Which Star Alliance programmes offer the easiest route to elite status (Gold)?

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Mr Brightside, our anonymous points and miles expert, is something of an elite status junkie. Since British Airways Executive Club makes it almost TOO easy, he occasionally turns his thoughts towards the Star Alliance.

I recently looked at the various options for earning miles when flying on Star Alliance airlines. You can click here to be taken to that post if you wish to remind yourself. That post is almost irrelevant, however, if your main focus is reaching a certain level of elite status. The very best options for earning and redeeming miles might NOT be the best options for earning elite status. This is especially true for the infrequent Star Alliance flyer who would nonetheless like to enjoy elite status.

As a quick reminder, the Star Alliance groups 26 airlines into a single alliance. The largest member airlines are Lufthansa and United. Other popular Star Alliance airlines are: Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, All Nippon Airways, Thai Airways and Turkish Airlines.

 

How does the Star Alliance determine elite status?

The Star Alliance doesn’t actually hand out elite status cards; each individual frequent flyer programme sets its own rules. However, the higher tier status levels of each member airlines’ frequent flyer programme are mapped against the two uniformly-recognised Star Alliance status levels  – “Star Alliance Silver” and “Star Alliance Gold”. These two status levels entitle you to enjoy select benefits and privileges, although some airlines have started to limit the benefits they provide to “somebody else’s” Star Alliance Gold status.

I would say that Star Alliance Silver is equivalent to BA’s Bronze level. Nice to have, but lacking in the benefits that make elite status truly worthwhile.

As a result, Star Alliance Gold is what you want to aim for…

What Does Star Alliance Gold Get Me?

The standard benefits for Star Alliance Gold members are:

  • Airport lounge access
  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in at Business Class desks
  • Fast track security
  • Extra baggage allowance (not on Hand Baggage Only fares offered by Lufthansa, Austrian, SWISS, Brussels Airlines and SAS)
  • Priority baggage handling

 

What Are My Best Options for Achieving (& Retaining) Gold Status?

Aegean Airlines Miles + Bonus

Qualification

Reaching Gold status with Miles + Bonus – equivalent to Star Alliance Gold – is a two-stage process.

First, you must reach Silver status. Silver status can be reached two different ways:

  • Earn 24,000 Tier miles on ANY Star Alliance airline
  • Earn 12,000 Tier miles on any Star Alliance airline AS LONG AS you have flown TWICE on Aegean or Olympic Air

You have a rolling 12-months to collect the required number of miles.

Once you have reached Silver status, a new 12-month period will immediately begin. To upgrade your status to Gold, you must:

  • Earn 48,000 Tier miles on ANY Star Alliance airline
  • Earn 24,000 Tier miles on any Star Alliance airline AS LONG AS you have flown FOUR times on Aegean or Olympic Air

A bit of fancy footwork is required (or two trips to/via Greece – because you must have reached Silver status before your 3rd-6th Aegean flights will count towards Gold) but 36,000 Tier miles and six flights on Aegean is pretty easy way of reaching Star Alliance Gold status

Renewal

Once you reach Gold status, your 12-month renewal period begins immediately. To retain your Gold status, you are required to complete:

  • 24,000 Tier miles on ANY Star Alliance airline
  • 12,000 Tier miles on any Star Alliance airline AS LONG AS you have flown FOUR times on Aegean or Olympic Air

The 30-Second Lowdown

If you enjoy visiting Greece every summer, then you will have little problem picking up the four Aegean flights that halve the mileage requirements for Gold status. Although there might be simpler ways of EARNING Gold status from a different frequent flyer programme, Aegean offers the easiest way of RETAINING it. However, elite status with Aegean lasts for one year only.

 

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles

Qualification

Miles & Smiles offers two tiers of elite status that are equivalent to Star Alliance Gold – Elite Plus and Elite. In order to qualify, you must complete the following number of Status Miles within a rolling 12-month period:

  • Elite Plus – 80,000 miles
  • Elite – 40,000 miles

Renewal

Once you reach Elite status, your account will be upgraded for TWO years. You can also continue onwards towards Elite Plus status using the same 40,000 miles that got you Elite status.

Because of the two-year cycle, Elite members have two ways of renewing their Elite status (assuming that you are resident outside of Turkey):

  • 25,000 status miles during Year 1 of their renewal cycle
  • 37,500 status miles over both years of their renewal cycle

Similarly, Elite Plus members have two ways of renewing their Elite Plus status:

  • 40,000 status miles during Year 1 of their renewal cycle
  • 60,000 status miles over both years of their renewal cycle

Miles & Smiles also allows you to purchase up to 10,000 status miles for USD700. i.e. $70 per 1,000 status miles. In theory, this is only possible during the second year of your renewal cycle, but some accounts seem to be able to buy status miles during year one.

Why Elite Plus?

Although both Elite and Elite Plus are equivalent to Star Alliance Gold, Elite Plus comes with the following advantages:

  • A soft landing to Elite status – therefore you are guaranteed at least FOUR years of Star Alliance Gold status
  • Complimentary upgrade certificates (for Turkish Airlines flights only). Elite Plus members can upgrade any economy fare into Business Class twice per year.  (i.e. Manchester to Istanbul to Beijing uses one upgrade certificate, with the return trip also costing one upgrade certificate). BA Gold Guest List members often refer to the BA equivalent as GUFs, except that the Turkish upgrades book into revenue inventory instead of award inventory. I would also argue that an Economy –> Business upgrade is more valuable than BA’s one category upgrade.

