Ok, I have a confession… and this is a HUGE one!

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I’m not going for Oneworld status in 2021.


Whilst you all pick yourself up off the floor, let me begin to explain.


But don’t you love being a GGL with BA?

BA Concorde Room at Heathrow 

Well yes, I do.  But when you break it down, its mostly because of the failures elsewhere.  Yes getting Gold Upgrade Vouchers is great, jokers (space release) I can take or leave, and the Concorde Room?  Well, we will come onto that.  Apart from that being able to speak to competent agents quickly is nice, but why do GGLs have to call BA so often?  Could that be largely alleviated with better IT?

There is no denying being London-based BA are fabulous – a single stop to a huge amount of destinations is super handy and the product is largely good (ok, acceptable).

BUT who knows what post COVID19 brings to the industry? 

Will GGL exist? 

Will BA still have that vast route network?  The answer to that is a definite NO by the way.

Do you want my opinion?  Alliances will play a much bigger part of loyalty and aviation going forward.  No single airline will be able to have the monopolies they may currently enjoy.

I renewed in March this year with 6400 Tier Points, so yes I’m a very heavy flyer (or was!) But a lot of that was “running” for the points rather than enjoying it perhaps as much as I should…


So 2021?

Well, I’m not booking anything for this year.  Why?  It’s too up in the air. Spikes, peaks and curves will continue for months to come, bringing likely uncertainty to my plans.

Having said that, they might still be hurting air travel in 2021, but you have to draw a line somewhere!

When I saw TAP selling £750 Business Class tickets from London to Cancun, that was it.  Star Alliance.


Star Alliance?!

Yes.  Yes. But why?  Let’s look at the options – 

Oneworld – its BA or AA in this one, and frankly I didn’t fancy either anymore. My time tier point running is over – it was fun 🙂

SkyTeam – Air France? KLM? Delta?  No thanks.  

So who is in Star?

A nice variety….

Lufthansa and Swiss are solid options intra Europe, with Austrian there as a nice backup.  Apparently with some of the best European catering in the sky from Do&Co.

Over the pond to the states we have United with new Polaris seats and lounges, Air Canada with BMW transfers and signature lounges and even Air NZ down to Auckland.

Air Canada business class

And East?  EVA air apparently have some of the best catering in the sky (service too) and ANA has brand new business and first class suites that look out of this world. And well SQ suites – that’s a dream!

TAP A330-900 Neo business class

And of course, there is TAP.  With new A330 neos, they are constantly expanding their route network and have some of the cheapest fares in the sky currently. 


But Which Program?

United Polaris business class seat

United Polaris business class seat

At first, I thought Hon Circle was possible – until I saw the qualification was only valid on the Lufthansa group.  Oops.  I’m not going to go into the details of each program – you can read all about some of them here.

I decided on United Mileage Plus.  I wasn’t interested in the fastest route to earn or renew.  I fly enough not to worry about that!


Now whilst you can name me a Oneworld itinerary, and I could tell you earnings off the top of my head – that is definitely not the case with Star!  Or United anyway!

So what are the United levels?

Two levels above “Gold” – sounds like my kind of program!

And yes – I aiming for 1K next year.  



Now United have halved the levels needed due to COVID19, so take the below with a pinch of salt.  I am aiming for the standard levels of double the below.

So 1K needs 24,000PQP or 52 United flights and 18,000PQP! Ouch!  But hold on, what is PQP?

It’s basically the amount of money spent.

$24,000?! Ouch!  Well no…


PQF and PQP?

With Premier qualifying flights (PQF), every flight you take gets you closer to status. And by a flight, we mean a takeoff and landing — no more fare class multipliers and confusing segment math.

Basic Economy tickets will be eligible to earn Premier qualifying points, but will not accrue PQF. Award tickets also do not accrue PQF.

You’ll receive 1 Premier qualifying point (PQP) for each U.S. dollar you spend. Only the base fare of your flight earns PQP. Taxes and fees don’t count toward your spend requirements.

