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Frequent flyer basics: Star Alliance elite tiers & benefits

By John Walton     Filed under: frequent flyer, star alliance, Star Alliance Silver, Star Alliance Gold, business travel basics

Flying on a Star Alliance airline and wondering what benefits you can expect for your Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines or other Star Alliance member Silver or Gold frequent flyer status?

Here's all the information you need to check whether the airline will give you business class lounge access, an additional extra luggage allowance, priority boarding, and more.

It's the latest in our series outlining the basics for newly minted frequent flyers (you can also read our 'need to know' articles on oneworld and SkyTeam), but even if it's all old hat to you, you might find the backgrounder useful.

Elite tiers

When you fly enough, your frequent flyer membership is upgraded to an elite tier, entitling you to benefits when you fly: things like business class lounge access, early boarding, and extra luggage.

But some airlines, especially in the US, provide extra benefits, which can include priority boarding, check-in and baggage, preferred seating, extra luggage allowance, waived hold baggage fees, and business class lounge access.

It's irritatingly unpredictable, and not all check-in agents know precisely which benefits are extended to Star Alliance partner airlines' frequent flyers and which aren't. It doesn't help that the airlines' websites don't state which benefits they do and don't extend to partners' frequent flyers. Which is a problem when you're trying to figure out your plans.

Our advice is to check the airlines' websites for their stated benefits their own frequent flyers get on other airlines (UnitedContinentalUS Airways) and either save the page to your smartphone or print out a copy. The official Star Alliance policy on who gets lounge access may also be helpful.

The two Star Alliance tiers: Silver and Gold

Silver members don't get a whole lot across the entire alliance: priority reservations waitlisting and priority airport standby don't add up to much.

Gold cardholders, by contrast, get a raft of benefits: priority reservations waitlisting, airport standby, check-in, boarding and baggage, plus extra luggage allowance (20kg or one extra bag), and access to the Star Alliance Gold lounges.

There's some variation here too. Some airlines -- usually the ones based in the United States -- also offer preferred seating, guaranteed seats and free upgrades.

But US members Continental, United and US Airways only give out lounge access to long-haul international travellers, and recognition of the benefits due to other airlines' Star Alliance Gold members can be patchy.

So here's how to translate your (for instance) Singapore Airlines PPS Club membership into US Airways Preferred status.

Silver

  • Miles & More Frequent Traveller (Adria; Austrian Airlines; Brussels Airlines; Croatia Airlines; LOT Polish Airlines; Lufthansa and Swiss)
  • Aegean Airlines Blue
  • Air Canada Prestige
  • Air China Silver
  • Air New Zealand Silver
  • ANA (All Nippon Airways) Bronze
  • Asiana Gold
  • BMI (British Midland International) Silver
  • Blue1 and SAS Silver
  • Continental Airlines Silver
  • EgyptAir Silver
  • Singapore Airlines Elite Silver
  • South African Airways Silver
  • Spanair Silver
  • TAM Blue
  • TAP Silver Winner
  • Thai Silver
  • Turkish Airlines Classic Plus
  • United Premier and Associate Premier
  • US Airways Silver Preferred

Gold

  • Miles & More Senator and HON Circle (Adria; Austrian Airlines; Brussels Airlines; Croatia Airlines; LOT Polish Airlines; Lufthansa and Swiss) 
  • Aegean Airlines Gold
  • Air Canada Elite and Super Elite
  • Air China Gold and Platinum
  • Air New Zealand Gold and Gold Elite
  • ANA (All Nippon Airways) Super Flyers, Diamond and Platinum
  • Asiana Diamond, Diamond Plus and Platinum
  • BMI (British Midland International) Gold
  • Blue1 and SAS Gold and Pandion
  • Continental Airlines Gold and Platinum
  • Singapore Airlines Elite Gold, PPS Club and Solitaire PPS Club
  • South African Airways Gold and Platinum
  • Spanair Gold
  • TAM Red and Black
  • TAP Gold Winner
  • Thai Gold
  • Turkish Airlines Elite and Elite Plus
  • United Premier; Executive 1K and Global Services
  • US Airways Gold Preferred, Platinum Preferred and Chairman's Preferred
Profile

About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 20/9/11 by andrewgill

Hi

As a Star Alliance Gold Card Holder, I've not been turned away from US or United lounges when travelling domestically (and not as part of an international journey)

Have I just been lucky?

 

andrew

1 on 21/9/11 by John

I reckon you have! The guidelines on that Star Alliance page clearly state that there's no access in Economy without an international flight...but that's a good example of how the agents' unfamiliarity with alliances can work in your favour.

2 on 27/10/12 by SQ_fan

It depends on the issuer of your Star Gold membership card! If it is issued by an airline other than United, US or Continental, you have access even on domestic flights. That's also the reason why it is in some cases more useful to have a non-US-carrier Gold membership! This is especially valid if you often fly domestically only! These people should sign up to Aegean Airlines for example...

2 on 4/3/13 by Paraic

I have silver status with Krisflyer it is a waste of time you get nothing, compared to Air New Zealands Silver status where you get 2 free lounge passes a year.  I wish Star alliance could ramp up the silver status benefits!!

 

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