For years, Skywards Gold status was the best tier that Emirates’ regular travellers could aim for. Then came Skywards Platinum in 2013, a new premium level with a collection of First Class perks attached. But secretly, another tier had already emerged in the shadows – one that few people know anything about. Welcome to Emirates iO.

The name comes from the level’s very nature: it’s an invitation-only program, granted exclusively to VIPs. No amount of flying can guarantee that coveted upgrade. Only a personal bump from the airline’s President, Sir Tim Clark, can get you into the club that otherwise ‘doesn’t exist’.

But what awaits those on the inside? I’m glad you asked.

Emirates Skywards frequent flyer tier progression, including iO

Who qualifies for Emirates iO membership?

A welcome kit sighted by Point Hacks describes Emirates iO as being ‘reserved for our most valued customers’. Mirroring other by-invitation programs like the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge and Virgin Australia Beyond, it’s often decision-makers who can swing sizeable travel spends who make the cut.

Anecdotally, some members have also been invited when their personal travel habits see them flying with Emirates in long-haul Business Class or First Class every single week. But those same travellers report the invitation only came when doing so on paid revenue tickets, not on frequent flyer reward seats.

If you do manage to get the attention of Emirates President Sir Tim Clark, you’ll be welcomed into ‘a very special and extremely exclusive club of Emirates travellers.’

iO memberships last for two years at a time and can be renewed in two-year intervals. That makes a nice change to earning or retaining regular status year-on-year. A well-placed source shares that as of 2015, the iO ranks had ‘around 300 members’.

Emirates iO is all about the personal touch. Those lucky enough to join the airline’s exclusive club have their kits delivered in person by an Emirates representative.

Emirates iO membership kit
A welcome to Emirates iO comes with more than just a membership card. Expect a few designer goodies as well.

Whenever a member’s tenure at this secret tier eventually comes to an end, they step down to Platinum status. At least this comes with access to the First Class lounges of Emirates and Qantas!

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Benefits of Emirates iO status

What awaits members at the top of the ladder? All the perks of Skywards Platinum, and more!

The iO journey begins with access to a team of relationship managers. Just one phone call at any time of the day or night is all it takes to get things done. Need help using miles, or getting onto a flight during a busy period? It’s an easy ask. Want to enjoy a favourite meal on your next trip that’s not on the regular menu? Done.

Invitation-only membership card
Call that special number on your iO card for the real ‘Ryan Bingham’ treatment. Nothing is too much trouble.

Speaking of travel, Emirates iO members enjoy access to all Emirates lounges. Not just when flying Emirates and its partner airlines, but any airline. This is subject to each lounge’s usual opening hours though, so it helps to plan ahead.

When it’s time to fly, expect a personal escort from the lounge straight to your seat.

Oh, and there’s another perk if you happen to arrive at a remote stand in Dubai. Rather than the typical bus transfer to the terminal, or even Emirates’ upgraded ‘First Class bus’, a limousine will be waiting for you as you step off the plane. Yes, a private car waiting for you on the tarmac itself. Now that’s service!

A personal invitation to Emirates iO

Of course, Emirates also sponsors major events like the Australian Open, as well Collingwood Football Club. That’s another opportunity for Emirates to reward iO members with tickets to corporate boxes and private functions.

Summing up

Emirates iO status is reserved for a very select few. It’s not a program that Emirates usually talks about. And if you have to ask, you know you don’t belong!

For most travellers, a Skywards Platinum card covers all the key benefits like lounge access, priority queueing and a personalised welcome on board. But for those outranking the Platinum set, Emirates iO offers something special: a real money-can’t-buy experience. At least, not directly, anyway…

Also read: The Qantas Chairman’s Lounge: for VIPs only

Skywards tier token images courtesy of Emirates Airline. All other images courtesy of Vicente Gutiérrez. All photos provided by Vicente Gutiérrez are published under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, © 2015 Vicente Gutiérrez. We have modified some images slightly to remove sensitive information and cropped some images to suit the technical requirements for publication.

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Emirates iO: the bespoke frequent flyer tier that ‘doesn’t exist’ was last modified: October 19th, 2023 by Chris Chamberlin