After our review of Oneworld’s frequent flyer programme, it’s time for part two. This time, we’re looking at Star Alliance. Read on to find out all about the benefits of a Star Alliance membership, how to accrue points, and how to make the most of them.

Who is Star Alliance?

Star Alliance is the oldest and largest global airline alliance. It was formed in 1997 and is currently made up of 27 airlines. These member airlines work together to deliver a seamless passenger experience, with frequent flyers of one airline enjoying perks throughout the alliance – no matter with whom they fly.

Star Alliance features some heavyweight signatories, such as Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and United Airlines, meaning members enjoy a host of benefits near and far in both Europe and beyond.

How do I join Star Alliance?

There is no single Star Alliance Frequent Flyer Programme. You simply have to join one of the programmes offered by one of its members – such as United Airlines’ Mileage Plus. For the purpose of this post, that’s the example we’ll use throughout – and you can join it for free here.

Membership in any of the programmes gives you full access to the whole Star Alliance network, with no need to register with any additional programme run by any of the other airlines in the alliance – so the more you fly on member airlines, the faster you’ll earn sufficient miles or points to redeem for a reward ticket or upgrade. You just have to add your frequent flyer membership number when booking your flight or when checking in – the miles or points will be credited to your account automatically, if you travel in eligible booking classes.

Membership tiers

There are four status tiers you can progress up through in Star Alliance – Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K. Progression depends on how many Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) you earn on each flight you take. Generally speaking, when you reach ‘Star Alliance Gold’ status you’ll start to enjoy the greatest benefits. Gold status is the standardised name across the alliance for the tier that brings you priority check-in, priority boarding and lounge access when you fly on any airline in the alliance.

Using United Airlines’ Mileage Plus programme as the example, the details and top benefits of each tier are below:

Premier Silver (Star Alliance Silver)

  • 25,000 PQM required
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at check-in
  • 1 complimentary checked bag (70lbs/32kg)
  • 7x mile earning on every flight

Premier Gold (Star Alliance Gold)

  • 50,000 PQM required
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus
  • 2 complimentary checked bags (70lbs/32kg)
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security and immigration
  • Priority boarding
  • Lounge access
  • 8x mile earning on every flight

Premier Platinum (Star Alliance Gold)

  • 75,000 PQM required
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus for you and up to eight guests
  • 3 complimentary checked bags (70lbs/32kg)
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security and immigration
  • Priority boarding
  • Lounge access
  • 2 regional premier upgrades
  • 9x mile earning on every flight

Premier 1K (Star Alliance Gold)

  • 100,000 PQM required
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus for you and up to eight guests
  • 3 complimentary checked bags (70lbs/32kg)
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security and immigration
  • Priority boarding
  • Lounge access
  • 2 regional premier upgrades
  • 6 global premier upgrades
  • 11x mile earning on every flight

Earning Star Alliance miles

You earn PQM miles each time you fly on a Star Alliance carrier. Using our United Airlines Mileage Plus example, the number of miles you earn depend on which cabin and fare class you fly. Your Mileage Plus tier also will dictate how many miles you can earn.

When you book and fly on United, the amount of PQM miles you will earn is displayed on their website. You can also see your award miles (the other miles used for upgrades, for example) when you go to book your flight. You can keep track of how many miles you have earned by logging in to your Mileage Plus account.

As well as earning award miles when you fly, you can earn miles to use on award redemptions with partners like John Lewis, M&S and Ted Baker. However, these purchases must be made online through the Mileage Plus website.

Spending your miles

The good bit. Once you’ve saved up some miles you can, for instance, use them to upgrade an existing booking from Economy to Business Class or, if you have enough miles, you can book a flight using just miles – although you’ll still have to pay the additional taxes.

There are also retail partners with which you can spend your award miles such as Apple, Hertz and Michael Kors.

Award flight examples:

  • A one-way flight from London to New York in Economy will cost you 30,000 miles for a Saver Award flight
  • The same flight in Polaris Business Class will cost you 60,000 miles
  • Where you have already paid for Economy (O fare class), it will cost you 12,500 miles to upgrade to Premium Economy or 20,000 miles to upgrade to Business Class

United offers this very handy award chart which shows fixed costs for full award flights and for upgrades. It’s well worth a look.

Conclusion

Star Alliance offers the greatest choice of airlines and destinations around the world, with a strong presence in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Since the demise of British Midland – latterly known as BMI – the UK has been left without a local carrier that’s a member of Star Alliance. However, for frequent travellers who are used to connecting flights, you’ll find there are many carriers serving the UK that will get you to where you need to be via their hubs.

Star Alliance Gold offers a great deal of benefits and attaining it through the United Mileage Plus programme is within relatively easy reach with only a few flights across the pond – even less if you travel in a premium cabin. As usual, choosing an alliance comes down to personal preference and an evaluation of your travel habits in general. However, United’s offer of some generous extra perks to the regular Star Alliance Gold benefits very much helps to sweeten the deal. For example, complimentary Five Star or President’s Circle status at the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Programme, and complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold ‘Elite Status’ are included for all.

Want to compare Star Alliance and Oneworld? Read our review of the Oneworld Frequent Flyer Programme.

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