Qantas and Virgin Australia frequent flyers can take advantage of a generous status match to top-tier Gold status across all Star Alliance airlines.
Your Gold or Platinum membership in the Qantas Frequent Flyer or Velocity Frequent Flyer schemes is all it takes to unlock 90 days of Gold-grade benefits such as airport lounge access, priority check-in and boarding and a boosted baggage allowance across all Star Alliance airlines: a solid roster which includes Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Thai Airways, Air New Zealand, ANA, Lufthansa and Swiss.
And with a single flight you can extend your Star Alliance Gold status through to January 2020.
Ready to grab your Gold-plated perks? Here's the drill.
Qualifying for the Star Alliance Gold status match
The Star Alliance Gold status match is being offer by United Airlines as part of what it calls a 'status challenge' promotion.
You'll start with 90 days at either United's Premier Gold or Premier Platinum frequent flyer tiers, both of which line up with Star Alliance Gold.
That status can then be extended to a much longer period by completing a 'status challenge' during which you have to fly a certain number of miles with United.
United Airlines accepts a wide range of frequent flyer programs for the status match, including Qantas Gold, Platinum and Platinum One, and Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum.
Also on the list are the following cards from overseas-based airlines that fly to Australia:
- American Airlines (AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey)
- British Airways (Executive Club Silver, Gold, Premier)
- Cathay Pacific (Marco Polo Club Gold, Diamond)
- China Airlines (Emerald, Paragon)
- China Eastern (Eastern Miles Gold)
- China Southern (Sky Pearl Gold)
- Delta Air Lines (Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion)
- Emirates (Skywards Gold, Platinum)
- Etihad (Guest Gold, Platinum)
- Hawaiian Airlines (Pualani Gold, Platinum)
- Japan Airlines (Sapphire, Diamond, JGC Premier)
- Korean Air (Morning Calm Premium)
- LATAM (Platinum, Black, Black Signature: choose 'LAN Airlines' from the list and add a comment to your request as these names have recently changed)
- Malaysia Airlines (Enrich Gold, Platinum)
- Qatar Airways (Privilege Club Gold, Platinum)
The roster also encompasses airlines further afield like Air France, Alitalia, Finnair and Virgin Atlantic.
Of course, United won't do a status match to another Star Alliance airline; and if you've taken advantage of a different United status match or status challenge in the past five years, even if that matched status has since expired, you won't be eligible to sign up this time around.
You won't lose your existing airline status in the process, of course, so there's no harm in taking part if you have some United or Star Alliance flights coming up – but whether you continue flying with these airlines, or return to your 'old' airline, is up to you.
Signing up for the Star Alliance Gold status match
So you have your shiny Gold or Platinum card at the ready?
If you're already a member of United's MileagePlus frequent flyer scheme, get things moving by visiting this promotion page on the United Airlines website and logging into your account.
If you’re not already a MileagePlus member, you'll first need to sign up, and then return to the promo page to register for the challenge.
The next screen asks to confirm your email address, mailing address and your phone number.
This is where you'll also share the details of your current Gold or Platinum frequent flyer status, and provide proof of that status – either by attaching a photograph, scan or screenshot of your current membership card, or a copy of your most recent mileage summary from your airline which shows your status.
Planning your 'status match challenge'
The last part of the registration asks you to nominate the date you'd like to begin not only your 90-day status match to United MileagePlus Premier Gold and Premier Platinum, but the 'challenge' to earn enough United frequent flyer miles to keep that status.
If you're looking only to grab that 90 days of gratis status only to ensure lounge access, priority check-in and so on during a forthcoming trip on any Star Alliance, set the start date accordingly.
However, if you're serious about taking advantage of the challenge to pocket Star Alliance Gold status beyond 90 days, it's important to make the right choice on your challenge start date.
If you complete your challenge – that is, you take the last flight needed to hold onto your new status – on or before June 30 2018, your Star Alliance Gold membership will be extended until January 31 2019.
However, if you complete your challenge on or after July 1 2018, that same status will be yours until January 31 2020 – giving you an extra year of lounge access and 'priority everything'!
Savvy flyers might choose to delay their status challenge application until May or even June, when taking eligible flights in July or beyond, to make the most of this deal.
If you don't meet the requirements of your challenge – more on this below – you'll drop to your previous status with United when the 90-day period concludes, which means losing your Star Alliance Gold perks.
How to keep your new Star Alliance Gold status
It typically takes 7-14 days for United to approve your application.
And as soon as you've been bumped to United Premier Gold or Premier Platinum that 90-day clock starts ticking on earning the necessary amount of what United calls 'Premier-qualifying miles' (PQMs) on flights operated by United Airlines or its regional offshoot United Express.
Think of PQMs as United's version of Qantas or Velocity status credits.
Frequent flyers matched to Premier Gold – typically by being a Qantas Gold or Velocity Gold member, for example – need to earn 12,500 PQMs to successfully complete their challenge and extend their status.
