The complete guide to Star Alliance

Here's how you can unlock lounge access with at least 26 different airlines, just by holding one frequent flyer card.

By Brandon Loo , July 8 2020
The complete guide to Star Alliance

Enjoying the title of the world's largest airline alliance, having grown to house 26 members plus two 'connecting partners', 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, serving travellers across the globe.

Which airlines are members of Star Alliance?

As above, Star Alliance joins airlines together in partnership from across the globe.

The alliance's 26 member airlines 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 SilkAir – the company's regional full-service airline, and Scoot, which is a low-cost carrier.

Neither SilkAir nor Scoot are Star Alliance members, 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?

As most airlines operate their own frequent flyer program, Star Alliance has two alliance-wide tiers, which help to standardise benefits when a member from one airline travels with another.

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 Tier 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

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

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

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, airport lounge access.

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. Note that Economy Lite fares V, N, Q and K are not eligible.
Singapore Airlines earning rates when credited to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles. Note that Economy Lite fares V, N, Q and K are not eligible.

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 13,340 miles on a Sydney-Singapore-London trip, one-way).

But if you booked an Economy Lite ticket on Singapore Airlines instead, you wouldn't earn any Turkish Airlines miles at all. That's because Economy Lite 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.)

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 chart, which shows 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.

Also read: How to book a Star Alliance round-the-world trip

Upgrading flights with frequent flyer points across Star Alliance

Unlike its main competitor 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 that among the many restrictions, Singapore Airlines does not permit upgrades on all Airbus A350, A380 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft – and that makes up most of its long-range fleet. 

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.

Premium economy upgrades or alliance-wide redemptions are not yet possible within Star Alliance.

Read more: The Star Alliance business class upgrade guide

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 many 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 located in Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Nagoya, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rome and São Paulo. There are also first class lounges in Los Angeles and Paris.

Brandon Loo

Based in Perth, Brandon enjoys tucking into local delicacies, discovering new cocktails, and making aeroplane food look good on camera.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 131

Nice guide

As United 1K and Lufthansa Senator I used to highly value my hard earned status Airlines have really cut back and since flying is almost, if not totally, impossible for the forseeable future

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 41

FYI

Star Alliance Gold no longer comes with lounge access.

Only ticketed international long-haul FIrst, Business customers, as well as Star Alliance member's business, MICE and corporate travellers have access.

And I don't think you're doing Star Alliance justice.

And what's this BS about upgrades. There are PlusPoints, and SQ upgrade for Star Alliance partners are a lot easier etc.

poor.

Hi Levinn, your claim that Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers no longer qualify for lounge access is incorrect. The information we've published about Star Alliance upgrades is also accurate.

As you've commented about 'PlusPoints', we would highlight that these are specific to United, rather than being valid across Star Alliance, which is the focus of this guide. We would also highlight that as is common in North America, United implements some restrictions on its own frequent flyers when accessing United lounges, but which do not apply to Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers of other airlines, including when travelling within North America.


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