Star Alliance Gold status is handy to have when flying with any of the 26 Star Alliance airlines including Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, ANA, Thai Airways and Air Canada. But which is the best frequent flyer program for earning Star Alliance status?
This guide analyses the 9 Star Alliance frequent flyer programs that are of most interest to Australians. It explains exactly how to earn the equivalent of Star Alliance Silver and Gold status with each program. The guide then concludes with an analysis of the best Star Alliance frequent flyer programs for different types of travellers.
For easy navigation, you can jump directly to any of the following sections:
- Earning Star Alliance Silver and Gold status
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- United MileagePlus
- Aegean Miles&Bonus
- Asiana Club
- Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
- South African Airways Voyager
- Ethiopian Airlines ShebaMiles
- Air New Zealand Airpoints
- Which Star Alliance program is best for me?
Earning Star Alliance Silver and Gold status
With most Star Alliance frequent flyer programs, status is earned based on the number of miles you’ve flown (taking into account a multiplier for the fare class) on Star Alliance airlines throughout the year. You’ll earn miles at a different rate depending on the airline you’re flying and the fare class you’re booked in.
Once you’ve earned Star Alliance Silver or Gold status, you’ll enjoy reciprocal benefits (such as lounge access and priority at the airport) when you fly with any Star Alliance airline. A full list of Star Alliance status benefits is available on the Star Alliance website. And here is a full overview of Star Alliance member airlines:
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Singapore KrisFlyer is a popular choice for Australian travellers for several reasons. Firstly, as a Virgin Australia partner, KrisFlyer status is recognised when flying with Virgin Australia. Secondly, there are many opportunities to earn KrisFlyer miles in Australia through credit card spend. KrisFlyer miles are also a valuable currency.
However, earning KrisFlyer status is more difficult than earning status with some other Star Alliance programs. Here are the requirements to earn and maintain KrisFlyer status:
- KrisFlyer Elite Silver (Star Alliance Silver) – earn 25,000 elite miles in 12 consecutive months
- KrisFlyer Elite Gold (Star Alliance Gold) – earn 50,000 elite miles in 12 consecutive months
Status is valid for 12 months from the date it is earned.
KrisFlyer elite miles can be earned on all Star Alliance airlines. You can also earn elite miles on Virgin Atlantic (excluding trans-Atlantic flights), as well as codeshare flights operated by Virgin Australia or Vistara. But the big catch for Australians is that you can’t earn elite miles for Virgin Australia marketed flights – only codeshares with an “SQ” flight number. There are no Singapore Airlines codeshares on Virgin Australia long-haul flights.
United MileagePlus can be a good program if you’re just starting out with Star Alliance because it offers a status match. With the United status match challenge, you can get 3 months of free United MilagePlus Premier status and extend this by flying on United during the trial period.
However, since United made changes to its frequent flyer program in January 2020, earning or retaining United MileagePlus status in the normal way is now quite an onerous task – especially if you don’t live in the United States. You now need to earn Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) and/or Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) to earn or maintain United status. 1 PQP is equivalent to 1 U.S. Dollar spent on United flights, excluding taxes. (For flights marketed by partner airlines, the earn rate is based on a multiplier.) Meanwhile, 1 PQF is equivalent to 1 flight.
There is an additional requirement to take at least four flights operated by United Airlines each year. The only way to do this without visiting the USA would be to book two return trips with United from Manila to Koror, Palau.
Here are the requirements for earning and maintaining United Airlines status:
- Premier Silver (Star Alliance Silver) – 12 PQF + 4,000 PQP or 5,000 PQP only
- Premier Gold (Star Alliance Gold) – 24 PQF + 8,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP only
Status is valid until the end of January in the second year after being earned (i.e. the rest of the calendar year, plus 13 months).
United status would best suit somebody flying regularly to or within the United States. If you have United status, you don’t automatically get access to United Club lounges when flying within the USA (even if you have a first class ticket). But you are eligible for complimentary upgrades and other benefits only available when flying on United aircraft.
United is also one of several Star Alliance airlines to offer lifetime status. You can receive lifetime Gold status after earning 1 million miles, and there are other benefits that kick in after reaching 2, 3 and 4 million lifetime miles.
Earning Star Alliance Gold status via the Aegean Miles&Bonus program is relatively easy, especially if you visit Greece at least once per year. If you’re able to take at least 4 Aegean or Olympic flights each year, Aegean halves the number of tier miles needed to qualify for Star Alliance Gold status. And once you already have Gold status, the renewal requirement is halved again! Aegean and Olympic Air are based in Athens, so if you’re in Europe it’s relatively easy to tick off the four flights (e.g. by flying London-Athens-Santorini and back).
