Ratings & Reviews

(Program Reviews - Side by Side Comparison - Website Reviews)

Star Alliance

(123 ratings)


This program was reviewed and rated by our editors in August 2006. Changes in the program past this date are possible, especially program partner information. We recommend you subscribe to the #1 source of frequent flyer information, Inside Flyer Magazine, to get the most current information possible.

When it comes to global scale, no one comes close to the Star Alliance. Rivals oneworld (eight members) and SkyTeam (nine members) pale in size to this behemoth (21 members). Built largely on the strength of its cornerstones, United and Lufthansa, the Star Alliance membership (Adria, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Blue1, bmi, Croatia, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, SAS, SWISS, Singapore, South African, Spanair, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways, United, US Airways and VARIG) continues to grow.

Global alliances make good business sense. The partners feed each other passengers, leverage their various geographic systems to provide a wider range of destinations for members, and reduce each other's costs by working more closely together. Everyone wins.

What it provides you: Seamless ticketing, a worldwide choice of destinations (842 airports in 152 countries), and a behind-the-scenes reduction of overall costs.

What it doesn't provide you: A separate frequent flyer program. Alliances are an enhancement of, not a substitute for, your basic benefits.



As with all alliances, the number of miles you earn and the way you earn them depend entirely upon your individual program. A Mileage Plus member jumping onto an Air Canada plane will earn Mileage Plus miles, at whatever class-of-service bonus United offers.

And miles earned through the alliance can only be earned by flying -- there are no alliance-wide means of collecting hotel or car rental miles, for instance.

As a result, many members opt to join one of the two largest programs -- Mileage Plus or Miles & More. Both are relatively generous, and their enormous individual networks are quite convenient for many.

To take full advantage of the alliance, be sure to quote your frequent flyer number every time you book with a member airline or travel provider. Save your passenger receipts and boarding passes. If your miles or points do not appear on your account, send your tickets and boarding passes to your frequent flyer program service center and have them credited to your account.

Once you have earned miles or points in one program, you are not able to transfer that balance to another program within the alliance. All programs remain independent -- there is no magical Star Alliance pool in which to deposit different kinds of miles.



Just flights, right? Well, yes, but flights to just about everywhere. The Star Alliance allows seamless travel on one award ticket to more places than any other alliance, regardless of which airline you fly.

But remember, though Star has alliance-wide award levels, you'll need to book them through your own program. Most member airlines carry Star Alliance award charts on their Web sites.

Award levels are tough to beat. With Star Alliance, awards are set by geographic location, instead of by distance, as they are with oneworld. A Star award from North America to Africa in first class, for instance, will run 180,000 miles. An intra-continental flight in Europe will run 30,000 miles in economy. Those rates have increased in recent years, but remain competitive with the other alliances.

In September 2005, Star became the first alliance to offer upgrade redemption across the membership, rather than on individual carriers. The levels are fairly high, so be sure to check the upgrade award amounts of your primary program before considering a Star upgrade.

What about all those nifty retail or hotel awards? No such luck. You're certainly welcome to burn your miles on a Miles & More Porsche test-drive, but don't expect to do it with your Thai Royal Orchid miles.

Star Alliance is not alone in this -- none of the three big alliances offer anything but flight awards. If anyone were in position to do it, though, it would be this alliance -- its size and infrastructure should be sufficient enough to let an ANA Mileage Club member get a cool new cell phone through Miles & More, for instance.

And finally, there is a "Round the World" award (a bargain at 180,000 miles in economy -- a full 20,000 miles less than it was two years ago).



Twenty-one airlines, and no partners.

Sad, but true. As with unique award redemption opportunities, your chances for earning miles on the ground are limited to your favorite program.

Earning and redeeming options are something many individual carriers take pride in -- SAS, for example, offers all sorts of unique activities for EuroBonus members. It would not be fair to ask member airlines to surrender that uniqueness by allowing members a limited number of awards made available to all.



