Everything you need to know about Star Alliance

Here’s how you can unlock perks across 26 different airlines, simply by holding one frequent flyer card.

By Staff Writers, May 19 2023
Everything you need to know about Star Alliance

Holding the status of the world’s largest airline alliance, having grown to host 26 members plus two ‘connecting partners’ in its ranks, Star Alliance is a force to be reckoned with.

Launched in 1997 with just five airlines under its umbrella – Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Thai Airways and United – Star Alliance now counts a mix of leading global carriers and smaller regional airlines, connecting more than 1,200 airports worldwide.

Which airlines are members of Star Alliance?

As above, Star Alliance unites airlines from around the world in a single partnership.

The alliance’s 26 members are as follows: 

  • Aegean Airlines (based in Greece)
  • Air Canada (based in Canada)
  • Air China (based in China)
  • Air India (based in India)
  • Air New Zealand (based in New Zealand)
  • All Nippon Airways/ANA (based in Japan)
  • Asiana Airlines (based in South Korea)
  • Austrian Airlines (based in Austria)
  • Avianca (based in Colombia)
  • Brussels Airlines (based in Belgium)
  • COPA Airlines (based in Panama)
  • Croatia Airlines (based in Croatia)
  • EgyptAir (based in Egypt)
  • Ethiopian Airlines (based in Ethiopia)
  • EVA Air (based in Taiwan)
  • LOT Polish Airlines (based in Poland)
  • Lufthansa (based in Germany)
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS: based in Denmark, Norway and Sweden)
  • Shenzhen Airlines (based in China)
  • Singapore Airlines (based in Singapore)
  • South African Airways (based in South Africa)
  • Swiss International Air Lines (based in Switzerland)
  • TAP Air Portugal (based in Portugal)
  • Thai Airways (based in Thailand)
  • Turkish Airways (based in Turkey)
  • United Airlines (based in the USA)

China’s Juneyao Airlines and Thailand’s Thai Smile are the alliance’s two Connecting Partners – a concept which we’ll explore later in this guide.

What about affiliates of Star Alliance member airlines?

Many Star Alliance member airlines also have affiliates – whether they’re offshoots of the ‘main’ airline, or regional or low-cost arms of the company – but those affiliates aren’t normally associated with Star Alliance.

This means you shouldn’t expect to earn miles or have lounge access based on your frequent flyer status when travelling with those affiliates, unless there’s a special arrangement in place between your frequent flyer program and that airline.

As an example, Singapore Airlines also owns the low-cost carrier Scoot, which is not a Star Alliance member, so no alliance-wide benefits are offered.

However, sometimes affiliates are treated just like their parent airline – for instance, United Express operates regional flights, and passengers on those flights can earn Star Alliance miles and enjoy the benefits of their Star Alliance status.

What are the Star Alliance frequent flyer tiers?

Most airlines operate their own frequent flyer program with various benefits depending on a member’s status. As a way of standardising the programs, so a member of one airline can enjoy the same or similar benefits with another, Star Alliance has created two tiers.

These two tiers are Star Alliance Silver and Star Alliance Gold. Unlike Oneworld, Star Alliance does not have an alliance-wide ‘above-Gold’ level.

In any case, here’s how the status tiers of several popular frequent flyer programs align with the Star Alliance levels:

Program Star Alliance Silver Star Alliance Gold
Air New Zealand Airpoints Silver Gold, Elite, Elite Priority One
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Elite Silver Elite Gold, PPS Club, Solitaire PPS, Solitaire PPS Life
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Silver Gold Platinum
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Classic Plus Elite, Elite Plus
United Mileage Plus Premier Silver Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, Global Services
Lifthansa Miles & More Frequent Traveller Senator, HON Circle
ANA Mileage Club Bronze Platinum, Super Flyers, Diamond

To see how the Star Alliance tiers align in other frequent flyer programs, browse the Star Alliance Benefits page and select the program and tier from the drop-down menus.

Example of how ANA's tiers align with Star Alliance Silver and Gold.
Example of how ANA's tiers align with Star Alliance Silver and Gold.

Benefits of Star Alliance Silver

As the most easily-attained elite status tier, Star Alliance Silver status has limited benefits.

You’ll have access to priority airport standby and priority reservation waitlist, which may be useful perks when your plans change unexpectedly and you need to be accommodated on a new flight.

However, all the ‘tangible’ benefits like priority check-in, lounge access and more are reserved for higher-tier Star Alliance Gold members.

Benefits of Star Alliance Gold

Star Alliance Gold status unlocks a full suite of premium perks when travelling with any Star Alliance member airline in any cabin class.

Apart from higher priority on those Star Alliance Silver benefits, you’ll be able to enjoy priority airport check-in, priority baggage handling, priority boarding, Gold Track at selected airports to speed through security, and, most importantly, complimentary access to over 1,000 Star Alliance lounges worldwide.

Star Alliance Gold benefits, such as business class check-in and lounge access, are clearly signposted.
Star Alliance Gold benefits, such as business class check-in and lounge access, are clearly signposted.

There’s also 20kg of extra baggage allowance when travelling on tickets that use the ‘weight’ concept, or one extra bag with the ‘piece’ concept.

However, this doesn’t apply when booked on hand-luggage only fares on short flights sold by Air New Zealand, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS and Swiss.

Earning and redeeming frequent flyer points across Star Alliance

The Star Alliance ecosystem allows you to earn and spend points or miles across its web of partners: such as collecting points with one airline, and using them to fly with a different airline.

Earning frequent flyer points across Star Alliance

By joining the frequent flyer program attached to one Star Alliance airline, you'll be able to earn points or miles when travelling right across the alliance, when booked on an eligible fare.

