Five things I learned flying round-the-world with Star Alliance

Five things I learned flying round-the-world with Star Alliance

Taking a round-the-world trip is quite different to a typical return flight: you’re always jetting onward to the next place rather than backward along the same path, and the nature of the ticket allows you to visit many cities (or clients) on a single trip abroad.

I had the chance to fly round-the-world with Star Alliance in 2018, and despite having hundreds of other flights under my belt, this type of journey was far from an ordinary business trip!

Here are some of the things I learned along the way, and how my nine-country voyage came together.

1. Star Alliance Connection Centres keep things running smoothly

In an ideal world, every flight would run on time – but when journeys are delayed, Star Alliance’s Connection Service teams spring into action to either whisk passengers to their awaiting aircraft with bags in-tow, or to rebook them with minimal disruption, as I witnessed first-hand in Frankfurt.

While this concept certainly isn’t unique to Star Alliance, what takes things up a notch is the proactive monitoring of every connecting journey through ‘Connection Centre’ airports, even when flights are running on-time: such as if the computer detects there’s a long walk between departure gates and not enough time to do so without assistance, or when security lines are longer than usual.

During more impactful delays, the Connection Service can also work with airlines and airport authorities to improvise time-saving solutions: whether that’s parking two aircraft next to each other when a large volume of passengers are connecting onto a specific flight, or even arranging the switch to a larger aircraft to get more passengers to their destination sooner.

Read more: Behind the scenes at Star Alliance's Frankfurt Connection Centre

2. Having all Star Alliance airlines under one roof keeps things simple

When flying out of a major airport – London Heathrow, for example – I always appreciate it when airlines, and in this case, Star Alliance, do what they can to keep things simple for passengers: and having every Star Alliance airline departing from the same terminal takes some of the stress away from travel.

For instance, when flying with Oneworld airlines from Heathrow, the flight could be departing from Terminals 3, 4 or 5, which means checking the ticket closely before each flight: and of course, different terminals have different lounges, each of a different standard and with different access rules.

On the other hand, every single one of the 25 Star Alliance airlines serving Heathrow use Terminal 2 – so I know that wherever I’m headed and with whichever airline, I’m always going to the same terminal, and will have access to the same lounges, which all follow the alliance’s core access rules.

Read: Your guide to London Heathrow's Star Alliance business class lounges

It also makes connecting between flights much easier, because you don’t need to navigate your way between terminals or worry about where you’re arriving and where your next flight is departing: you’re already where you need to be, which means a shorter connection or more lounge time.

Also read: A business traveller's guide to London Heathrow's Terminal 2

3. Choose your round-the-world frequent flyer program carefully

Naturally, travellers can earn miles and build Star Alliance status on round-the-world tickets, but depending on which airlines you’re flying with, some frequent flyer programs may be more attractive than others.

That’s because the number of miles you can earn from the same flight will vary from program to program, sometimes quite dramatically, as I noticed with Air Canada when flying from Brisbane to Vancouver and onwards to New York.

Crediting those flights to United MileagePlus served up two United miles per one mile flown, whereas if I’d credited them to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer scheme, I’d have only earned one KrisFlyer mile per mile flown, being literally half as many miles from the same flights.

On the other hand, some airlines are also less-generous with miles earning across the board, such as EVA Air, which provides fewer Star Alliance miles on its flights than many other airlines on journeys of similar distances.

The way that you earn and retain your Star Alliance status also varies from one program to the next, so while United was a good choice for earning spendable miles on the trip, qualifying for any tier of elite United status also requires taking four United flights, regardless of how much other Star Alliance travel has been completed.

Programs like Asiana Club make earning status a little easier, with the trade-off being fewer award miles being earned on many flights and that Asiana miles are otherwise difficult for Australian travellers to earn as a top-up, so the best frequent flyer program for a round-the-world trip naturally varies from one trip to the next.

4. Jet lag is surprisingly manageable on round-the-world trips

Jet lag can be tough to manage at the best of times, especially on flights that cross many time zones: but when you’re hopping from one time zone to the next – and doing so every couple of days for weeks on end – it’s not as hard to conquer as you might think.

