Home > Aegean, Star Alliance > One Trip for Star Alliance Gold Status (or, how a miles junkie invests in Greece).

One Trip for Star Alliance Gold Status (or, how a miles junkie invests in Greece).

Elite status is the difference between flying to get somewhere, and enjoying flying.

Most airlines have an elite flyer program, and meeting the requirements can really make a difference when flying that airline. In return for your loyalty, you’re promised priority services, including priority security, priority check-in, priority boarding, space available upgrades, and bonus miles. If you have elite status in one airline, your status also holds weight on their alliance members. It’s a brilliant scheme to get flyers to return to a particular airline whenever air travel is required.

However, elite status can only be acquired through flying (or as frequent flyers say, “putting your BIS – butt in seat”). Some airlines, notably Delta, allow you to earn elite qualifying miles by spending on their credit card, but they’re not enough to acquire elite status by themselves. This makes sense, as the only reason to have elite status is if you fly enough to take advantage of it.

In addition, you only get elite qualifying miles for tickets you purchase with cash (or cash-back rewards points) on qualifying fares, not for tickets you purchase with airline miles. Lastly, you usually have to requalify each year, by flying the set amount of miles from January 1 to December 31.

Since I lived in Atlanta for four years, I pretty much flew Delta Air Lines each time I needed to go somewhere: for my trips home to Los Angeles, they were the same price as AirTran but offered wider jets with satellite TV. My study abroad trip required an arrival at Paris and departure from Amsterdam, both of which are hubs for Delta’s partners Air France and KLM. Delta’s short-lived Atlanta to Mumbai non-stop coincided with a trip I needed to make – while 17 hours in a window seat twice in two weeks was miserable, I earned Silver Medallion status pretty easily thanks to that trip, and now have Gold Medallion status.

However, if you read my review on using SkyTeam to go to India, you saw how badly I view Delta’s mileage program. While they are a great airline for domestic routes, their international network and mileage redemption possibilities really fall short of the standard set by their competitors.

Out of the 850,000 miles I’ve redeemed in the last 8 months for my family, 750,000 of them were for trips on OneWorld or Star Alliance. I’ve actually really come to like both of those alliances more than SkyTeam. It’s a close call, but I think that out of the 3 alliances, Star Alliance is the best program in which to obtain elite status for international travel. They have the largest network with a vast global footprint, and have some of the best lounges at their hub airports. OneWorld is not too far behind – while they don’t have quite as much of a footprint, they do have strong players in each continent.

To put this into perspective, I’ve had 2 wonderful international trips on miles this year. The first was on LAN and American Airlines, using British Airways and American Airlines miles. LAN’s footprint within South America makes OneWorld the key alliance there, and AA and BA miles are set up brilliantly for LAN flights.

The second was a wild 15-segment trip I just took, with the majority of flights booked through US Airways miles on Star Alliance partners such as United, Lufthansa, SWISS, Thai, and Singapore. Most of my flights were in First Class (hooray, miles!) so I had access to any lounge, but for flights that were in Business Class, I was limited in my lounge selection because I didn’t have Star Alliance status. I’ll soon make another trip to India, this time in Singapore Airlines Economy, since mileage tickets were not available. Status sure could help …

Mileage tickets aren’t always possible for our family. While we do earn a lot of miles, sometimes mileage tickets aren’t available for the dates we need them to be. When it comes to paying for a ticket, we’ll only pay for economy. However, having status would mean that our ground experience (check-in, luggage retrieval, lounge access at origin and layover)  would become a lot smoother. That said, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get easy elite status within Star Alliance.

While each airline in the Star Alliance can have multiple levels within their own program, there are only two alliance-wide elite levels: Star Silver and Star Gold.

Star Silver, which can be obtained in most programs by flying 25,000 miles, is actually pretty pathetic when it comes to benefits. Priority waitlisting and priority standby. La dee da – not worth it. This is true for pretty much every low-tier elite status.

Star Gold, on the other hand, has many more benefits. The main one is lounge access when traveling internationally, as well as priority boarding, increased luggage allowance, and priority check-in. However, this usually requires 50,000 miles of flying: United gives Star Gold status to its Premier Gold flyers (50,000 miles), while US Airways gives Star Gold status to its Gold Preferred flyers (also 50,000 miles). For most people, doing this each year isn’t feasible …

Enter Aegean Airlines, the Star Alliance carrier of Greece.

