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Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance in the world (SkyTeam and Oneworld are the other two major alliances). It was founded in 2000 and its member airlines transport over 630 million passengers per year. There are currently 26 airlines that make up the alliance. This represents 19,000 daily departures that serve more than 1,290 airports in 195 countries. There are two elite levels in this program and these are granted in conjunction with status on a member airline.
United is my carrier of choice and I have been fortunate to fly the other founding members many times. SAS has changed through the years and now feels more like a low-cost carrier (it got rid of business class on its intra-Europe flights). Thai Airways connects Bangkok to much of the world. I loved flying the A380 in first class but it looks like they are discontinuing that class of service. Lufthansa offers a great first class experience with caviar and even a dedicated terminal in Frankfurt for first class passengers. Air Canada connects Canada to the US and the world. I have flown them to Toronto and Montreal many times. Longhaul business class is decent with comfortable seats and average dining.
As mentioned, there are 26 airlines that make up this alliance. I have flown with 20 out of 26 and want to check out the remaining six on my list (Air India, Air New Zealand, Asiana Airlines (which will be absorbed into Korean Air soon), Ethiopian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, and South African Airways). The great thing about Star Alliance being so large is the ability to book award flights across carriers. I have used United miles countless times to book both shorthaul and longhaul carrier flights. The process is seamless and these are booked on United.com just as I would book any other flight. The same is true when using miles from any other member. Go to its site, search for an award flight, and book as you would a flight operated by that airline.
Star Alliance Status
Each member sets the requirements for earning both status within its program and Star Alliance status. As noted above, there are two tiers: Silver and Gold. I have Gold based on United Global Services® status but if you hold United Premier Gold or higher you will also see these benefits.
Star Alliance Member Lounges
My favorite benefit is the lounge access. Being Star Alliance Gold grants access to over 1,000 lounges worldwide. It doesn’t matter what class of service you’re flying, you’ll be able to relax before a flight. Food quality and variety as well as other amenities vary by lounge but they all provide a place to relax, work (with free Wi-Fi), and get ready for a flight. The mini golf pictured above can be found in the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul. [There are some exceptions with United Airlines for domestic flights. Please see the United Airlines page for more information.]
Star Alliance Credit Card
In recognition of Star Alliance’s 25th birthday, it launched a co-branded credit card with HSBC in November 2022. The card earns Star Alliance Points, which are transferrable to seven member airlines including Air Canada, Air New Zealand, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Thai Airways, and United Airlines.
The card has no annual fee for the first year and then is AU $450 a year.
Cardholders pick the program they want to use and earn Air Canada Aeroplan 50K, Air New Zealand Airpoints Nominated Gold, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands Gold, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Elite Gold, South African Airways Voyage Gold, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Gold, or United Airlines Premier Gold. The card is available only in Australia but has these benefits:
- Star Alliance Gold Status (after spending AU $4,000 in the first 90 days; to renew this status cardholders must spend AU $60,000 per year). See above for participating carriers
- If you decline Star Alliance Gold status because you have it already then you can select 40,000 Star Alliance Points
- 0% interest for 6 months on purchases made directly through the participating Star Alliance airline’s website
Star Alliance Points transfer at these rates:
- Air Canada Aeroplan: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Aeroplan points
- Air New Zealand Airpoints: 1,250 Star Alliance Points = 10 Airpoints dollars
- EVA Air Infinity MileageLands: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Infinity MileageLands miles
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 KrisFlyer miles
- South African Airways Voyager: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Voyager miles
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Royal Orchid Plus miles
- United Airlines MileagePlus: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 MileagePlus miles
I’m hoping that this card expands and becomes available in the US soon.