I always do my best to adjust to the destination time zone before touching down, and found that by doing so again here, I didn’t have to do anything ‘special’ just because I was circling the planet: sleeping at the most optimal times was more than enough to keep me energised, and not only for business meetings during the day, but also to better-enjoy my downtime.

For example, after a full day of work and meetings in Frankfurt, I still had the energy to go exploring the city in the evening – fortunately during the European summer when the sun is up late, for better visibility – and notched up over 15,000 steps in one outing without dozing off.

Read: Here's how to tailor your jet lag strategy to suit each trip

On weekends, I also took the opportunity to discover more of the places nearby: taking day trips from New York to Boston, and from London to Brussels, to discover two cities I’d not previously visited while getting some very helpful exercise during what was otherwise long periods of sitting down.

Also read: Tips for staying trim when travelling on business

5. Round-the-world tickets can still be altered when your plans change

With some airlines, it can be difficult or even impossible to amend a booking once travel has already commenced, but when the opportunity arose to visit Rome during the trip – for the opening of Star Alliance’s new airport lounge – tweaking the ticket wasn’t too tricky, switching a non-stop Frankfurt-Zurich flight for Frankfurt-Rome and Rome-Zurich on the same day.

That said, what was difficult was finding flights with business class fare availability, given the last-minute change: so the travel agent kept my confirmed Frankfurt-Zurich flight in place, while adding ‘waitlisted’ flights for the Rome connection, which were fortunately cleared prior to travel.

For business travellers whose schedules can often change, that’s something worth keeping in mind – obviously, the earlier you request a flight change, the better your chances of remaining in business class on the new flight, but the option of downgrading to economy for that leg only was also available, if there were no other options for getting to where I needed to be.

Flying Star Alliance round-the-world: the journey

Business travellers fly for all different reasons, and as an international journalist, the aim of my journey was to review a wide range of flights and airport lounges from around the world, that hadn’t previously been covered on Australian Business Traveller.

That saw me taking the following Star Alliance flights:

The journey above also afforded access to the following airport lounges, which, with the helping hand of Star Alliance and its member airlines for access to a few of the higher-tier lounges, allowed us to bring you a long list of fresh reviews:

To learn more about flying round-the-world with Star Alliance yourself, also read:

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Star Alliance, Air Canada, EVA Air, Lufthansa and SWISS.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

21 comments

  • Fonga

    Fonga

    19 Feb, 2019 01:01 pm

    A very persuasive argument for choosing Star airlines Chris. Having all alliances airlines in the one terminal with same access rules for lounge entry in a place like Heathrow is a big plus. Still not convinced though, having read all the related reviews, that standards across all these airlines are as good as Oneworld.
    Member who gave thanks

    Frank

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    19 Feb, 2019 01:31 pm

    Well, our job isn't to pursuade, but to provide readers with useful information that helps inform their own travel decisions, whatever they may be: but of course, the best-fit alliance for each round-the-world trip would certainly depend on where you're heading.

    For this particular itinerary, only Star Alliance had flights between Brisbane and Canada (and as a Brisbane resident, I'd rather not have to transit via Sydney or somewhere like LA, if I can avoid it), there are surprisingly no Oneworld flights between New York and Frankfurt (two big financial hubs), and then once you're in Europe, with Oneworld you're limited to BA (mainly London), Iberia (only relevant if you're going to Spain) and of course Finnair, while Star Alliance has 10+ European partners and more in other close destinations (Egyptair, Turkish), which means you can fly between many more cities on non-stop flights.

    Despite having no 'local' member airline in London, with 25 of Star's 28 airlines serving Heathrow, it's also not hard to include London in an itinerary, and for Taipei, there's again no Oneworld airline directly serving London-Taipei or Taipei-Brisbane (both would otherwise require transits via somewhere like Hong Kong, or taking a SkyTeam carrier instead - granted, EVA's flights run via Bangkok), so for this type of itinerary, Star was the best fit.