The 30-Second Lowdown

If you hold Gold status with British Airways, you can request a status match. If not, the two-year status cycle means that you enjoy elite status for longer, and can re-qualify quite easily… especially if you focus your Star Alliance travel on achieving a year one renewal.

Asiana Club

Asiana airlines B777 business class

Asiana airlines B777 business class

Qualification

Asiana Club offers two tiers of elite status that are equivalent to Star Alliance Gold – Diamond and Diamond Plus. In order to qualify, you must earn the following number of miles within 24 months of your “base date”:

  • Diamond Plus – 100,000 miles
  • Diamond – 40,000 miles

Your “base date” refers to the exact date that you signed up for Asiana Club (post 2008) If you are signing up for this first time, this means that you should join Asiana Club on the day of your first flight, thereby taking full advantage of the 24-month window.

You can also qualify for elite status based on Asiana sectors flown. I would be shocked if any readers could manage 50/100 flights on Asiana Airlines without living in South Korea or nearby. But then again, a few of you have done some crazy BA Tier Point runs… so flying back and forth between Seoul and Busan or Jeju wouldn’t be out of the question!

Renewal

Once you reach Diamond status, your account will be upgraded for the rest of your two-year qualification window PLUS two more years. You can also continue onwards towards Diamond Plus status using the same 40,000 miles that got you Diamond status.

To be clear, if you sign up on 1 April 2020, your two-year qualification window will run until 31 March, 2022. As soon as you reach 40,000 status miles, your new elite status will be valid until 31 March, 2024. (the rest of your current window plus two more years)  You would only start the re-qualification process on 1 April 2022.

In order to renew your status, you must earn:

  • 75,000 miles for Diamond Plus
  • 30,000 miles for Diamond

The 30-Second Lowdown

It can be quite the mental hurdle to start crediting your Star Alliance flights to the frequent flyer programme offered by an airline based half way around the world, especially if you are also unsure about how easy it will be to redeem those miles for award flights. But Asiana Club is probably the easiest option for achieving and renewing Star Alliance Gold. I should also mention that Asiana Club offers lifetime status, starting at 500,000 miles – offering a longer-term incentive as well. Your interest should also be tempered by Asiana’s financial difficulties. As BMI lifetime status holders can attest, “lifetime” isn’t YOUR life time…

 

Egyptair Plus

Egyptair Plus is worth considering because of their Family Account. Forget everything you know about BA’s Household Account or other similar offerings. With Egyptair Plus, ALL of the miles earned by the family are directly credited to the main account holder – and these miles count for elite status!

According to the EgyptAir Plus website, the “Main Member” is restricted to adding five family members of the first degree, which is defined as:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Siblings

A substantial amount of supporting documentation is required. Unfortunately there is no reason to expect that Egyptair will accept the unconventional family structures (unmarried partners, LGBT+, etc.) that are broadly accepted in the UK.

Qualification

Reaching Gold status with Egyptair Plus – equivalent to Star Alliance Gold – is a two-stage process.

First, you must reach Silver status. Silver status can be earned by flying 30,000 miles. I have been unable to find reliable information to determine whether this is 30,000 miles within a specific two-year period, or whether it refers to a balance of 30,000 miles achieved through flying. (taking into account the fact that miles expire after 3 years)

Once your account status is Silver, the process is clearer. You have 24 months (from the date of achieving Silver) to earn an additional 30,000 miles.

Renewal

Oddly enough, it is even harder to renew Gold status than it is to earn it! From the moment that your account is upgraded to Gold, you have 24 months to earn 40,000 miles.

The 30-Second Lowdown

Egyptair Plus is your best option if you are the head of a “conventional family” (as much as it pains me to write that) that takes long-haul holidays together in Business Class. One family trip could easily earn enough miles for the Main Member to reach Silver outbound, then Gold status with the return. It is worth pointing out that you must call Egyptair (or visit an airport ticket office) to redeem your miles, and nobody seems to know whether they add fuel surcharges to award tickets – so you should really be in it for the status, not the redeemable miles…

 

Which is the Best Option?

Nobody said it would be simple…  I haven’t mentioned the fact that each frequent flyer programme has its own way of determining how many miles are earned on a given flight. Earning 40,000 status miles with Asiana will be far more difficult if you typically fly on Economy fares that only earn 25-50% credit. Those same flights credited elsewhere might get you to Star Alliance Gold faster. And of course, you are hopefully also interested in spending those miles on award flights, which will be determined by each programme’s award chart.

As a result, there’s no single answer, but if elite status is your main focus then choose:

  • Aegean Miles + Bonus if you love visiting Greece
  • Egyptair Plus if you travel as a family
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles if you can reach Elite Plus and take advantage of those upgrade vouchers
  • Asiana Club if you are tempted by an achievable lifetime target and the easiest qualify / renew hurdles

 

1 Comment on "Which Star Alliance programmes offer the easiest route to elite status (Gold)?"

  1. The big chellange with Star Alliance is that most of the frequent flyer programmes offer little, if any, benefit for anyone travelling on a discounted ticket and that includes business class. So, whilst booking a flight to west Africa recently, the business class tickets with Brussels Airlines offered 0% points on my TK account. If I dropped down to Premium Economy I earned 150% as a Gold Card holder and paid less for the tickets. I’ve had similar experiences with many other airlines. So collect points on the airline scheme you are most likely to use unless you are purchasing full-price tickets.

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