Here are the requirements for earning Aegean Miles&Bonus status:
- Silver (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 12,000 tier miles within 12 months (including at least 2 Aegean/Olympic flights) or 24,000 tier miles otherwise
- Gold (Star Alliance Gold): Earn 24,000 tier miles within 12 months (including at least 4 Aegean/Olympic flights) or 48,000 tier miles otherwise
Here are the requirements to renew Aegean Miles&Bonus status:
- Silver (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 8,000 tier miles within 12 months (including at least 2 Aegean/Olympic flights) or 16,000 tier miles otherwise
- Gold (Star Alliance Gold): Earn 12,000 tier miles within 12 months (including at least 4 Aegean/Olympic flights) or 24,000 tier miles otherwise
It’s also possible to purchase tier miles from Aegean for €50 per 500 tier miles. There is an annual purchase limit of 1,000 tier miles for Blue members (if you have no status), 2,000 tier miles for Silver members or 3,000 tier miles for Gold members. Theoretically, this means you could requalify for Gold status by earning as few as 9,000 tier miles per year from flights.
Aegean miles are also fairly valuable when redeeming for Star Alliance awards. But Aegean does not offer lifetime status.
Asiana Club is unique because your status is valid for not one, but two years! Your status will reset at the end of every two-year “membership term”, which is based on the date you joined the Asiana Club program. For example, if you joined Asiana Club on 1 May 2020 and subsequently earned Gold status any time in the following two years, your status would remain valid until 1 May 2024.
Here are the requirements for earning Asiana Club status:
- Asiana Club Gold (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 20,000 miles on Star Alliance flights or take 30 Asiana flights within 24 months
- Asiana Club Diamond (Star Alliance Gold): Earn 40,000 miles on Star Alliance flights or take 50 Asiana flights within 24 months
Here are the requirements for maintaining Asiana Club status:
- Asiana Club Gold (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 15,000 miles on Star Alliance flights or take 20 Asiana flights within 24 months
- Asiana Club Diamond (Star Alliance Gold): Earn 30,000 miles on Star Alliance flights or take 30 Asiana flights within 24 months
You can even qualify or re-qualify for Gold status with 5,000 fewer miles, or Diamond status for 10,000 fewer miles, through Asiana affiliate credit cards. However, these cards are not available in Australia.
Asiana Club also offers lifetime Star Alliance Gold status if you earn 500,000 miles or take 500 Asiana flights. This makes Asiana Club one of the easiest programs for earning lifetime Star Alliance status!
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is another program with fairly generous Star Alliance status qualification requirements. As with Asiana, Turkish Airlines status is valid for two years.
Here are the requirements for earning Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles status:
- Classic Plus (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 25,000 status miles within 12 months
- Elite (Star Alliance Gold): Earn 40,000 status miles within 12 months
Here are the requirements for maintaining Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles status for a further two years:
- Classic Plus (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 17,000 status miles in 1 year or 35,000 status miles within 2 years
- Elite (Star Alliance Gold) for non-Turkish residents: Earn 25,000 status miles in 1 year or 37,500 status miles within 2 years
- Elite (Star Alliance Gold) for Turkish residents: Earn 30,000 status miles in 1 year or 45,000 status miles within 2 years
With Turkish Airlines, you can even purchase status miles if you’re a little short of requalifying for Classic Plus or Elite status! Classic Plus members may purchase up to 5,000 status miles in order to extend their status beyond the two-year expiry. Elite members can purchase up to 10,000 status miles. The price is USD70 per 1,000 status miles.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
As Thai Airways has a relatively large presence in Australia – and partners with Amex Membership Rewards – we thought it would be worth looking at the requirements for earning status with Thai’s Royal Orchid Plus program. As it happens, earning Silver status with Thai is not all that difficult. But earning Gold status is considerably harder. As Thai has also recently announced an upcoming devaluation, we would not generally recommend crediting flights to Royal Orchid Plus.
Here are the requirements for earning and maintaining Royal Orchid Plus status:
- Silver (Star Alliance Silver) – earn 10,000 qualifying miles within 12 months or 15,000 qualifying miles within 24 months
- Gold (Star Alliance Gold) – earn 50,000 qualifying miles within 12 months or 80,000 qualifying miles within 24 months or fly 40 international Thai Airways sectors
Status is valid for 12 or 24 months, depending on how the status was earned.
South African Airways Voyager
South African Airways Voyager is another interesting program for Australians because South African Airways partners with Virgin Australia. You can get reciprocal Voyager status benefits when flying on Virgin Australia, however tier miles (which count towards status) are only earned when flying on South African Airways, SAA marketed flights operated by Mango, or Star Alliance partners. It is worth noting also that South African Airways has ongoing financial difficulties.