Aegean sets the bar for Star Silver at 4000 miles and Star Gold at 20000 miles. That means that crediting your Star Alliance trips could get you Star Gold before you’d qualify for Star Silver on other programs!

In fact, when you sign up for Aegean’s Miles & Bonus program, you’re given 1000 miles to begin with. These are status miles, meaning you only need 3000 more miles to get Star Silver and 19000 more miles to get Star Gold.

In addition, people who have attained Star Gold status with Aegean have reported that their membership cards show validity until December 2014 – that’s more than two years of validity. Twice the validity for less than half the required flying – somebody pinch me!

It’s wedding season in India – a couple of my cousins are getting married so I have to make two trips. I already took one trip using my miles, but the second trip required a paid ticket, since there wasn’t any mileage availability during the summer (and during the 4th of July weekend, at that). I ended up choosing Singapore Airlines, since the LAX-(NRT)-SIN-BOM and return routing will earn me over 22000 miles, more than enough for Aegean Star Gold. Singapore offers discounted fares that do not earn miles in partner programs and only earn 10% miles in their own program. I ended up buying a fare that was only $85 roundtrip more to get the miles – $85 for status and 22000 miles? Unlike Odysseus, who took 10 years to return home, I’ll get Star Gold in less than 2 days of travel! No brainer!

Okay, so what’s the catch?

Well, every fantastic deal has a catch. The main one here is that not every Star Alliance partner gives 100% miles toward Aegean’s program. Some partners offer 0% or 50% for discount economy. For example, if you buy a discount ticket on United Airlines, you’ll earn only 50% miles, meaning you’ll need to fly 40,000 miles to earn 20,000 on Aegean. Here’s a list of the earning tables. Of the major players, only US Airways offers 100% on their lowest mileage earning fare classes. Be sure to check the fare class of the ticket you purchase if you want to earn miles!

What do I get being an Aegean Star Gold over a US Airways/United elite member? What do I lose?

Good news – if you are a non-US Airways or non-United Airlines Star Gold member, you get US Airways or United lounge access on purely domestic itineraries when flying Star Alliance. This is something that US Airways and United Star Golds do not get. Since the American Express Platinum Card gives lounge access at American, Delta, and US Airways, but NOT United Clubs, this is a great way to get into United Clubs while flying a Star Alliance airline.

Bad news – if you fly United or US Airways, you won’t be eligible for upgrades if you are not a United or US Airways elite member. That said, unless you’re flying 75,000 or 100,000 miles per year on one carrier, you’ll likely miss out on upgrades. Most domestic first classes are not much to write home about. They’re great for the road warrior who needs that extra bit of rest and relaxation after a long week on the road, but for most people, it’s just a bigger seat and free drinks. International first class is where it’s at (and you usually don’t get free upgrades to that …)

In short? You get lounge access, but don’t get the possibility of upgrades. I actually like that tradeoff.

Do I have to constantly bank miles to Aegean?

From most people’s reports, no. After you attain elite status with Aegean, you should be able to bank Star Alliance trips to your preferred account and show your Aegean Star Gold card for preferred access and lounges. After I obtain elite status with Aegean, I’ll go back to banking with United, since Aegean does not give bonus redeemable miles for elite members.

What about the miles I earn with Aegean? How can I use them?

Since you’re given 1000 miles to start with, you need 19000 flown miles for Star Gold status, so that should be the baseline. Aegean allows one-way awards – a one-way coach ticket within North America is 12.5K miles, while a one-way business class ticket within North America is 21K miles. I make Los Angeles to New York trips frequently, so these miles will offset the cost for one leg (and get me in transcontinental business class, which is a step up from regular domestic first class).

The main thing for me is banking those 22,000 miles to Aegean, meaning I’ll pay an opportunity cost of earning 22,000 miles on another program like United. Since I usually earn United miles via credit card bonuses and spending, it’s not too much I’m giving up. I have a plan to use the miles, and the status will make it worth it for any trips I take with Star Alliance.

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Categories: Aegean, Star Alliance
  1. Austin
    March 6, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I’m a total noob to international travel. Going to Mumbai in the next month or two. The trip will be about 25K miles if I read correctly with United. So, following this, I could sign up with Aegean and use that frequent flyer number instead of my united one when I book? I’m sure this is a complete rookie question, but just trying to make the most of a long flight!

    • Amol
      March 6, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Who are you flying to India, what’s the routing, and what’s the fare code?

  1. June 29, 2012 at 4:15 am

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