The following purchases earn PQP:

  •  Base fare + surcharge
  •  Economy Plus seating or subscriptions
  •  Preferred seat purchases
  •  MileagePlus Upgrade Award co-pays
  •  Paid upgrades on flights operated by United and United Express
  •  Flights ticketed and operated by our Star Alliance partners

So hold on?  A nice $1500 ticket to Hawaii only gets me 1,500PQP?  Yes, if flown on United on a united ticket 😉

Fly the same ticket on Air Canada metal on an Air Canada ticket and you’ll earn over 7000PQP…

Previously, if you flew on a Star Alliance partner airline and your flight was not ticketed by United, you couldn’t earn Premier qualifying dollars. Today, you’ll receive spend credit on these flights in the form of Premier qualifying points. Your PQP will be equal to award miles earned divided by 5 if you’re flying on a preferred partner; for other MileagePlus partner airlines, it will be award miles earned divided by 6.

For Star Alliance airlines as well as Air Dolomiti, Azul Brazilian Airlines, Eurowings, Edelweiss, Juneyao Airlines and Olympic Air:

Star Alliance partnerPQP total
Preferred partner PQPAward miles divided by 5
MileagePlus partner PQPAward miles divided by 6

For example, if you earned 360 award miles for your flight, you’ll receive 72 PQP if you flew with a preferred partner, and 60 PQP if you flew with a MileagePlus partner.

I have “borrowed” this handy table from Flyertalk that explains it more – 

In a nutshell – 

I want to fly to San Francisco from Germany in Business.  Now that’s likely to be a P class ticket for let’s say £1200.

On United, I would earn about 1100PQP.

Lufthansa or Swiss would net me closer to 2500PQP, whilst if I ventured via Canada I could max out at over 5500PQP.  All for the same price. So just take the distance flown and multiply by the above.

A lot to take in, and I’m still learning!


Show me the Goodies

I could try and explain it, but I would likely get it wrong!  Anyway the headlines for 1K – 

  • Priority check-in and security where avaliable.
  • Pre-boarding
  • 3 checked bags on economy tickets (32kg each)
  • Access to economy seats on sold-out flights up to 90 mins before departure.
  • Same day change fees waived
  • Clear annual membership cost fee waived
  • Upgrades cleared on domestic flights 96 hours before departure.
  • Economy Plus seating from booking for you + 8 friends/family.
  • Instant upgrade from economy in certain booking classes.
  • 320 PlusPoints (I’ll come onto these!)
  • Free drink and snack in economy.
  • Best award availability on United in Premium cabins.
  • Marriot Bonvoy Gold
  • Hertz Presidents Circle

and many more!

So for hitting 24,000 PQP United will give me 360 points and another 20 for each 3000PQP as you pass through 24,000.


So what does each point get me?

You can also upgrade to United Polaris business from discounted Economy fares, which were previously restricted. Basic Economy tickets will remain ineligible for upgrades.

So hold on?  I can upgrade straight from Economy to Polaris? Yes!

Oh, and you can use them on some other partners too – 

  • Economy to Premium Plus: 20 PlusPoints
  • Premium Plus to Polaris: 30 PlusPoints
  • Economy to Polaris (Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W): 40 PlusPoints
  • Economy to ANA business (G, E, Y, B): 40 PlusPoints
  • Business to ANA first (J, C, D): 40 PlusPoints
  • Economy to Copa business: 40 PlusPoints
  • Economy to Lufthansa business (G, E, Y, B, M, U, H, Q): 40 PlusPoints
  • Business to Lufthansa first (J, C, D): 40 PlusPoints
  • Economy to Premium Plus (Skip Waitlist): 70 PlusPoints
  • Economy to Polaris (S, T, L, K, G): 80 PlusPoints
  • Economy to Polaris (Skip Waitlist): 140 PlusPoints

Ok, it got a bit confusing – let me make it simple – 

That is upgradeable to Polaris for 160 Points.  AMAZING!

And if you only want to spend 80 points?

Again amazing value.  And yes there needs to be upgrade space available – similar to BA in that respect.

So with 360 points, I will be able to upgrade 4 returns to San Francisco! Oh, and you don’t pay the additional taxes either!  You can also pay more points to skip the waitlist if there is one.  All in all, a good flexible system I feel.

What about upgrading the other way?  East on Lufthansa?

