The Coolest Airline-Status Swag, and What You Have to Do to Get It
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Airline elite status confers many benefits, like free checked bags, priority boarding, entrance to airport lounges, and a shot at those ever-elusive upgrades. But for flyers who exceed the usual qualification levels or spend an unholy amount of money on tickets — either annually or in lifetime activity — airlines often extend exclusive status levels, perks and even personalized gifts. And we’re not just talking about your average membership card or drink tickets.
Airlines are cagey about releasing details since they can vary from year to year and even flyer to flyer. However, in the recent past they have ranged from limited-edition baggage tags to designer wallets and even pieces of luggage. Or you could always aim to have a plane named after you.
Then again, there have also been misfires, like drink coasters and plain purple socks. But for the true road warriors out there who log the miles and spend the cash, here is some of the best status swag we know about, and some that is only rumored to exist.
American Airlines AAdvantage Concierge Key: Swanky Plane Tags
Haven’t heard of American Concierge Key status? That’s because it’s not a well-publicized tier of the AAdvantage program. It’s not just for customers who fly and spend a lot. It is an invitation-only club that the airline offers to high-value, high-profile passengers.
It includes benefits like dedicated customer service, personal assistance at major airports, complimentary Admirals Club membership, access to Flagship First Check-in and Flagship Lounges, complimentary upgrades within North America, and first-to-board privileges.
Sounds great, right? Get ready to spend an estimated $75,000 in elite-qualifying dollars if you want to earn it. Or you could star in a Hollywood blockbuster or run a Fortune 500 company. Those would help you get in too.
If you do get an invitation, you can expect the listed benefits plus a special gift. This past year, Concierge Key members reported receiving personalized luggage tags made of metal repurposed from a decommissioned MD-80 aircraft. They look pretty swanky. The only question is, if you’re enough of a high roller to qualify, do you really want everyone to know by tagging your bags?
Delta 360 and Choice Benefits: Hello, Tiffany
Much like Concierge Key, Delta has an invitation-only elite tier called Delta 360 for its top flyers. The qualifications vary from customer to customer, but you probably have to fly around 200,000 MQMs per year and spend somewhere around $50,000 MQDs, based on anecdotal evidence.
Delta 360 members are treated to benefits like Executive Sky Club membership that normally costs $845 and that includes access for the member and up to two guests per visit. They can also expect dedicated customer service both over the phone and at the airport, gate-to-gate Porsche transfers and high upgrade priority on flights.
In the past, Delta 360 members have received chichi giveaways like Tiffany Champagne flutes with a magnum of Louis Roederer Champagne plus some 360-branded gear from labels like Nike and Hartmann.
As for the rest of the Delta SkyMiles Medallion members out there, the airline says it has sent out individual presents on a case-by-case basis that have included Medallion-branded socks, new and select Medallions, LSTN headphones, drink certificates, Dean & Deluca snack gift boxes and handwritten notes done by volunteer staff members.
Don’t forget about Delta’s Choice Benefits gifts, either. These are a selection of perks and presents SkyMiles members can choose from upon reaching or surpassing certain tiers in the Medallion elite program. Sure, you can choose upgrade certificates, Sky Club membership packages and Global Entry fee waivers. But you can also opt for a $200 Tiffany & Co. gift card.
United Global Services: Mercedes Transfers and Cocktail Coasters
The level beyond United’s supposedly top-tier Premier 1K elite is called Global Services, and is the stuff of airline lore. Like other invitation-only elites, this one is shrouded in mystery and the qualifications vary from person to person. Expect to fly somewhere around 200,000 Premier Qualification Miles, though, and spend north of $30,000 on United tickets in a year.
Among the benefits at this level are expanded award availability, a much better chance at upgrades than regular elites, more extensive upgrades for companions, Mercedes-Benz transfers between flights and access to special customer service agents.
While we haven’t seen much info about what Global Services members received in 2019, last year they got a kit that contained an assortment of branded items including bag tags and beverage coasters, plus a few drink vouchers. Those are some expensive G & Ts!
But it’s not just the major US legacy carriers that offer these types of super-elite gifts. Some international airlines do, as well. Few were willing to go on record, but we do know about some from frequent-flyer chat rooms and FlyerTalk message boards.
Air New Zealand Elite Priority One: What’s in Your Wallet?
Although information on this ultraexclusive club is extremely hard to verify, Australian Business Traveller reported that it is only open to high-value customers who have been personally invited to join by the airline’s CEO. In addition to the usual elite perks, members can enter special VIP rooms in the airline’s lounges in Auckland (AKL), Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney (SYD). In 2017, at least, they also received black and pink leather wallets and matching bag tags inscribed with a “1” just to make them feel extra special.