For travellers given Premier Platinum status by way of their existing Qantas Platinum or Velocity Platinum membership, the bar is set a little higher at 18,000 PQMs Note that as a Premier Platinum candidate you won't be able to obtain Premier Gold at the lower 12,500-mile rate: you can only retain Premier Platinum at 18,000 PQMs, or lose your status after 90 days.
However, flights taken with other Star Alliance airlines don't contribute to your challenge.
You can still fly with other Star Alliance carriers during this time and can enjoy perks like airport lounge access if your boarding pass reflects your new Star Alliance Gold status: but to keep this for longer than 90 days, you'll need to fly with United.
How to lock in Star Alliance Gold status with a single flight
Keeping your United status is all about racking up the right number of PQMs – and because Australia is quite a distance from the United States, it's possible to earn all the PQMs you need to retain Premier Gold or Premier Platinum in a single return trip.
Take United's Sydney-Los Angeles route: even a one-way ticket in business class (or one return flight in economy) pulls in almost 15,000 PQMs. That's enough to complete the Premier Gold challenge and provide Star Alliance Gold until January 2019 or 2020, depending on when you take that flight.
The same is true of United's Sydney-San Francisco flights of a similar length, while its Melbourne-Los Angeles route offers closer to 16,000 PQMs on identical tickets, given its longer distance.
United's new Sydney-Houston service provides just over 17,000 PQMs (return in economy or one-way in business class) – enough for Premier Gold, but just shy of the 18,000 PQMs needed for those completing the Platinum challenge.
That's where a connecting flight comes in handy, such as from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston to New York with United or United Express, on which you'd earn enough PQMs to get over the Premier Platinum mark.
Meet your target and your United Premier / Star Alliance Gold membership expiry date will be updated within five to seven business days and a proper United membership card will arrive at your doorstep shortly after.
Finally, keep in mind that United Premier Gold and Platinum doesn't provide access to United lounges on domestic trips within the USA, but if that's a perk you're looking for, Singapore Airlines is also offering a fast-track to KrisFlyer Gold (Star Alliance Gold) after just three flights, which does open these doors.
Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyers will enjoy have access to Qantas Clubs around Australia under the newly-forged alliance between the two airlines.
As of October 28, 2018, Airpoints Elite and Gold members booked on a codeshare flight with Qantas will find the doors swing open for them at the two dozen Qantas Club lounges in Australia's capital cities and regional centres. They'll also be permitted to bring in one guest.
But it won't be as easy as flashing your shiny Airpoints card, as the following conditions apply:
- you have to be travelling on a domestic Qantas flight
- it has to be booked under the Air New Zealand codeshare (those flight numbers will be in the NZ7xxx range)
- and this must be booked as part of a trans-Tasman booking
This arrangement replaces Airpoints access to Virgin Australia lounges following the dramatic bust-up between the two former allies.
However, there appears to be no Qantas Club lounge access for Koru Club members, nor can AirNZ frequent flyers cool their heels in the more upmarket Qantas Business lounges.
The Qantas / Air New Zealand alliance covers selected flights on the domestic network of each airline, however trans-Tasman and other international flights are excluded from the arrangement.
Cathay Pacific will roll out its new 'business class dining concept' this month, with the meal service taking a step closer to a first class experience.
Meals will be individually plated and delivered to passengers by hand rather than by trolley, as the airline adopts more personalised and upmarket approach.
Cathay also expects this will result in a "quieter and calmer cabin environment", especially on late night flights.
Passengers will have a choice between three appetisers and "up to six main course choices" on flights over ten hours in the initial launch of the service to the likes of Chicago (on July 30), London/Gatwick (in August) followed by Frankfurt, Manchester and Washington DC (September); Amsterdam, Paris and Johannesburg (October), Madrid, Brussels and Barcelona (November) and London/Heathrow (December).
And, being very much on trend, light and healthy 'wellbeing options' feature in every main course.
On flights from Hong Kong the menu will be changed every month, with a quarterly menu refresh for flights to Hong Kong.
Fights from Hong Kong (but not, for now, the return leg) will also see a new range of Hong Kong Favourites inspired by local dishes, such as
- Hong Kong char siu pork with egg noodles, seasoned soy sauce, spring onion and ginger (shown below)
- Wok fried seafood in lobster soup with ginger, spring onion, crispy and steamed rice
- Beef brisket with flat rice noodle soup
- Mango with pomelo and sago
But before all that eatings starts, business class passengers will notice the new-look menus.
Printed as eight pages on quality paper, they not only detail the meals and drinks available on that flight but include foodie-friendly articles such as 'Anatomy of a Laksa' and feature a local chef revealing their favourite eateries both in Hong Kong and around thr world.
There will also be a breakfast menu card which passengers will complete before hitting the hay, so that they can wake to what the airline described as a "hotel room-service" experience.
However, these are set menus rather than allowing travellers to pick-and-mix from a wide selection of items.
In addition to what's described as 'traditional' Chinese and Western breakfasts, there's also a lighter Continental breakfast plus a minimalist Express breakfast of a piece of pastry and a drink, which can be served 60 minutes before landing for passengers who wish to maximise their sleep.
