Home > Aegean, Singapore Airlines, Star Alliance, Trip Reports > My First Trip with Star Alliance Gold Status (thank you, airlines of the Mediterranean!)

My First Trip with Star Alliance Gold Status (thank you, airlines of the Mediterranean!)

I had another family event to attend in India this week and airline awards were just plain unavailable. I decided to bite the bullet and go on a paid ticket in coach, along with my mom. Of course, this meant trying to maximize the routing to get extra miles for little extra spent. Though this is India, so it’s hard to maximize a trip that’s pretty much already halfway around the world ….

Our preferred carrier is Lufthansa since they fly directly into the Indian city we tend to visit, but their fares were about 30% more than what we’re used to. Singapore Airlines was the most convenient alternative, and it was only a $65 difference to go from a Super Saver Fare (which earn 10% miles in Singapore’s Krisflyer program and 0% in partner programs) to a fare that earns 100% everywhere. Considering that the difference in the earnings would be about 22,000 miles in a Star Alliance program, it was a no-brainer to pay the extra $65/person.

My plan had been to kick back in coach and earn Star Gold status the butt-in-seat way by crediting the miles to little-known Star Alliance partner Aegean Airlines, based in Greece. They start you off with 1,000 miles (both redeemable and status), give Star Alliance Silver at the 4,000 mile level, and Star Alliance Gold at the 20,000 mile level. I’d more than qualify with this trip, and the status would be good until the end of 2015. In my opinion, well worth forgoing putting the miles into United, which is great for redemptions. That’s the thing about having airline status … once you have it, you really don’t want to let it go. It makes traveling oh so much easier.

That was my plan … until I saw that Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines was offering status matches to their program, including my Delta Gold status to Turkish Elite, which is Star Gold. Live From A Lounge has a great summary of the match. I got matched in early June with status valid until June 2014. Turkish seemed to stop matching for a while, but is now beginning to match again, albeit a bit more slowly than before. The only problem is that they’ll only send out a card once you credit a flight to the program. Status is good in 2 year cycles from your membership date. If you live outside of Turkey, you can renew Star Gold status by crediting 25K miles within the first year, or 37.5K miles within two years. However, the miles expire 3 years after they are earned, meaning that a mile earned today would expire in mid-2015, no matter what activity you have in between. As of now, there’s no easy way to top off an account with credit card points. Compare this to Aegean, which keeps your points active so long as you credit a flight to them every 3 years. Plus, Aegean has lower thresholds for certain awards and a lower threshold for Star Gold status (20K).

So my new plan — credit the miles to Aegean (A3) and use my newfound Turkish (TK) account for Star Gold status for this trip, albeit without a card. I decided to do this old-school … a printout of my TK Account Summary page, with an emblem of a Star Gold membership card as well as my account number on the same page. Here was my experience:

LAX

– We were greeted with an incredibly long line for Economy class check-in. I whipped out the TK printout and moseyed into the Business Class/Star Gold check-in, where a Singapore Airlines representative immediately walked up from behind the desk to greet us. “Business Class?” he asked. I wish. “Economy, but Star Gold,” I responded. He was hesitant to acknowledge the status without an actual card, but I explained that I had just qualified after a slew of Star Alliance flights last month and hadn’t received the card yet (none of that is a lie, by the way …). After some furrowing of brows and typing away on the computer, he verified the status, helping us avoid problems with the extra bag we had to check + giving us priority tags on each bag. He also gave me a lounge pass for myself and my guest, then went back into the system to put my A3 number back in for earnings (commenting, “is this airline even in Star Alliance?”).

-After a long security line, we made it to the Star Alliance lounge, where the agent once again had to verify my TK status. While having an actual card isn’t necessary, it sure makes things a lot quicker. We got in and headed toward the business class side, just as a large amount of passengers were leaving for early afternoon departures. I don’t have pictures, but the lounge was pretty similar to the Star Alliance lounge in London last month. Not that great, but better than waiting at the gate area. With the new Tom Bradley International Terminal not too far away (2013!), I’m hoping there’s space for better alliance lounges.

-At the gate, there was a huge line for economy class boarding, mostly due to the fact that this was an A380 flight. Fortunately, the person checking passports at the business class line was a contracted employee who took my word when I said, “Star Gold.” Boarding was pretty simple and stress-free.

-The flight itself was marvelous. I’d previously only flown Singapore Airlines earlier this year on regional business class, but their economy class is tops as well. Legroom was pretty ample in seat 47E, which would normally be a middle seat, except there’s no 47D. Seat 48D has a lot of legroom above a hatch to the lower fuselage area, but it’s impossible for them use. Thus, 47E gets a bit more diagonal legroom space to use under row 46.  As you can tell from the photos below, the IFE screens are large and responsive, with both touch-screen and handset controls as well as USB inputs for charging a device. The handrests have 3-pronged US outlets, useful for charging laptops. The bottom of the screen has an LED light, which is great for reading as it focuses light into your personal area much better than an overhead ceiling light.

It looks huge in-person….. that’s what she said.

Economy class on the bottom deck. It feels like a huge warehouse, since there’s no fuselage curvature.

They ran out of regular meals, so I ended up getting a Japanese meal (even though I was in the middle of the entire Economy section). It was alright, though dessert more than made up for it …

Yummmm

Second meal, some sort of chicken dish. Pretty decent for a economy class meal.

NRT
We landed in Tokyo a bit early, giving us about 95 minutes to quickly visit the lounge. After a slow transit security check (mostly due to infrequent travelers and families), we arrived at the ANA Business lounge. I showed my TK printout once again and was let through after it was verified through the Star Alliance system.

