Members of Star Alliance partners – including Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, United and Asiana – can now trade their points for upgrades on flights with Air Canada and US Airways.
Although already members of Star Alliance, the Canadian and US carriers had yet to sign up to the Upgrade Awards program which allows members of other Star Alliance airlines to trade their points in for an upgrade when travelling on an Air Canada or US Airways flight.
Upgrades are permitted for one class of travel, either from economy class to business class or from business class to first class (if first is available on that flight), although upgrades from some heavily-discounted fares are not permitted.
No mention is made of premium economy, which is an increasingly popular cabin class among airlines, so if you're flying economy on a Star partner which also offers a premium economy cabin you should check with the airline about your upgrade award options.
"Our frequent flyers have always told us that upgrading using miles across the entire alliance is one of the highest sought after benefits" said Star Alliance vice-president Christopher Korenke. "We are working on getting the remaining Star Alliance member carriers into the product as soon as possible."
Frequent flyers have often been frustrated by the inability to use one airline's points to upgrade when flying on another airline belonging to the same alliance.
For example, no matter how many Qantas Frequent Flyer points you have or how high your status is, you can't use your Qantas points to upgrade a ticket on a British Airways flight – despite the fact that both belong to the same OneWorld alliance, and even if your BA flight is codeshared with Qantas.
In other words: you buy a BA economy seat and you're stuck with it, whereas on most Star Alliance airlines you can now bump up one class depending on seat availability.
For more on the Star Alliance Upgrade Awards program, click here.