    Obviously, it could be a different picture if you're mainly flying to and through airports that are home bases for various Oneworld airlines, and the same could be said of SkyTeam.
    Member who gave thanks

    Frank

  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    19 Feb, 2019 01:32 pm

    I'm also a fan of star alliance. Much better alliance and very well organized. Oneworld on the other hand is much worse. Qantas even refuses to check through my baggage to JL in MEL even though it was on the same ticket/PNR, reason being QF can't check in through baggages for flights on "different day", as JL departs MEL at 00:45 the "next day".
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  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    19 Feb, 2019 01:35 pm

    When I complained that star alliance would've checked us through, the answer from ground staff was "fly star alliance then!"

    (I would if only AN is still operational 😡)
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  • IntegralMan

    IntegralMan

    19 Feb, 2019 02:25 pm

    Looks like a ripper of a trip Chris. Were you able to spend a couple of days at each stop?
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    19 Feb, 2019 03:44 pm

    Hi IntegralMan, Vancouver, Rome and Bangkok were just airport transits, while the rest of the trip provided 2-3 nights in each city.

    Being a business trip, that time was mostly spent working, with free time in the evenings for any city wandering and catching up with some expat friends of mine in various places (which was nice!), and on two blocked 'days off' each week, which is when I was able to squeeze in my side trips to places like Boston and Brussels for a little more exploring, given I'd been to New York and London many times before but was so close to what were other, 'new' destinations.

    There's no doubt that flying round-the-world in business class is a great experience: there's just lots of work to get done along the way (and after returning home)!

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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    20 Feb, 2019 08:15 am

    Fair enough that the purpose of this trip was to review particular flights and airport lounges, but for the vast majority of travellers, why travel in a 'tin can' within Europe when there's the wonderful alternative of a relaxing, comfortable and extremely scenic journey by rail either using point-to-point tickets or one of the various rail passes (depending on how much travel one does)?

    Having a beer or a hot chocolate in a European buffet car as one seamlessly moves from city centre to city centre beats LH or other airlines within Europe any day, and some airlines even offer rail as a substitute 'flight' it's so good.

    By only ever flying once within Europe (Munich to Istanbul), I have had the repeated joy of seeing a large variety of countries at eye level, noting the history and architecture en route.


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  • Ian_from_HKG

    Ian_from_HKG

    20 Feb, 2019 03:36 pm

    I think you have been pretty misleading in one respect, Chris. You said:

    "when flying with Oneworld airlines from Heathrow ... different terminals have different lounges, each of a different standard and with different access rules. On the other hand, every single one of the 25 Star Alliance airlines serving Heathrow use Terminal 2 – so I know that wherever I’m headed and with whichever airline, I ... will have access to the same lounges, which all follow the alliance’s core access rules."

    The clear implication of this statement is that oneworld airlines at Heathrow don't follow the same access rules. Now there are two ways of interpreting this that I can think of. The generous interpretation is that some airlines give preferential access rights to their own FF pax (eg Marco Polo Silver members get access to CX lounges when flying economy, which is more generous than oneworld rules) - but then exactly the same is true of Star Alliance carriers, some of which follow different access rules for their own FF member pax, so that can't be what you mean. The other interpretation is that oneworld carriers don't all follow oneworld lounge access rules. Either way, the statement is complete bollocks, I'm afraid.
    No member give thanks

  • QFP1

    QFP1

    20 Feb, 2019 04:08 pm

    I respectfully disagree, Ian. As a business class passenger or a Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer it's very clear which lounges at T2 I can use, compared to say BA at T5 or Qatar at T4, both of which are more 'selective' when it comes to who can use which lounge.
    No member give thanks

  • Ian_from_HKG

    Ian_from_HKG

    20 Feb, 2019 04:34 pm

    What is unclear about the access rules, QFP1?

