Emirates has an ‘Invitation Only’ or ‘IO’ level, the same concept as Delta 360, American Concierge Key, and United Global Services.
What’s interesting are the inflight service standards that flight attendants are expected to apply to these members — and even to Platinums, the non-uber exclusive level you can earn in the Skywards program and to Golds as well.
I appreciate the service I receive on American Airlines as an Executive Platinum member, apart from the upgrades (I really do clear my domestic upgrades most of the time, and I appreciate that they do not release all first class seats in advance so I can still stand a good chance of clearing at the gate if I switch flgiths). When I’m in economy on a domestic flight, American comps me a drink and a snack.
Emirates goes legions farther.
- The purser must brief the crew on each ‘IO’ member — including purser notes and observed preferences of the member. If time permits they’re supposed to do this for each Platinum member as well.
- Platinums and Golds are supposed to be recognized by name on boarding, and checked on to make sure they’re comfortable. IO members are supposed to also be escorted to their seats and introduced to crew working around them. Their seats must be checked prior to boarding to ensure everything is working properly.
- For all of these members, the purser checks preferences while inflight for preferred drinks and other special requirements.
- Prior to starting descent, the purser is supposed to check on them and ask for their feedback on the flight (and document any need for followup, as well as update observed preferences so that future flight attendants can be more accommodating).
- ‘IO’ members sitting in economy should be invited to a premium cabin for landing. They should also be escorted off the flight.
American gives their flight attendants tablets. Could you imagine being approached by an American flight attendant and instead of asking for a drink order they ask if they can prepare your drink?
At some level maybe it doesn’t make much difference. You still get the same drink either way. But at the same time it makes all the difference. These standards are regardless of cabin of travel. They make you feel like a welcome guest, something hotels strive for but almost never airlines.
A little bit of courtesy goes a long way to feeling like more than ‘self-loading cargo’. People appreciate that, in a way that US airlines don’t understand but that’s built into service standards around the world.