The ANA lounge at Tokyo is definitely up there on my list of favorite business class lounges. The showers are great (with requisite over-the-top Japanese toilet), along with the noodle bar and sake bar. There aren’t any windows but I like the black and white decor. Udon noodles hit the spot and meant that I could sleep through the dinner service on the NRT-SIN leg. Since I had accidentally packed my camera battery in my checked baggage (boo, me), these are some preliminary phone pics. Fortunately, I’m transiting on the way back and will have better pictures for another post.

Entrance to the lounge

General lounge area

Kirin Beer (from the cool automatic pouring machine) + Udon noodles from the noodle bar. Instagram action to make up for my phone camera …

SIN
Singapore Airlines is a bit different from other Star Alliance partners in that their Star Gold lounges are separate from the Business Class lounges. In both cases, the Star Gold lounges are pretty barebone, without even restrooms in the lounge, let alone shower rooms.

We landed SIN close to 3am. At that time, the lights are on but nobody’s home. The T3 lounge was decent enough to sit down and have a couple snacks before the inter-terminal train starts at 5am. Once that hit, we made our way to T2 to have breakfast, do some shopping, and board our flight.

The gate opened at 6:20am, and after long security lines at LAX and NRT, I made sure to get there early, since everyone goes through security at the gate. With summer in full swing, there are a lot of infrequent travelers who slow things down. I don’t mind queuing up, but I despise having to wait a long time because people don’t read signs telling them what procedures must be followed. In the USA, most domestic airports have lines for status holders where everybody knows the drill. Same thing in Europe for First/Business class passengers. Not so at Singapore.

Once in the waiting area, we waited another 20 minutes until boarding for business class and Star Gold was announced. Since our boarding passes had already been checked, there was nobody actually checking at the gate, which was odd. Priority boarding really helped out here, since overhead bins were full and some people had to gate check bags (even on a 777!). The decent legroom I enjoyed on the A380 wasn’t so on the 777-200 …

Ghost-town Changi

The only thing worth taking a picture of in the T3 KrisFlyer Gold lounge

This is why I love Asia … Glass noodles with kimchi for breakfast in the lounge.

If it hadn’t been a rerun of a prior match, I’d have lounged here for my layover …

BOM
One thing about immigration at BOM is that there are separate lines for first/business class, but nobody checks. My advice is to just go in the line with the least amount of people. In our case, this was the Person of Indian Origin/Overseas Citizen of India line on the left, which we actually qualified for.

Immigration was quick, and as we got to baggage claim, only bags with priority tags were out. We waited about 15 seconds before collecting bags and heading through customs. From touchdown to taxi, it took us 18 minutes, a new record!

———–

Let’s not beat around the bush … 11,200 miles in coach is still 11,200 miles in coach. And I have to do the reverse pretty soon. It’s pretty tough on the body and on the sleep cycle. But having lounge access and priority boarding/benefits really helps a ton. And Aegean is well set up for Star Gold status, since you only need 19,000 miles after signing up to qualify. In fact, our LAX-SIN and SIN-BOM flights already posted …

More than qualified for Star Silver, and 60% of the way to Star Gold!

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  1. Ryan from Ma
    July 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Hey bro i took ur advice and started to look out for the 77w and two seats popped up! But now im in a dilemma Do you thinj it’s worth the $184 for two ppl to change from a Thai 747 to Thai 77w. I was going on the 77w on the back to America but think why not go both ways. This would also give me some more time at the first class lounge and terminals. But the cons are the money and I might not be sitting with my fiancé as expert flyer shows seats on opposite ends though two seats are blocked in the middle and not sure what that means The next time I will fly like this is next summer.
    Thanks man!

    • Amol
      July 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      I personally think the 77W is worth the extra $90/person. Thai tends to keep the 77W pretty guaranteed on those specific routes, while the 747 could either be the old style or newer style.

      The suites are enclosed and if you can’t get the middle section of 2 at booking, I’d try calling Thai to see if you can get those unblocked. One good thing about the suite is that during meal services, one suite can handle two people.

      • Ryan from MA
        July 14, 2012 at 4:48 am

        nice! thanks man. I just booked it and I realized that I don’t think I’ll be going to Asia for two years so might as well squeeze out what I can plus now i have 4 hours at the FCT or FCL. It’s great to know the thai 77w can handle two people so i can be connecting with my fiance.
        you are the man!

  2. David
    July 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I just did the TK status match, do you expect them to send a card, or have something more official online? I guess I can use a printout…

    • Amol
      July 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm

      It’s been 2 months since my match and I haven’t received the card, so I doubt you’d receive it without flight activity. I don’t plan on flying *A for a few months so I’m just waiting for my A3 card to show up.

      The online account page doesn’t have a card printout, but you can print out the account details which has name, account number, status expiry, and a logo of the TK Elite card. They accepted that at LAX *A, NRT ANA lounge, and SIN Krisflyer Gold lounges.

      • David
        August 9, 2012 at 11:23 pm

        FYI. I received a TK Gold card in the mail today. For me, the expiration is 07/14, and included luggage tags. Now I am unsure about MRs to maintain UA 1K…may go for AA EXP now. Brilliant!

      • Amol
        August 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm

        Awesome! Did you credit any flights to TK or did it come on it’s own?

        I received my Aegean card, but the Star Silver that I earned on the outbound. I guess it’s still a month until I get the Star Gold card. I’m currently winding down my Delta vouchers to maintain my status for next year, but I’m thinking of switching out next year, hopefully with a challenge.

      • David
        August 9, 2012 at 11:41 pm

        I haven’t done anything with the TK account since the match in July, so an actual flight is not necessary. I am going to use it on a domestic UA flight at SFO on Saturday.

      • Amol
        August 10, 2012 at 12:15 am

        Hmprh, I guess TK doesn’t really like me. Oh well! I milked their free status enough already. 😛

  1. July 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm
  2. October 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm

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