Archive

Archive for the ‘Aegean’ Category

Aegean Raises Sign-Up Bonus to 2000 Miles – 50% of Star Silver, 10% of Star Gold

October 1, 2012 1 comment

(H/T to Gary at View From the Wing)

Aegean used to give 1000 miles as a signup bonus to new members. While most signup bonuses are award miles, these miles are also tier miles that count toward status in Aegean. Since Aegean Airlines is a part of the Star Alliance, their elite levels give Star Alliance-wide benefits.

They are now giving a bonus of 2000 miles. How long will this be for? I don’t know. But, here’s what I do know:

– It takes 4,000 miles to qualify for Aegean Blue, which is Star Alliance Silver. This means that you only need 2,000 more miles to get benefits like a free bag on US Airways and United.

– It takes 20,000 miles to qualify for Aegean Gold, which is Star Alliance Gold. This means you only need 18,000 more miles to get things like lounge access on all Star Alliance flights, including domestic US Airways/United flights.

– My favorite Aegean (A3) award is a one-way intra-region business class for 21,000 miles. Aegean charges fuel surcharges for any carriers that charge them, but a one-way transcontinental flight on United Business (no fuel surcharges) is only 1,000 miles more than what’s needed for Star Gold, meaning the miles won’t be orphaned in a random account. Aegean also made their change policy very very friendly recently, charging only 20 Euros for a change or cancellation.

I recently received my Aegean Gold card in the mail, and the expiration date on the card shows December 2015. That’s over 3 years of Star Gold! My Aegean Blue/Star Silver card had a similar expiration date.

Aegean Star Gold through 12/2015. Swank luggage tag, too.

The 2,000 tier miles you receive will be good for a year from sign-up, so all you need to do is get 2,000 more miles within a year of signing up to qualify for Star Silver and keep the miles. Once you hit Star Silver, you have a year from that date to get 16,000 more miles to hit Star Gold.

Or you can just do what I did and get it all done in one trip. Although I did cheat a little bit by having Turkish Star Gold status via a status match, but to me, Aegean was a better long-term status to keep.

Keep in mind that not all flights on certain partners earn 100% mileage, so that’s definitely something you want to take into consideration before crediting flights to Aegean. It seems weird to me that almost all US Airways flights earn 100%, compared to United where the lowest fares earn 50% (though United flights do have minimum mileage). The full list of fare classes and mileage earned is here (scroll down to see partner earnings).

I think this status is great for people who fly Star Alliance only occasionally. Even if you fly coach on a trip, you’ll still get business class amenities on the ground with Aegean Star Gold (or, A3*G). Amenities like priority check-in, priority boarding, lounge access, and what-not. And it’s good for 3 years! Who knows, if you qualify in January 2013 , it might be good for close to 4 years until 12/2016.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on Aegean, they’re in an earlier post here.

Advertisements
Categories: Aegean, Star Alliance

Aegean Changes Their Award Change/Cancellation Policy — For the Better!

September 7, 2012 2 comments

I was glad to see this in my inbox yesterday! The six people who now read this blog know I’m a fan of Aegean Airlines, mostly for it’s easy path to 3 years of Star Gold. One tiny problem about redeeming the 20K+ miles earned in the process was that there were no changes allowed and cancelling the ticket meant you lost 50% of the miles. Starting next week, that’s no longer the case! A quick look at the new Aegean Miles&Bonus Terms & Conditions shows this:

Ticket Change Policy: 1. for Tickets booked and issued until 14/09/2012, no change of date, flight or destination is permitted after the Ticket’s issuance; 2. for Tickets booked and issued from 15/09/2012 onwards, members are able to change Ticket’s date and time, up to 30 minutes before flight’s departure time, upon a re-issue fee of 20 Euros per ticket.

Ticket Cancellation Policy: 1. for Tickets booked and issued until 14/09/2012: when cancellation is requested for a booking at least 24 hours prior to the ticket’s first flight segment departure date, then the Member’s account will be charged with 50% of the respective Miles used for this particular redemption. If the cancellation of a booking is requested less than 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure time, then the total of the Miles required for the redemption Ticket will be automatically deducted from the Member’s Account. 2. for Tickets booked and issued from 15/09/2012 onwards: a member may request a cancellation of a Ticket up to 30 minutes before the flight’s departure time. No Ticket cancellation can be put forth if within 30 minutes from flight’s departure. When a Ticket is cancelled, all corresponding Award miles are credited back to member’s account, while a Cancellation Fee of 20 Euros per ticket is applied.

This is a pretty decent change and cancellation policy. 20 Euros is about $25, which is cheaper than most other change/cancellation fees (to put it into perspective, U.S. Airways charges $150 except for their top-tier elites). While Aegean Gold members look like they’ll still have to pay, I’ll gladly pay $25 vs. losing half of my miles to change an award. Bravo, A3!