The number of points or miles you'd earn may depend on the type of fare purchased, as well as the route travelled and the airline operating your flight.

Say you had Turkish Airways Elite status, and you wanted to credit your next Sydney-London trip flown with Singapore Airlines to Turkish Airlines' Miles&Smiles program.

To see how many miles you could earn, you would visit the Turkish Airlines website and look for the Singapore Airlines earning chart, as below.

Singapore Airlines earning rates when credited to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.
Singapore Airlines earning rates when credited to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.

If you were flying Singapore Airlines business class, then good news – you could earn 125% to 135% of the flown miles to your Turkish Airlines account (that’s at least 16,525 miles on a Sydney-Singapore-London trip, one-way). 

But if you booked an Economy Lite or Economy Value ticket on Singapore Airlines instead, you wouldn't earn any Turkish Airlines miles at all. That's because those economy fares are sold in the booking classes V, K, Q and N, which show as ‘not eligible for accrual’ in Turkish Airlines’ program.

(Don’t be confused by the ‘alphabet soup’ of fare letters: in short, many cheaper fares earn no miles at all in some programs, and as a general rule, the more you spend on your ticket, the more miles you could be earning.)

On the ground, Star Alliance members can earn frequent flyer points and enjoy status perks as they ride the rails across Europe under the alliance’s new intermodal partnership with Deutsche Bahn rail services.

Using frequent flyer points for flights across Star Alliance

Points or miles earned in one frequent flyer program can be used to book seats on any other Star Alliance airline.

The exact number of points needed will depend on each program. As an example, see Singapore Airlines’ Star Alliance partner award charts, which show how many Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles you would need to fly with its partners.

Be aware though that some frequent flyer programs release better reward availability to their own members than those of other partner programs.

For instance, if you’re hoping to book Suites Class (first class) with Singapore Airlines, reward seats for booking using points or miles are rarely released to members belonging to programs other than Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

On the plus side, some frequent flyer programs allow you to use your miles to book a round-the-world trip.

Upgrading flights with frequent flyer points across Star Alliance

Unlike its main rival Oneworld, Star Alliance permits members of one frequent flyer program to use their points or miles for an upgrade on another Star Alliance member airline.

But as you’d expect with so many different airlines involved, there are a lot of rules and catches to be aware of with this process.

Take a look at using United MileagePlus miles for Star Alliance upgrades. You’ll see among the restrictions that Singapore Airlines does not permit upgrades on all Airbus A350, A380 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft – and these make up most of its long-range fleet.

United Airlines eligible upgrades on Star Alliance members.
United Airlines eligible upgrades on Star Alliance members.

Even where upgrades are allowed, in most cases, only the highest-priced (and flexible) economy and business class tickets can be upgraded using miles.

On most airlines, this includes fare classes C and D in business class, and fare classes Y and B in economy class.

What are Star Alliance Connecting Partners?

The Connecting Partner model allows airlines to attach themselves to the Star Alliance network – offering connecting flights in conjunction with true Star Alliance flights – but without becoming a full Star Alliance member airline themselves.

There are currently two Connecting Partners linked with the alliance: Juneyao Airlines, and Thai Smile.

Juneyao Airlines

Juneyao Airlines became the first Connecting Partner in 2017, offering all passengers seamless ticket and luggage check-in when connecting between a Juneyao Airlines and Star Alliance member airline flight.

Star Alliance Gold passengers have access to the usual lounge access and priority perks when flying with Juneyao Airlines and connecting to/from a different Star Alliance carrier.

Frequent flyer members of Air China, Air Canada, ANA, EVA Air, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines can also collect and redeem miles on Juneyao Airlines flights, and vice versa.

Thai Smile

The second partner is Thai Smile, a subsidiary of Thai Airways. As usual, all Star Alliance passengers can be fully checked through along with their bags.

Star Alliance Gold passengers can utilise their usual priority and lounge benefits, but only when connecting between a Thai Smiles flight and an Austrian, Lufthansa, Swiss or Thai Airways flight.

Likewise, miles can be earned and redeemed on those flights for members of those respective airline programs only.

Where are the Star Alliance branded lounges?

Star Alliance’s philosophy of keeping member airlines integrated together in shared terminals and facilities has led to the creation of Star Alliance-branded lounges, particularly at airports where more members fly from.

The Star Alliance lounge in Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal.
The Star Alliance lounge in Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The Star Alliance business class lounges are found in Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Paris (temporarily closed), Rio de Janeiro and Rome. There are also first class lounges in Los Angeles and Paris, with the latter also temporarily unavailable.

Which are the best Star Alliance lounges in Australia?

Nine Star Alliance airlines fly to Sydney, and two of those – Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines – maintain their own lounges, which in turn are available to any eligible Star Alliance passenger.

While the SilverKris Business lounge is more suitable for work due its faster WiFi connection and quiet atmosphere, Air New Zealand offers an excellent catering service as well as plenty of space to lounge and relax.

In any case, it certainly helps that these lounges are literally next door to one another, so you can always hop over to the other one if you’re not completely satisfied.

Which mileage program is better for obtaining Star Alliance Gold status?

While in most cases you’d likely want to go for your home country airline – since it's the one you’ll fly with more frequently – it's always smart to evaluate the options that other airlines offer before picking the one to go with.

If you travel on a mix of Star Alliance airlines, however, Asiana Club, Aegean Miles+Bonus and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles offer the easiest qualification criteria for obtaining Star Alliance Gold.

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 38

Most airlines, biggest network BUT my two worst flight experiences ever.    Air Canada & United.  Used both for long haul - trans Pacific & trans Atlantic, and domestic within Canada & U.S.  Can’t remember anything good about either from check-in to lost luggage.

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