Again, an 80 point upgrade to business class – from London too!

I’ll cover lounges in another article…

Right I have waffled enough – some of the above may be inaccurate and I apologise – like I said, I am still learning, but I’m excited about this new flying chapter! 

But don’t worry, Michele is still going to be flying BA and Oneworld. We will still have the same coverage of BA and OW as before, but with some extra Star Alliance content.

21 Comments on "Ok, I have a confession… and this is a HUGE one!"

  1. My fav quote … “it’s all up in the air”. ROFL

  2. I thought TAP stood for ‘Take Another Plane’ 😉

  3. ClaytonTheCruton | 24 April 2020 at 8:00 am | Reply

    Being UK based and purely a leisure traveller, if a very ( normally) frequent one there really is no viable alternative for me/ us apart from BA however I think it will be fun / interesting to see some reports from another alliance and I have to say the Avgeek in me is probably as excited about having to try and get my head around their earning structure as you are Paul.

    I wish you the best in your new adventures when we’re allowed to fly again and look forward to reading about them.

  4. Miles. On point | 24 April 2020 at 8:37 am | Reply

    Hi Paul, for Star Alliance Gold Status in the interim, TAP are running a status match promo at the moment.

    All you need to do is sign up for a TAP account for free, during sign up process there is an option to upload a copy of competing status (they match BA)

    Final step is to buy TAP miles (no minimum purchase), smallest amount is 2,000 miles @ €70 (approx £62)

    Status is given until 30th April 2021 but many on flyertalk are reporting status expiry of April 2022 once match approved:


    This would be handy for any short haul hops with Star Alliance before you hit status with United and gives you access to the lovely Senator Lounge at LHR T2

  5. A quick question. What’s wrong with SkyTeam?

  6. Brian Humphreys | 24 April 2020 at 8:47 am | Reply

    Sorry but I’ll remain loyal to BA..in the next 6-12 months many airlines will cease to exist and I feel BA will rise from this horrendous inferno a stronger and more customer focused company !!

  7. Clive Fletcher-Wood | 24 April 2020 at 9:12 am | Reply

    How very interesting. This article will need to be read in slow time and absorbed, but even glancing it at I note little reference to lounge access. (I’m always surprised when travelling on internal flights in the US on a First (i.e, Business) Class ticket one does not get access to the airline’s lounge).

    But what did surprise me in relation to Star Alliance is that as a Lufthansa Miles & More member I made enough flights with Air Canada last year to have earned Silver status with BA, yet was still only two-thirds of the way to the first step with LH.

    But certainly the TAP status matching option sounds interesting, thank you to Miles on Point for mentioning this.

  8. I’m usually very loyal to BA/Iberia. In twenty eighteen, though, on a trip to Bilbao, BA were charging twice as much as Lufthansa. Guess what…I took LH. The food was okay, but not as good as BA, the lounge at LHR was good but appalling in Germany and the cabin crew were nowhere near as friendly as BA’s.
    The same year I did a joint Swiss/TAP flight to and from Lisbon. Swiss service was incredibly inefficient and the food was really poor. The lounge in Zurich was passable. I liked TAP. The food was plentiful and good, the service very friendly, and the only glitch is the lounge in Lisbon, which was poor.
    In conclusion, as far as short haul is concerned, I’m staying with BA/Iberia. TAP is always an option for Portugal. Long haul is a different question.

    • I will still be flying oneworld – just wont be doing it long haul as much if at all 🙂

      • Hey Paul – are you still planning on migrating your Long haul to Star and are you still going down the United Mileage Plus route or have you gone with another programme?

  9. You should enjoy Star Alliance. The older Turkish Business seat has so much space and I have never slept better on a plane – but not so good if travelling solo though and Turkish are not good if something goes wrong. But the food, lounges and amenity kit feel like there is no expense spared which is a feeling I don’t always get.

  10. Paul, looking forward to some great ( dark side ) reports. Dylan found your article fascinating. Michelle keep up the good work. T

  11. Sorry Paul! You may reconsider your choice.

  12. Well this is awkward….
    “United MileagePlus Makes It Harder To Earn Elite Status On Partner Airlines”

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