crown Lounges with a guest of your choice, regardless of the airline or class of travel
How To Obtain
Initially, these statuses were reserved for VIPs like oil executives and members of governments, but now it appears to be an invite-only status open to high-value travelers. There doesn’t seem to be much consistency as to how many miles need to be flown or dollars need to be spent per year in order to receive this status. It’s also unclear whether this status is still being awarded to frequent flyers but it does seem that if you had it at some point in the past or if your company is booking your corporate ticket, you may end up with the benefits.
Air France Platinum Ultimate
In 2016, a new Flying Blue status appeared: Platinum Ultimate. This is in addition to Club 2000 and Skipper of the Flying Dutchman, and it comes with all the benefits that a Flying Blue Platinum member receives. Additionally, you get:
- Your personal travel assistant available 24/7 to help organize and facilitate your trip
- Your personal travel preferences stored and respected (seat, meal options, etc.)
- Dedicated phone or email contact to find solutions in the event of irregular operations
- Enjoy a fast track accompaniment, during peak times, on a case-by-case basis
- Your family shares your privileges when they travel with you
- Priority rerouting if you miss a flight
- A priority search if your luggage is delayed
How To Obtain
According to a FlyerTalk thread, it appears that you need to earn around 360,000 flown miles over about a two-year period in order to qualify.
British Airways Executive Club Premier
On the surface, British Airways Executive Club Premier members have the same benefits as BA Gold elite members. However, the best perks of Executive Club Premier are unpublished. Examples, shared in this FlyerTalk thread, include a personal concierge who seats you away from a bassinet on a international flight or who secures you last-minute upgrades. The published benefits are below.
- A guaranteed seat; even on a flight that’s fully booked
- Assurance that all flights are met regardless of missed connections or connection delays; even if this involves delaying a flight for a small amount of time for a card holder
- Upgrades from business class to first class, whenever possible
- Access to the Concorde Room at London Heathrow
- Fast track through immigration and airport security
- Chauffeur-driven ground transportation in a Jaguar from the lounge to the aircraft at London Heathrow
- A meet and assist upon arrival at first-class check-in by a member of BA Special Services, the ground division responsible for handling VIP passengers, available at select airports
How To Obtain
There are said to be between 1,200-1,500 people with this coveted status. Each person has reportedly spent about £2 million pounds with British Airways and must be first nominated by a senior member from the British Airways team and then confirmed by the board of directors. Additionally, it’s rumored that people have negotiated the status via corporate contracts.
Cathay Pacific Diamond Plus
Cathay Pacific’s frequent flyer program is called the Marco Polo Club. The published top tier is called the Marco Polo Club Diamond, and to earn it you need to accrue 1,200 Club points in a calendar year. The program’s unpublished tier is Diamond Plus, and Cathay started awarding this status in 2006. Diamond Plus doesn’t have the best benefits, but it is one of the more attainable statuses considering you won’t need to spend £2 million pounds.
- Nominate one companion to the Diamond tier
- Access to Cathay Pacific First Class lounges regardless of which airline you’re flying
- Dedicated Diamond Plus service team
- Arrival or transfer escorts in Hong Kong
How To Obtain
It’s estimated that in order to obtain Diamond Plus, you need to spend upwards of $200,000 USD per year on flights with Cathay Pacific.
Emirates iO stands for Invitation Only, and it’s one of the most exclusive programs around. It was launched in 2010, and the airline has tried to keep all the benefits secret. Some of the unconfirmed perks include invitations to Emirates-sponsored sporting events, extremely customizable in-flight food requests and access to otherwise unavailable flight awards.
- First-time members get a personally delivered iO membership card by a senior Emirates sales manager and iO-branded gear
- Access to the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge
- Private pick-up/drop-off if your plane is at a remote stand at Dubai
- Chauffeur where available to and from the airport
- Access to any Emirates lounge worldwide regardless of which carrier you’re flying
- Bring up to an additional 10 guests with you to the lounge
- Escort to and from check-in to immigration, even if you’re connecting from another carrier to or from an Emirates flight
- Priority disembarkation of the aircraft even if you’re in business or economy class
- Option to pre-board the aircraft or board last
- Multi-cabin operational upgrades from economy to first class
- Dedicated iO phone line
- Guaranteed business-class seats on any Emirates flight
How To Obtain
Emirates iO comes with a hefty price tag. You need to spend upwards of $1,000,000 USD per year on Emirates flights or fly 50+ Emirates flights in business or first class per year.
Qantas Chairman’s Lounge
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce describes the Chairman’s Lounge as “probably the most exclusive club in the country.” It’s the most unique item on this list, because it’s not a status; it’s a club. Rather than offering additional benefits on top of what flyers get through Qantas’ loyalty program, the Chairman’s Lounge operates separately as, well, a lounge. The lounges are located in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney but good luck finding them, as they’re hidden and unadvertised. You can find some helpful clues here.
- A la carte dining
- Private library/reading area
- Access to the Chairman’s Lounge regardless of which airline you’re flying
- Ability to bring up to 2 additional guests
- Meeting space (for you and your 2 guests)
- Access to any pre-blocked seats on any Qantas flight
- Access to Qantas First Class lounges world wide when flying on Qantas
- “First Host” meet and assist in select airport
- Spa Treatments in the First Class lounges with access to prebook times up to 24 hours in advance
- Membership is valid for two years
How To Obtain
The only way to gain access to the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge is by invitation. It can’t be earned by meeting a specific spending limit or flight requirement. Members are said to include government officials, leaders of major unions, Qantas ambassadors like John Travolta and other celebrities.
Feature photo by piranka / Getty Images
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