Imagine if you had to book individual flights and make separate arrangements for your luggage for every leg of an international journey. Thanks to global aviation alliances like Star Alliance, you don’t have to. Star Alliance’s network of partner airlines makes booking international travel fast and easy, but that’s not all.
Apart from making it easier to travel internationally, Star Alliance rewards its most frequent flyers through a tier system of perks that make travelling more comfortable and convenient. With travel credit cards offering reward points for everyday spending, not to mention bonus reward points just for signing up, achieving Silver or Gold Elite Status is easier than ever.
Here's everything you need to know about the Star Alliance program, why you want it, and how to get it.
- What is Star Alliance?
- Why should you get Star Alliance?
- How to get Star Alliance
- How to accumulate points to get Star Alliance
- FAQs About Star Alliance
What is Star Alliance?
Star Alliance is a global aviation alliance that enables easier transitions for passengers travelling long distances with multiple airlines thanks to codesharing agreements. Codesharing agreements let Star Alliance member airlines offer flight sales to destinations outside of their flight routes, particularly overseas.
This allows travellers to easily book one flight to whichever destination they want to, instead of booking multiple flights or making separate arrangements for their baggage for each leg of their journey.
Star Alliance was the first global alliance of its kind. When it was created back in 1997, Star Alliance consisted of only 5 airlines:
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Thai Airways International
- Air Lufthansa
- United Airlines
- Air Canada
Since its inception, Star Alliance has grown to be the largest and one of the most well-known airline alliances in the world. Today, Star Alliance is made up of 26 partner airlines, which include major airlines as well as smaller regional carriers.
Why should you get Star Alliance?
In addition to connecting travellers around the world, Star Alliance offers plenty of ways to make travelling easier and more comfortable through its Elite Status membership program. Frequent flyers of a Star Alliance member airline can earn Star Alliance Elite Status, which comes with some very tempting perks. Upgrades, extra baggage allowances, and priority boarding are just a few benefits of flying exclusively with Star Alliance member airlines.
So, how can you become a Star Alliance member and qualify for Elite Status? All you have to do is join the frequent flyer program of a Star Alliance member airline. For Canadians, that would be Air Canada’s Aeroplan Loyalty program. Points you earn through frequent flyer programs earn you status with that specific airline, which can then be ‘translated’ into Star Alliance elite status.
There are two tiers to Star Alliance Elite Status: Silver and Gold. Your membership with Star Alliance depends on your status in the frequent flyer program of your preferred airline. You can use the tool on the Star Alliance website to figure out how your frequent flyer membership translates to Star Alliance membership status.
Star Alliance Silver
Star Alliance Silver membership may only earn you two privileges, but they can make planning a last-minute trip much easier. Star Alliance members with Silver status get a priority spot on a reservation’s waitlist, meaning that they will be the first passengers given a seat in a higher class if one opens up. Silver status members also get priority airport standby, so they will get the first call on any seats that become available on a full flight.
It might not sound like much, but if you’re someone who likes free upgrades (and who doesn’t?) Star Alliance Silver status is a great way to try and get first-class seats for the price of a coach, plus it gives you greater flexibility if you want to make last-minute changes to your travel plans.
However, it’s important to note that neither of these privileges extends to flights purchased with reward points, so you’ll have to pay cash. Also, neither can be 100% guaranteed as they are subject to the individual carrier’s policies.
Star Alliance Gold
Star Alliance Gold status gets you priority airport standby and priority reservation waitlist, plus a few other pretty great perks that reward you for airline loyalty.
For starters, members with Gold status can skip the line and head to a Star Alliance priority check-in counter. Gold members can also board first along with first-class and business passengers. With priority baggage handling, they will also receive their bags first. Gold members may also receive an extra baggage allowance with some airlines, but that's not guaranteed, so you’ll need to check ahead.
However, all of that pales in comparison to the one benefit that travellers everywhere crave: airport lounge access. In addition to airline-branded lounges like Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges, Star Alliance Gold members can get into over 1000 comfortable and quiet airport lounges, owned and operated by Star Alliance, and take advantage of the awesome amenities that come with them such as complimentary food and drinks, a business centre, faster wi-fi, and even spa services and showers in select locations.
