This guide takes a look at the Star Alliance, focusing on its carriers that fly into Australia and their respective frequent flyer programs.
What is Star Alliance?
The Star alliance is one of three major global airline alliances, alongside oneworld that counts Australia’s largest airline Qantas as one of its members, and SkyTeam Alliance, which is indirectly linked to Virgin Australia’s Velocity program through its reciprocal points transfer partnership with Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer.
The alliance currently includes 27 member airlines, 10 of which fly into Australia and are highlighted in bold:
- Adria (flights suspended due to financial troubles as of 24 September 2019)
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air India
- Air New Zealand
- Asiana Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- Croatia Airlines
- EVA Air
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Shenzhen Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- TAP Air Portugal
- Turkish Airlines
There are also two Connecting Partners. They offer elite status benefits when combining travel with a ‘full’ Star Alliance member on the one itinerary (but not for travel if just flying the Connecting Partner airline itself). They are:
- Juneyao Airlines
- Thai Smile
Star Alliance frequent flyers are able to earn miles and status credits when flying with different Star Alliance airlines in the same reservation. The alliance spans across 1,330 destinations in 192 countries, so there is plenty of
Elite members of each Star Alliance frequent flyer program enjoy premium benefits. There are two elite status levels within Star Alliance, which are:
For example, with Singapore Airlines, Silver corresponds to the KrisFlyer Elite Silver status level, while Gold corresponds to KrisFlyer Elite Gold, PPS Club, Solitaire PPS Club and Solitaire PPS Club life status levels. These vary by airline, and the SkyTeam tier corresponding to other Star Alliance airlines can be found here.
With Star Silver or Gold, eligible frequent flyers are able to access the following benefits when traveling with any Star Alliance airline in any travel class. These include:
Silver and Gold members
- Priority Reservations Waitlist
- Priority Airport Stand-by
- Priority Airport Check-in
- Priority Baggage Handling
- Airport Lounge Access
- Priority Boarding
- Extra Baggage Allowance
- Gold Track
To enjoy the benefits of a Star Alliance frequent flyer program, you will need to join a member airline’s individual program. While there is no universal Star Alliance frequent flyer program, the alliance does provide universally-dedicated Star Alliance lounges in addition to individual member airline lounges. There currently are eight Star Alliance lounges, including a lounge at Los Angeles. Other locations are Buenos Aires, Nagoya, Paris, Rio De Janeiro, Rome and São Paulo.
Key lounges in Australia
SilverKris Business Lounge, Sydney
This is a beautifully designed lounge by Singaporean architectural firm ONG&ONG to create a ‘home away from home’ feel, and includes design elements such as productivity pods, which resemble Business and First class seats on a plane. The lounge is conducive to work or relaxation given its quiet and peaceful ambience.
A full review of the lounge can be found here.
Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Sydney
A well designed lounge that has plenty of natural light and tarmac views, as well as incorporating different zone areas in an inspired way to cater for the needs of all guests, not just those in business. The lounge excels in its catering, and easily competes with the standard of Qantas’s lounge offering.
A full review of the lounge can be found here.
How to earn Star Alliance miles?
Star Alliance miles can be earned directly with any Star Alliance member airline through flying or their respective air and ground partners.
No Star Alliance member airline that
American Express rewards points can be earned from holding American Express credit cards, while Marriott Bonvoy points can be earned by staying at any Marriott hotel worldwide.
Marriott partners with many airlines, including a majority of SkyTeam airlines, however there are exceptions, so please refer to the following Marriott Bonvoy airline partner list for confirmation. Note that while Velocity Frequent Flyer is not an airline partner of Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to Velocity Frequent Flyer at a rate of 3:1.
Which are the best Star Alliance carriers for Australia-based travellers?
Australia has not had a home grown Star Alliance carrier since the collapse of Ansett Australia in 2001, so unlike oneworld, does not have a carrier that directly allows for earning frequent flyer points on domestic flights.
However, Virgin Australia does partner with KrisFlyer, allowing you to earn either Velocity points (which can be transferred to KrisFlyer miles) or KrisFlyer miles on these domestic routes, so if your flying is mostly domestic, you may wish to consider KrisFlyer if you’re looking to ultimately redeem on Singapore Airlines or other Star Alliance carriers.
There are a total of 10 Star Alliance airlines that fly to Australia, and if you find yourself flying any of these airlines regularly, it may pay to join the frequent flyer program of that airline. For example, if you fly from to Australia to Bangkok frequently, THAI Airways Royal Orchid Plus program may best be suited to you.
If you’re looking to earn most of your miles through purchasing them, without necessarily needing to even set foot on that airline’s planes, Avianca LifeMiles or United Mileage Plus are both programs that stands out for offering great promotions for purchasing miles, and great rates for redeeming them.
For example, Avianca LifeMiles are especially good value for Business and First class travel from Australia to North Asia and back, while United MileagePlus offers great value for First Class redemptions to Asia.
Note that some programs have a ‘hard expiry’ condition, while others just have a ‘soft expiry’. KrisFlyer for example has a ‘hard expiry’, meaning that your points will expire after 3 years regardless of whether or not you have had any activity in your account. This will not suit infrequent flyers.
On the other hand, a program like MileagePlus has a ‘soft expiry’, whereby your points will stay active so long as you have any activity in your account within an 18-month period.
Further information regarding expiraion policies can be found here.
How to search for Star Alliance availability
The two main websites to use for Star Alliance flights are the KrisFlyer and United Mileage Plus sites.
The KrisFlyer site allows you to search for and book Star Alliance partners such as ANA, THAI and Lufthansa as well as other partner award flights on the KrisFlyer website. However, the MileagePlus site is easier to use, but does not show any award seats for Singapore Airlines, only those of other Star Alliance carriers.
Also note that Lufthansa First Class is not available until it is within 15 days of the date you are travelling, which means that if you looking to travel more in advance than that, you will not be able to book an award seat. Aside from Lufthansa, other Star Alliance partners release their First Class awards in advance.
Star Alliance is by far the largest global alliance of the three, and it is hard to see any pitfalls in joining at least one Star Alliance program. Given the large choice of airlines, it can be a bit overwhelming when trying to decide which one (or more) to choose.
With Velocity partnering with KrisFlyer to allow for points transfers, this could be a good program for many Australia-based
Ultimately, the decision will rest on many factors, including where you travels predominantly take you, and which Star Alliance carrier best serves that destination.
Other alliances relevant to travelers based in Australia
Featured and supplementary images courtesy Star Alliance.