    The oneworld lounge access rules are on the website. There are certain exclusions which are made fairly clear. I won't list all of them but in essence:
    • J pax can access J lounges
    • F pax can access F lounges
    • OWE pax can access F lounges (some exceptions)
    • OWR pax can access J lounges
    • Some airlines give access to their own FF pax when flying on their own metal but they don't have access when flying other airlines
    You mention LHR T4, where there is an exception that operates stating that status access to the QR lounge is not permitted. So QR and MH pax can access the QR lounge in LHR T4 by virtue of premium travel class, but not status. At T5 it's equally simple - OWS gets you access to J lounges, OWE gets you access to F lounges, flying F gets you access to the CCR. All this is explained on the OW website.

    Let's compare LHR T2. If you are LH Group Hon or Sen or flying F you get access to a separate lounge. If you are flying short-haul and leaving from the main terminal, I understand the only lounge you get access to is is the LH lounge in the main building unless you want a long walk to the satellite building. The United lounge in T2 has an F section only for F and top-tier UA pax, no access for *G, and all their rules are expected to change when it becomes a Polaris lounge. I could go on.

    Each alliance has its peculiarities. *A and OW are no different in this regard. The fact remains that in general, OWE get access to lounges better than J lounges where these are offered and whether or not they are flying on their home carrier, *G do not. *G only get the better lounges when flying on their home carrier.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    20 Feb, 2019 04:29 pm

    Hi Ian, we would remind that the comment space underneath articles is provided for readers to discuss the topic of an article among themselves, not to send direct messages to authors or editors which are welcome via email, as outlined in AusBT's published comment policy.

    To respond to the matter of Oneworld lounge access at Heathrow, however, a few examples that come to mind across T3, T4 and T5 that speak to the "different access rules" alluded in the article:

    • BA's The Concorde Room lounge in T5 is exclusively for BA's own first class passengers (and the highest tier of BA frequent flyers). By comparison, the first class lounges of Singapore Airlines and United in T2 welcome all Star Alliance first class passengers in line with Star Alliance rules (in addition to selected frequent flyers), rather than being exclusively for their own passengers.
    • Qatar Airways' business class and first class Premium Lounge in T4 doesn't admit any Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald frequent flyers whatsoever, nor does it admit any +1s of first class pasengers as is otherwise a published Oneworld benefit. Instead, those guests, and frequent flyers (who aren't travelling in Oneworld business or first class) are sent off to the lounge of a competing alliance - the SkyTeam Lounge, which isn't close to being on-par.
    • Qantas' one-size-fits-all lounge in T3 also separates the experience of Qantas Platinum/Oneworld Emerald with that of actual first class passengers, where only the latter (plus Qantas' own Platinum One, Chairman's Lounge and VIP flyers) get the 'full' bar menu.

    By comparison, if you're flying Star Alliance first class from T2, you can visit any of the Star Alliance first class lounges, along with your guest; if you're a Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer, you can visit - at minimum - the same lounge available to business class passengers. Neither of those statements are true of Oneworld at Heathrow.


    In future, such questions are welcome via email as above, but in the interests of keeping discussions on-topic and on-track, further such comments will be removed, in line with the site's comment policy.

    No member give thanks

  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    20 Feb, 2019 04:44 pm

    Both Ian_from_HKG 's comment and ChrisCh 's reply were well researched.

     
    Threatening future similar comments with deletion is odd since Ian was addressing the content of the article.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    20 Feb, 2019 04:59 pm

    Hi Traveller14, as the Comment Policy also says, "up for deletion: comments which centre on how an article has been written or presented", and "If you want to make suggestions or offer constructive criticism, send an email to the editor".

    As above, readers are welcome to use the comments section to discuss the topic of each article among themselves, but readers who wish to provide feedback or pose questions directly to the author or the editor responsible for an article, are welcome to send those directly to the author or editor responsible for the article.

    Now, it's time to get the discussion back on-topic and on-track. Comments that veer off-topic (the topic here being round-the-world travel with Star Alliance) will be edited or removed, in line with AusBT's long-running Comment Policy.