To me, the previous change/cancellation policy was the most negative aspect of the program. Now that this is gone, I’d say the main drawback is that they charge fuel surcharges for airlines that collect them. However, there are some decent redemptions, such as 21K miles for a one-way business class ticket within North America on United or US Airways, which is just 1,000 miles more than the threshold for Star Gold status.

Note that this doesn’t apply to tickets that have been already issued, or for tickets issued until September 14th — only tickets issued on September 15th, 2012 or after get this more lenient change/cancellation policy.

Categories: Aegean, Star Alliance

The Pros and Cons of Star Alliance Status via Aegean Airlines

July 22, 2012 28 comments

On the heels of my trip to India on Singapore Airlines and achieving Aegean Star Gold (while having Turkish Star Gold to make the trip a bit easier), I thought I’d write a post detailing what exactly having the status entails, and how it compares to having the status via a domestic carrier like United or US Airways.

General Star Gold Benefits:

Lounge access on international Star Alliance itineraries, and the ability to bring a guest into the lounge. This is big mostly on coach tickets, since business class tickets tend to give access to the same lounge. Only Star Gold members can bring in guests. In most cases, these lounges are the same lounges available to business class passengers, with two major exceptions:

  • Singapore Airlines has separate Krisflyer Gold Lounges at Singapore for Star Gold passengers, which are not as nice as the SilverKris Business Class lounges.
  • Lufthansa has separate Senator Lounges at their hubs, which are nicer than the Lufthansa Business Class lounges (since they’re technically First Class lounges for partner airlines).
  • ANY Star Gold can access most non-United/US Airways lounges in the US on a domestic Star Alliance itinerary. These include the Lufthansa Senator lounges at Washington-Dulles, Atlanta, and Detroit, and the SWISS Lounge at JFK Terminal 4 (which is landside before security). It does not include the Singapore lounge at San Francisco. I can’t think of any others off the top of my head, but feel free to comment if you know of other lounges.

Priority check-in at First or Business class counter

Priority boarding, with First or Business class passengers

Priority baggage and extra baggage allowance

Priority waitlisting and standby

;

Pros of having Aegean (or other foreign airline) Star Gold as a U.S. Passenger:

United/US Airways lounge access on U.S. domestic itineraries. United and U.S. Airways Star Golds do not get access to the United Club or US Airways Club on domestic itineraries without paying for access via membership/credit card/day pass. However, Star Golds in other programs do. It’s also important to note that all Star Golds get access to foreign lounges in the US (as noted above). While these US Airways/United lounges aren’t always the nicest, they can be a great place to get wi-fi access and a drink before a flight. Also, in the event of irregular operations (like cancellations), getting help in the lounge is easier than at the gate.

Easier qualification and re-qualification. Both United and US Airways require one to fly 50,000 miles each year to attain and keep Star Gold status. Aegean required me to fly 19,000 within 2 years and will give me that status for the next 3 years. Not only that, but it seems like re-qualifying may be as easy as crediting one flight in the next 3 years.

;

Cons of having Aegean (or other foreign airline) Star Gold as a U.S. Passenger:

No complimentary domestic upgrades: United and US Airways offer domestic upgrades to their own elites but not to others.

No free EconomyPlus on United: This is restricted to United’s elites. 50K+ miles flyers get it free at reservation and 25K+ flyers get it at check-in if available. You could always ask at the gate, but with many flights being full and United having a bunch of elites have after an airline merger, this is likely not an option.

;

That being said, I think Aegean is a great program for two types of flyers:

  • Someone who flies US Airways or United primarily, but not enough to achieve status on those airlines. It takes 25,000 miles each year to achieve Silver status on US or United, which is Star Silver and just a bit above being a general member. It takes 50,000 miles each year to achieve Gold status, which is Star Gold and offers a lot more marginal benefits. However, Aegean has a much simpler qualification:
    • When you sign up, you get 1,000 miles that are both status and award miles.
    • You need 3,000 miles in the first year to achieve Aegean Blue, which is Star Silver. This status gets you free baggage on US Airways and United!
    • After qualifying for Aegean Blue, you have one year to get 16,000 miles to qualify for Aegean Gold, which is Star Gold. That brings it to 19,000 miles total for Star Gold.
    • Someone who qualifies today will have their card valid until 12/31/2015 – that’s over 3 years!
    • Since Aegean is a newer airline in Star Alliance, there hasn’t been much word on how to re-qualify since most members are on their first cycle of status. The wording makes it seem that crediting one flight every 3 years may be enough, but we’ll see in a year what happens to those who got in on this when it came out.
  • A normally SkyTeam/OneWorld elite flyer who desires Star Gold for occasional flights. That’d be someone like me, who’s a Delta Gold Medallion and Skyteam Elite+. I’ve been eying a switch to American, which is in OneWorld. However, since I live in Los Angeles, there are a lot of instances where US Airways or United is a lot cheaper than Delta for a particular trip. Since my status is good for 3 years, I’m sure I’ll find an instance where I’ll be saving real money by buying a cheaper flight and not having to pay the ancillary fees that non-status passengers have to pay.