Refreshments will be revamped as a selection of 'most loved dishes' available throughout the flight as a snack between meals on services to North America and Europe, including the airline's signature burger and popular soup noodles. These will also appear on the main meal menu.
Next year will see Cathay's 'new business class dining concept' extend to medium-distance routes, with plans to include Sydney and Auckland in February 2019 and Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide and Perth in May 2019.
Very few watches can claim true originality, and the Cartier Santos is among those few.
The Santos made its debut way back in 1904 as a personal timepiece for aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, making it both the first pilot’s watch and one of the earliest known men’s wristwatches.
As we've previously detailed, the Santos was borne from a request by Brazilian flyer Santos-Dumont, who told his friend Louis Cartier – then a Parisian watchmaker – of the challenge of timing flights using the then-conventional pocket watch, as pilots needed to keep both hands on the aircraft controls.
In response, Cartier designed a large square-faced watch and fitted it to a strap so it could be worn on the wrist – quite a revolutionary concept at the time.
The first commercial Cartier Santos watches went on sale to the public in 1911 with solid gold cases and ultra-thin mechanical movements designed by French clockmaker Edmond Jaeger.
(In order to produce this movement for Cartier, Jaeger worked with Swiss movement manufacturer Jacques-David LeCoultre, a partnership that would lead to the birth of storied brand Jaeger-LeCoultre.)
The enduring design of the Cartier Santos was reimagined in the late 1970s as a luxury steel sports watch, later adding two-tone steel and gold and the now-iconic screwed bezel with exposed gold screws along the bracelet for a modern, industrial aesthetic.
For 2018, Cartier has once again re-invented the Santos.
The distinctive screw-set bezel now tapers at both ends towards the bracelet to create an organic, integrated look.
The satin-brushed case features a wide mirror-polished bevel along its length, extending all the way to the gracefully curved crown guards at 3 o’clock. A square watch the Santos may be, but there’s hardly a sharp edge or straight line to be found.
The case has been slimmed dramatically from previous incarnations of the Santos, allowing this watch to disappear easily under a shirt cuff when needed.
The bracelet is fitted with a new 'QuickSwitch' system allowing for easy swapping with the included tan calfskin strap or Cartier’s alternative crocodile straps, providing some style versatility.
Adding or removing bracelet links has also been made easier with a new 'SmartLink' design which allows the wearer to expand the bracelet during a hot summer’s day without requiring a tool.
While the bezel, case and bracelet have all been modernised, the dial remains classic Cartier. With Roman numerals, a railroad minute-track and heat-blued hands, it’s hard to imagine a more traditional look.
The 2018 Cartier Santos can serve dress-watch and sports-watch duties equally well, and boasts a history that few timepieces can match.
• In-house mechanical movement with automatic winding
• Seven-sided crown set with a faceted synthetic spinel
• Silvered opaline dial, blued-steel sword-shaped hands, sapphire crystal
• Water-resistant to 10 bar (approximately 100 metres)
• Medium version case width: 35.1 mm, thickness: 8.83 mm
• Large version case width: 39.8 mm, thickness: 9.08 mm
• Pricing from A$8,750 for the Cartier Santos Medium in steel, to A$52,500 for the Cartier Santos Large in solid pink gold with matching pink gold bracelet. For stockists, visit www.au.cartier.com.
Finnair will launch inflight Internet on its European flights this week, with travellers able to enjoy the high-speed satellite service free of charge during a two-month trial period running through to the end of September.
The Oneworld airline has already outfitted six of its single-aisle Airbus jets with technology provided through partner Viasat, which also provided the backbone for Qantas' Australia-wide WiFi system.
By the end of northern summer some 20 aircraft will be upgraded, with Finnair's entire single-aisle Airbus fleet slated for WiFi by mid-2019.
The system will be available on a gate-to-gate basis, so passengers won't even need to wait for their jet to reach level flight – which will maximise time online for many of Finnair's relatively short European hops.
However, parts of some European routes will present black spots to the satellite network, including above the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea, while some restrictions also apply over Latvia, Lithuania, parts of Belarus and Russia.
Over the two-month testing period Finnair intends to "gather information on system functionality and feedback on the overall customer experience."
"In entering the passenger testing phase, we’ll be gaining the critical insights needed to further optimise our service to ensure Finnair customers get a unique experience built around their needs, interests and usage behaviours," explains Viasat vice-president Don Buchman.
The airline has yet to reveal what pricing it will charge for its sky-high WiFi once the trial period ends, although frequent flyers will no doubt hope that some sort of monthly pass is available as an alternative to paying on a per-flight basis.
Finnair already offers WiFi on its long-range 'intercontinental' jets, with the first hour free for business class and Finnair Plus Gold members, then €3 (A$4.70) for three hours or €20 (A$31) for the entire flight. Finnair Plus Platinum frequent flyers are provided with free Internet access for the whole flight.