    No member give thanks

  • David Chan

    DavidChan

    20 Feb, 2019 03:59 pm

    Always love to get the Oneworld vs Star Alliance argument rolling again. I’ve been Qantas Platinum One for past 4 years and I am ALWAYS wondering if the grass is really greener with Star. Keep the pros and cons coming guys...
    No member give thanks

  • Ian_from_HKG

    Ian_from_HKG

    20 Feb, 2019 04:07 pm

    Well, as fellow top-tier OW members, DavidChan, let me point out one of their pros (which I am sure you are aware of). Top-tier oneworld members get access to F lounges. Top-tier *A members get access to designated Star Gold lounges (which are often the operating airline's J lounge) or general J lounges.

    Now there are exceptions - BA provide special lounges for their own F pax (Concorde Room/Concorde Lounge in a few airports) for instance - although they still provide F lounges which aren't really for F pax but are for oneworld emerald travellers. Similarly LH group provide special lounges for their own top-tier members. By and large, though, top-tier OW members get access to better-than-J lounges where these are available. It has always struck me that this is one of the key advantages of OW.
    Members who gave thanks

    Frank, DavidChan

  • David Chan

    DavidChan

    21 Feb, 2019 08:05 am

    Thanks Ian. I don’t mind the BA 1st lounges although I’ve often wondered about the Concorde Room.
    No member give thanks

  • Paul Chamberlain

    wawanderer

    20 Feb, 2019 04:11 pm

    Interesting article Chris , I got back on Monday after flying RTW with One World on a Finnair ticket which was fantastic value and would highly recommend the experience.
    Totally agree about the terminals at LHR as have found myself in the wrong terminal on at least one occasion when I assumed (incorrectly) my BA long haul flight would leave from T5.
    I found it cheaper to fly RTW from Perth (about $6250 business class) than $8500 return to DFW. I managed to do some business in London as well as add in a couple of overnight stops in places I wanted to check out. I still ended up flying to DFW with Qantas so was a great outcome.

    I am a QF Platinum member and am doing a RTW with Lufthansa in December (Qantas again to DFW) As I don't have a Star Alliance account I hope to get status match (is that still available?) as I am doing 4 flights in business with Lufthansa I hope to maintain status for a year. Who knows I might even prefer Star Alliance.
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  • tony walker

    tonyw

    20 Feb, 2019 04:13 pm

    Flying West, rather than East, reduces jet lag
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  • Ian_from_HKG

    Ian_from_HKG

    20 Feb, 2019 05:22 pm

    Back to the topic indeed. Lounge access rules for *A travellers state the following exceptions (there are some others, but I am focusing on I think are the most important ones), which pax should be aware of when planning RTW itineraries:

    • *Some member airlines offer exclusive lounges for their own ultra-premium customers: Lufthansa HON/First Class Lounges in Frankfurt and Munich; SWISS HON/First Class Lounges in Zurich and Geneva; Austrian HON/First Class Lounges in Vienna, Thai Airways Spa Lounge in Bangkok (subject to change).
    • Restrictions apply for Domestic First Class passengers travelling with United Airlines in the United States, where Domestic First Class customers do not have access to United’s Club lounges.
    • Restrictions apply for Domestic Business Class passengers travelling with United Airlines in the USA where Domestic Business Class customers do not have access to United’s Club lounges.
    • If you are a United MileagePlus Star Alliance Gold customer, you may only access the United Clubs within the U.S. when departing from that airport on an international Star Alliance flight, not when departing on a domestic flight with United

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  • Bill Gillespie

    World traveler

    20 Feb, 2019 06:28 pm

    As a frequent RTW traveler, for pleasure, we find traveling in a westward direction helps keep jet lag in check. We are also tied to Star Alliance's Miles and More, as we take advantage of Swiss/Austrian/Lufthansa tickets and their Senator status gives good perks.
    No member give thanks

  • Ken Endacott

    bigken

    20 Feb, 2019 06:31 pm

    The jet lag management relies on having a flat bed. Not all aircraft have that. For example Narita to Vancouver on JAL is a 787 without a flat bed in J class. Although JAL are not in Star Alliance I am sure that there are examples in Star Alliance.
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21 May, 2019 03:27 am

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