Emirates iO: Wallets for the Wealthy
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard any news of Emirates’ iO (invitation-only) program, so it might have fallen victim to the airline’s recent rollbacks. But the ultraexclusive program supposedly included a membership card personally delivered by a senior Emirates sales manager, access to Emirates and Qantas clubs, private pickup and drop-off for flights arriving and departing remote stands at Dubai International Airport (DXB), airport chauffeurs, escorts at immigration in Dubai, priority disembarkation, multi-cabin upgrades and more.
Members also reportedly received a new Montblanc wallet, luggage tags, and a Gold-level membership for a designated guest. How to earn it? Try spending $1 million or more on Emirates flights per year.
Finnair Platinum Lumo: TUMI Time
Just last year, Finnair introduced a new top-tier status titled Platinum Lumo. To receive it, you’ve got to earn 450,000 tier points, 350,000 of which must be earned on Finnair flights; or take 150 Oneworld flights, 100 of which must be flown on Finnair — all in a year. Among the other benefits you receive, such as long-haul and short-haul upgrades, members also reportedly get a TUMI carry-on suitcase as a welcome present. Those tend to run about $400-$500, which isn’t a bad bonus.
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank Diamond: Choose Your Own Adventure
Reaching Japan Airlines Mileage Bank (JMB) Diamond status requires earning 100,000 FLY ON Points, 50,000 of which must be earned on JAL Group flights, or taking 120 flights, 60 of which must be on JAL Group carriers, and also earning 35,000 FLY ON points.
Hit this level, though, and you’ll receive equivalent status for a family member or domestic partner, plus points that can be exchanged for hotel nights, meals, gifts, or home appliances listed on the Ringbell Smart Gift Catalog. Diamond members receive 51,000 points that are equivalent to 51,000 JPY ($470) to spend. They also get to select up to two gifts from a list with the Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Store.
KLM: Boozy Delft Houses
This is less of an elite perk and more a bonus for flying business class aboard KLM. Passengers can choose from a selection of 99 model-size Delft tile houses filled with genever gin that the airline has commissioned — one for each of its 99 years (so far). Don’t worry if you get a repeat. You can stop by the KLM Crown Lounge at Amsterdam Schipol (AMS) to swap it out for one you don’t have yet.
SAS Pandion: In the Bag
Above SAS Silver, Gold and Diamond, there’s Pandion. This exclusive tier is rumored to include just 1,500 high-value flyers at any time, each of whom has been personally selected by the airline’s CEO. Benefits include guaranteed seats even on sold-out flights, personalized service and elite memberships with partner hotels and rental-car companies. According to this Norwegian forum, you also reportedly receive a swanky SWIMS 48-hour Holdall bag with the airline’s insignia.
Singapore Airlines KrisShop Catalog
We were unable to nail down the specifics of current offerings with airline reps. However, according to frequent-flyer forums, Singapore Airlines elites have been offered vouchers upon requalification that they could then redeem for items like electronics, beauty products, art, and travel accessories from the airline’s online shopping portal, KrisShop.
Amounts have varied, but travelers have reported receiving anywhere from $180 SGD-$380 SGD ($132-$278). At the very least, you’ll need to requalify for Singapore Airlines PPS Club, which is the revenue-based silo of the airline’s loyalty program. To do so, you need to spend at least $25,000 SGD ($18,290) on airfare and surcharges within a 12-month period. Hit this level, and you get perks like tier bonus miles on flights, guaranteed economy seats, complimentary advanced seat assignments, priority mileage redemptions and access at airports, access to SilverKris lounges and more. If you hit $30,000 SGD ($21,947) in spending, you receive two vouchers, each of which allows you to earn twice the miles for a single flight segment. Make $40,000 SGD ($29,263) and you get a 50,000-mile discount off a one-class redemption upgrade or off an award flight.
Reaching the higher PPS Club Solitaire status requires $50,000 SGD ($36,580) in spending each year and confers benefits like special check-in at Singapore Changi (SIN) or first-class check-in elsewhere, access to the first-class sections of Singapore’s SilverKris lounges and priority mileage redemptions. If you spend $60,000 SGD ($43,894), you’ll receive one advance upgrade voucher, which allows you to apply for a one-cabin class upgrade at the point of booking. Your upgrade will be confirmed at the point of booking, subject to availability. You get another of these at $75,000 SGD ($54877) in spending and a final one at $100,000 SGD ($73,169).
Not spending or flying enough to take home one of these truly rarefied brag swags? You can always swipe a business-class amenity kit from your next flight or stop by the store at the TWA Hotel at JFK for some memorabilia from the golden age of flight.
Featured image courtesy of TPG reader, Dave.
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