How to get Star Alliance
Unfortunately, you can’t buy your way into Star Alliance. The only way to join Star Alliance is by joining a frequent flyer program, and since Star Alliance doesn’t have its own frequent flyer program, travellers need to first join the frequent flyer program of a partner airline and achieve status through them. Only after that has been done can you get the equivalent elite status through Star Alliance.
United Airlines is the airline most commonly affiliated with Star Alliance in the United States. Canadian travellers can join Air Canada’s frequent flyer program, Aeroplan, to accumulate miles in order to get Star Alliance status. Here is how Aeroplan status translates to Star Alliance elite status:
Aeroplan Prestige status (25K miles) = Star Alliance Silver
Aeroplan Elite status (35K miles) = Star Alliance Silver
Aeroplan Elite status (50K miles) = Star Alliance Gold
Aeroplan Elite status (75K miles)= Star Alliance Gold
Aeroplan Super Elite status (100K miles) = Star Alliance Gold.
Gold & Elite status
Unfortunately, you can’t combine miles from multiple carriers in order to get Star Alliance Silver or Gold status. That doesn’t mean that you can’t join more than one frequent flyer program, but you will have to achieve a certain status level with one airline in order to get Star Alliance Silver or Gold status. For the average Canadian, that means that you would first have to accumulate enough Aeroplan points to achieve Star Alliance Gold or Silver status.
Do you have to fly exclusively with Air Canada?
So, does that mean you would have to fly exclusively with Air Canada? The short answer is yes, and no. For starters, you can use your Aeroplan points to book reward travel on any partner airline within Star Alliance. As far as airline alliances go, this perk is unique to Star Alliance. That means that if your destination is outside of Air Canada’s flight path, you can use your points to reserve seats on other airlines as long as they are part of the Star Alliance network.
Additionally, flying with Air Canada is not the only way to accumulate miles, although it is likely one of the most lucrative ways, especially if you travel frequently. However, there are a number of Canadian credit cards that reward you with Aeroplan points for everyday spending, and many even offer bonus reward points just for opening an account. All of this can help you reach Aeroplan (and, consequently, Star Alliance) status faster.
What’s more, eligible Star Alliance flights operated by any of its member carriers will earn you points that you can redeem across the Star Alliance network, including Aeroplan, so you can credit your Aeroplan account with miles travelled on other carriers as long as they are part of the Star Alliance network.
Upgrading your seat: short vs long haul flights
Finally, you can even use your Aeroplan points to upgrade your seats on any eligible flight in the Star Alliance network. This means that you can book a flight in economy class and then use your Aeroplan points to upgrade to a business class or first class seat on any partner airline and you can credit your Aeroplan account with those miles.
While this process might not score you the best bargain on a short-haul flight, it can be very rewarding for longer flights to, say, Europe or Asia, plus you’ll get bonus reward miles just for travelling. This does not necessarily apply to the average traveller or to anyone flying domestically but is an especially handy tip for people who frequently travel internationally.
To find out what kind of upgrades your Aeroplan points can earn you on other carriers, head to Aeroplan’s website and search for the Star Alliance upgrade reward chart.
How to accumulate points to get Star Alliance
Aeroplan points are Air Canada’s frequent flyer reward ‘currency’, and you can collect them in a few different ways. For starters, the most obvious way to collect points is to fly with Air Canada.
Type of flight
The number of Aeroplan points you earn will depend on the distance travelled, but any class of ticket will earn you points, not just business or first class. Also, you can earn points on tickets purchased with cash and with points, so you can use your points to book a flight and then earn those points (or more) back.
Flying Air Canada
The more often you fly with Air Canada and other Star Alliance members, the more points you earn, which brings you closer to Aeroplan Elite Status. Your status is determined by Qualifying Miles, which is calculated by the percentage of distance flown based on a minimum of 250 miles, Status Qualifying segments or the number of stopovers on your journey, or Status Qualifying dollars. The latter refers to how much you’ve spent on your tickets.
More importantly, Aeroplan counts how much you spend and how far you travel within a calendar year in order to determine your status. In other words, if you don’t travel very frequently or only travel short distances, your chances of reaching Aeroplan Elite status are less than ideal if you’re only counting on your travel experiences. Fortunately, however, there are other ways to earn.
You can also earn points through any of Air Canada’s Aeroplan partners, including hotels and car rental companies. For example, you can earn 250 Aeroplan points for every qualifying stay with Best Western. You can also convert certain hotel loyalty points into Aeroplan points, such as the Hilton Honors program, which lets you convert 10,000 Hilton Honors points to 1000 Aeroplan points.
