Today Australian Business Traveller continues our introduction to the 'need to know' essentials of the world's global airline alliances.
Star Alliance is the largest of the three global airline networks, with 27 current members and six more waiting to join. But on the local scene, Star has waned since the collapse of Australian partner Ansett almost a decade ago.
Several international Star Alliance members remain active in the Australian skies, however. And two of these -- Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines -- are lining up with Virgin Australia, which provides Virgin passengers the chance to earn points with those airlines rather than Virgin's own Velocity program.
(Virgin and Air New Zealand will begin point-sharing on July 26, along with other reciprocal rights for business travellers and frequent flyers, while the Singapore Airlines hook-up is expected to be completed by year's end.)
Virgin Australia chief John Borghetti has also admitted that his own airline could join Star Alliance, although Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller that "we've got so much stuff going on at Virgin Australia that that is really not in our thinking at the moment. That is something we'll think about in 2012 and beyond."
Key Star Alliance members for Australian travellers
While not all of these Star Alliance airlines fly into Australia (Lufthansa, for example), their hubs are key connection points for Australian travellers in their region.
Air New Zealand
Full membership list
The 27 current members of the Star Alliance are:
Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Blue1, BMI, Brussels Airlines, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines, TAM Airlines, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways.
Seven airlines also plan to join the Star Alliance: Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Airways (Taiwan), Avianca (Colombia), Copa Airlines (Panama), TACA (El Salvador) and Shenzhen Airlines (China).
Frequent Flyer levels and benefits
Specific benefits vary by airline, here's what you can generally expect:
Silver: priority reservations, waitlisting & standby. Some airlines also offer priority boarding, check-in and baggage, plus preferred seating, extra luggage, waived luggage fees and airport lounge access.
Gold: as Silver, plus extra 20kg or one piece of luggage, plus lounge access. (US Star Alliance members Continental, United and US Airways only give lounge access to long-haul international passengers.)
Star Alliance airlines flying to Australia
Air Canada (Sydney-Vancouver-Toronto)
Air China (Melbourne and Sydney to Beijing via Shanghai)
Air New Zealand
Asiana Airlines (Sydney-Seoul)
Continental Airlines (Cairns-Guam)
Singapore Airlines (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to Singapore)
South African Airways (Perth-Johannesburg)
Thai Airways International (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to Bangkok)
United Airlines (Sydney & Melbourne to Los Angeles, Sydney-San Francisco)
Key hubs with Star Alliance flights from Australia
Auckland AKL (Air New Zealand)
Bangkok BKK (Thai Airways)
Beijing PEK (Air China)
Los Angeles LAX (United, Air New Zealand)
San Francisco SFO (United)
Singapore SIN (Singapore Airlines)
Seoul Incheon ICN (Asiana)
Shanghai PVG (Air China)
Vancouver (Air Canada)
Other articles in this series:
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.