If you're limited to what your own program provides, what the heck good is an alliance, anyway?

Two words: Elite status. This is one of the real enhancements to your basic benefits you'll get by being involved with a Star carrier.

Once again, you're limited by the terms of your own program, but miles you fly on any Star Alliance carrier will count toward elite status.

Star Alliance provides two levels of elite status -- Silver and Gold. Each partner, of course, has their own elite levels, and reaching these automatically qualifies you for the Star Alliance levels.

Star Alliance Silver -- the "entry-level" category, ensures that its members receive priority reservations waitlisting, and priority airport standby.

Gold status offers those perks and more. You can expect priority check-in, priority baggage handling, an extra baggage allowance of 44 pounds (20 kg), priority boarding, and airport lounge access for you and a traveling companion.

Again, these perks come on top of whatever benefits you enjoy from your elite status in your own program.

Of course, since the various partners have differing levels of entry into their elite ranks, you'll see genuine road warriors on one airline receiving the same Star status as less frequent flyers on another airline.

For example, the lowest elite levels in Mileage Plus and Miles & More, Premier and Frequent Traveller, both qualify for Star Alliance Silver status. However, you only need 25,000 miles to get Premier status at United; Frequent Traveller status with Miles & More requires 3,000 miles (In the interests of full disclosure, however, it should be noted that the overall perks of a Frequent Traveller put Premier's benefits to shame).

For all the differences, though, the alliance does have the beneficial effect of evening the playing field. Though the airlines are partners, they are also, at core, competitors, and successful ideas from one invariably find their way to the others, particularly if the airlines share routes.

Two years ago, for example, Frequent Travellers earned no bonuses on Star Alliance flights. Today, they earn a full 25 percent.



Members are subject to the rules and conditions of their programs. This will probably be your second-most important factor in deciding which program to join (after looking at which airline you'll be flying the most).

Look to things like expiring miles, ease of achieving elite status, award levels and transferability, generosity of earning, etc. As a general rule, you'll find Miles & More and Mileage Plus, the two largest programs, offer the most for most people. But don't discount the smaller programs -- each offers its own unique brand of convenience.



There is no Star Alliance service desk per se. Any customer service or booking issues need to be routed through your own carrier.

Which is not to say that Star simply waves you off: They do offer some business help, including the "Conventions Plus" service -- a program serving event planners.



Like all alliance sites, Star Alliance's is really little more than a portal to individual airline sites.

Star has thrown in a few nifty extras, though. There is now a travel information section which offers users a broad range of destination information, including country and city guides, weather, key contacts, accommodations, dining, sightseeing and entertainment. Using flash technology, the site also features detailed airport maps of 42 major hub airports across the network, which depict check-in, lounge and ticketing locations.

The site also features downloadable timetables for the entire alliance network and a cool little screen-saver.

There is not a direct means for booking a flight on the site anymore. Passengers need to visit their own program's site to do that.

Global alliances, including Star, are a real victory for both the carriers and passengers. System-wide elite status, greater geographic diversity and seamless travel both on awards and revenue tickets all add up to a good deal.

You simply can't find a larger network than Star's, and for most folks, that's what matters most.

The extra perks Star offers -- Conventions Plus, timetables, etc. -- are fairly unique in the industry, and we applaud their initiative.

Star's minus features are not unique in that they could be equally applied to all of the other major alliances. But with the sheer volume and resources within Star, we'd like to see a more integrated award system. Elite status earning discrepancies are not really a minus or a plus -- it all depends on your program and perspective.


  Earning Ability Award Choices Partnerships Elite-Level Rules & Conditions Service Support Online Services Overall Rating
9.00 9.00 9.50 9.00 * 8.00 7.50 8.66
6.79 6.16 6.78 6.18 5.30 5.42 5.55 6.03

(123 ratings)


About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Copyright | Help | Privacy Policy | Products | Legal

A Frequent Flyer Network site. All rights reserved.