It’s important to note that not all fares earn 100% mileage, so if status on Aegean is your goal, check out this page. Note that all US Airways fares earn at least 100% miles with no minimum. The cheapest United fares earn 50%, but earn at least 500 miles minimum. Also, be wary of codeshares, since the fare class of the operating carrier matters. That means if you book a US Airways codeshare that flies on a United Airlines plane, you have to follow the United chart.

What I think will be FAQs:

Q: Can you use your Aegean Star Gold card but accrue miles on United/US Airways/other program?

A: Based on my experiences: yes. In Mumbai, my boarding pass had Turkish Airlines Star Gold (a matched status) and I was able to use the Star Alliance/Lufthansa lounge simply by showing that boarding pass. Right before boarding, I went to the gate and changed the number to Aegean. Two days later, the miles were in my Aegean account.

It’s entirely possible to get the benefits by only showing the Aegean Star Gold card and not having to associate the number with your ticket. If you check-in with a bag, you should be able to show your Star Gold card and get bag fees waived. At most lounges, showing the Aegean Star Gold card and scanning that should be enough for access. And you can always change it at the gate before you board the flight.

There hasn’t been a clear-cut policy if this is allowed by the program (I won’t answer the questions about this being ethical). From my understanding, if an elite member accesses a lounge or a business class passenger with status brings in a guest, then the loyalty program gets charged for lounge access. That means that Aegean would get charged each time a member uses a lounge, but wouldn’t get reimbursed on that trip via the miles purchased by the partner program for the flight. There aren’t any clear cut rules now, but if there are, I wouldn’t mind keeping Aegean as my earning program if it means easy Star Gold (for now).

Q: What can you do with the miles you earn as you achieve Star Silver/Star Gold status?

A: Good question, me. I think the sweet spot on the spending chart is 21,000 miles earned (including the 1,000 signup bonus) – it’s just a bit over the necessary mileage required for Star Gold, and it also gets you an intra-region one-way business class ticket (i.e., one-way business class from Los Angeles to New York on United with no fuel surcharge, Tokyo to Singapore on ANA/Asiana/Thai/Singapore with fuel surcharge, or Australia to Fiji on Air New Zealand, possibly with fuel surcharges). Of those 3, I think the latter two have the best redemption value, though I am curious what United’s Premium Service transcontinental flights are like and this would be a great way to find that out. There are a couple of rules to redeeming with Aegean:

  • One-ways price at half the round-trip.
  • A maximum of 1 connection en-route (unless it’s impossible to connect a city pair with just one connection). Lack of availability does not preclude this rule.
  • No stopovers allowed.
  • Cancelling an award results in loss of 50% of the miles redeemed. Thus, this program is better for last-minute tickets or ticket you’re sure you’ll use.
  • Changing an award costs only 20 Euros! Cancelling an award costs only 20 Euros! Each can be up to 30 minutes before departure!
  • Awards must be booked over-the-phone: I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ll definitely write up my experience with their phone reservations when I get to it.

Q: But I always try to redeem miles for business class or higher, thus negating the need for status. Would having status make me more likely to go back to coach?

A: Sure, in certain cases! A couple weeks ago, The Points Guy answered if redeeming miles for intra-Europe business class is worth it in this post. I’ve written about intra-Europe business class here and here, both times on Lufthansa. I commented on that post that it’s never really worth it, but it’s definitely not worth it if you have any sort of mid-to-top tier elite status. European business class is just a coach seat with the middle seat blocked. You get the same ground services as those with elite status (either ElitePlus in Skyteam, Star Gold in Star Alliance, or Sapphire in OneWorld). The seat itself is just coach, and the flights are barely a few hours long.

In that post, TPG noted that Air Canada’s Aeroplan, which is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, has a decent program for anyone trying to concoct an intra-Europe trip with multiple stops. Coach tickets cost between 20,000 and 30,000 miles depending on the countries visited. While there are fuel surcharges, you can build in 2 stopovers enroute. That means that you could visit 3 places for as little as 20,000 miles in coach in Western Europe.

Air Canada charges fuel surcharges for several European airlines, but not for Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, SAS (Scandinavian), SWISS, Turkish, or Singapore (which flies Manchester-Munich on their 77W, a flight I’ve seen some coach award availability on once in a while). I don’t have a European trip coming up, but I’ll be thinking of a way to use that award if I do soon.

Q: Why did you choose to go for Aegean Star Gold when you already had Turkish Star Gold from a status match?

A: The status matches (which are still happening) are good for 2 years, and flying 25,000 miles within the first year would extend it to 4 years. However, I’d have to fly more to build up my miles to an award level I could use before the miles expire in 3 years. Aegean allowed me to get 3.5 years of Star Gold from this trip, almost as good as Turkish, plus easier requalification down the road. Plus I now have enough miles for a one-way redemption I can use.

Categories: Aegean, Star Alliance Tags:

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

July 3, 2012 11 comments

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!

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

May 18, 2012 3 comments

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.

Read more…

Categories: Aegean, Star Alliance