Depending on your travel preferences, this may or may not be a good deal, but it's an option. You can earn points through transportation services, as well, such as The Rocky Mountaineer, Park and Jet in Calgary and Park n’ Fly services, which can help you earn between 150-199 Aeroplan points just for using the service.
Buying Aeroplan products like extra baggage is another way to collect points, but you can also earn points for shopping in the Aeroplan eStore for things like electronics, gift cards, jewellery and more. Not only that but there are a number of retailers that have partnered with Air Canada to reward shoppers with Aeroplan points just for shopping. There are over 250 retailers partnered with Air Canada including Amazon, Uber and Uber Eats, and Starbucks, very popular retailers where you are likely to spend your money anyway.
Aeroplan Credit Card
Finally, opening up an Aeroplan credit card account is likely one of the fastest ways to start earning points for Elite Status with Air Canada and Star Alliance. TD and CIBC are the two major Canadian banks that have partnered with Air Canada, and the earning potential on these cards is actually quite impressive.
You can earn points on every dollar spent with any of TD’s Aeroplan personal credit cards and right now you can earn up to 105,000 bonus points just for signing up before January 3, 2023.
With a CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite card, you can earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent on Air Canada or Air Canada Vacation packages, plus gas and groceries, and 1 point for every dollar spent on everything else.
Finally, the American Express Aeroplan card packs some serious earning potential, including up to 50,000 Aeroplan points in the first year, and conditions apply.
- Annual fee: $120
- Interest rate: n/a
- 2 Aeroplan Points per dollar on Air Canada purchases, 1.5 Aeroplan Points per dollar on meals and 1 Aeroplan Point per dollar on everything else
FAQs About Star Alliance
Star Alliance is a global airline alliance, essentially a ‘club’ of airlines with mutually beneficial codesharing agreements that make it easy to connect travellers with their destinations all around the world.
Frequent travellers can get a Star Alliance membership by joining the frequent flyer program of their preferred airline.
You can book flights to any destination in the world directly with any of Star Alliance’s partner airlines. Additionally, you can book a special ‘Around the World’ or ‘Circle Pacific’ fare using the online booking tool on the Star Alliance website.
You can use your Aeroplan points to book flights directly with Star Alliances Book and Fly tool, which can be found on their website.
You can’t combine miles from multiple airlines in order to get Star Alliance status or transfer miles between airlines. However, Star Alliance members can use miles to make upgrades or book award flights with any of Star Alliances’ partner airlines.
Star Alliance does not have its own frequent flyer program, but points earned through any of its affiliated airlines will earn you corresponding status with Star Alliance. You can use the tool on the Star Alliance website to find out how your status with your preferred airline translates to Star Alliance’s Elite Status program. Star Alliance Gold Status is the highest achievable level.
Silver status is one tier down from Gold Status and can be achieved by earning the equivalent status through a Star Alliance partner airline, as Star Alliance does not have its own frequent flyer program. You can use the tool on the Star Alliance website to find out how your frequent flyer status translates to Star Alliance status.
Air Canada was one of Star Alliance’s founding airlines. It is the largest airline carrier in Canada and the only Canadian airline in the Star Alliance.
Air New Zealand
All Nippon Airways
Lot Polish Airlines
South African Airways
TAP Air Portugal
Star Alliance was founded in 1997 by Air Canada, United Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS and Thai Airways. It is now comprised of 26 member airlines and 40 non-voting affiliates. Jeffrey Goh has been the CEO since 2017. Its chairman is United CEO Scott Kirby.
About The Author: Arthur Dubois
Passionate about personal finance and financial technology, Arthur Dubois is a writer and SEO specialist at Hardbacon. Since his arrival in Canada, he’s built his credit score from nothing.
Arthur invests in the stock market but doesn’t pay any fees because he uses National Bank Direct Brokerage online broker and Wealthsimple’s robo-advisor. He pays for his subscriptions online with his KOHO prepaid card, and uses his Tangerine credit card for most of his in-store purchases. When he buys bitcoins, it’s with the BitBuy online platform. Of course it goes without saying that he uses the Hardbacon app so that he can manage all of his finances from one convenient place.
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