Here are the requirements for earning South African Airways Voyager status:
- Silver (Star Alliance Silver) – earn 30,000 tier miles in a calendar year
- Gold (Star Alliance Gold) – earn 60,000 tier miles in a calendar year
Status is valid until the end of the following calendar year. To renew your status, you would need to earn 95% of the required tier miles for that status level during the following year.
South African Airways also offers Platinum and Lifetime Platinum status. Lifetime Platinum is earned after 6 consecutive years at Platinum status, or by earning 720,000 tier miles over 4-6 years.
Update: In 2021, Ethiopian Airlines changed its program rules so that only international Ethiopian Airlines flights now count for qualifying segments.
The Ethiopian Airlines ShebaMiles program is admittedly a bit left-field. But it may be the best Star Alliance program for anyone looking to qualify on sectors rather than miles flown. Ethiopian ShebaMiles is popular, for example, among European flyers that take a lot of short hops on Star Alliance airlines within Europe. As these are typically short flights, they struggle to qualify on miles but find it relatively easy to maintain their status with ShebaMiles.
Here are the requirements for earning and maintaining Ethiopian ShebaMiles status:
- Silver (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 25,000 status miles or fly 20 qualifying segments in a calendar year
- Gold (Star Alliance Gold): Earn 50,000 status miles or fly 40 qualifying segments in a calendar year
Air New Zealand Airpoints
Air New Zealand Airpoints is not a great value frequent flyer program. It’s essentially a revenue-based program, meaning there are no real sweet spots when it comes to redeeming points. But as it’s one of the most dominant Star Alliance carriers in Australia, we thought it would be worth looking at Air New Zealand’s criteria.
Unlike most Star Alliance programs, Air New Zealand status is earned by collecting “Status Points” which work in a similar way to status credits with Qantas or Virgin Australia. On Air New Zealand flights, you’ll be told the number of status points earned at the time of booking. For Star Alliance flights, the earn rate is based on the fare class and distance of the flight.
Air New Zealand, unhelpfully, does not publish a table telling you how many status points you’ll earn for a flight; you need to use their calculator to work this out for each individual route and airline. And if a route has not been added to the calculator (such as ANA’s new Perth-Narita flight) then there is no way to know what you’ll earn! We find this very poor.
Here are the requirements for earning Air New Zealand Airpoints status:
- Silver (Star Alliance Silver): Earn 450 status points within 12 months
- Gold (Star Alliance Gold): Earn 900 status points within 12 months
To retain your status in the following year, you’d only need to earn 90% of the usual amount of status points.
If you’re a regular flyer on Air New Zealand domestic flights, it could make sense for you to use the Airpoints program. This is especially the case if you’re often flying in fare classes that don’t earn any miles with Star Alliance partner airlines, or perhaps if you’re a heavy user of co-branded Airpoints credit cards. But you might also consider using United MileagePlus, as Air New Zealand flights earn at reasonably generous rates with the MileagePlus program.
Which Star Alliance program is best for me?
The answer to this question will be different for everyone. On the face of it, Asiana Club appears to offer the easiest overall qualification for Star Alliance Gold status from travel on Star Alliance airlines. But you should beware that each frequent flyer program will award miles at different rates for each airline and fare class. With some frequent flyer programs, many of the cheaper fare classes will not earn you any miles when you fly with a Star Alliance partner airline.
For example, the cheaper Economy fare classes on Lufthansa Group airlines (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian and Brussels Airlines) do not earn any miles except when crediting to United MileagePlus or Lufthansa Miles&More (which is not included in this article as it’s not particularly good value for Australians). Similarly, the cheaper Air New Zealand fares don’t earn anything with most Star Alliance programs – but generally do with Airpoints or United MileagePlus. And Singapore Airlines’ Economy Lite fares don’t earn any miles with Star Alliance partner airlines – but they do earn KrisFlyer elite miles. This is why it’s important to check the fare class before booking!
We’ve done some analysis and compared the potential earn with each of the 9 Star Alliance programs featured in this article based on 3 different types of annual travel patterns. Here are the results…
Example A – the infrequent Business class flyer
Person A represents somebody that takes a couple of long-haul trips per year in Business class. We’ve assumed this person takes the following trips each year:
- Sydney-London (return) in Singapore Airlines Business (D class)
- Sydney-Vancouver (return) in Air Canada Business Class (P class)
With this travel pattern, Person A would be able to earn Star Alliance Gold status with Aegean Miles&Bonus, Asiana Club, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles and Ethiopian ShebaMiles.
As it happens, if this person also took the 4 Aegean or Olympic flights during the year, they could easily qualify for Aegean status with just one of the above trips. This person would also qualify for Asiana Club status in just one year, despite having two years to do so. So Aegean and Asiana are clearly the best choices here.
Example B – the semi-frequent Economy/Premium Economy flyer
Person B is someone that takes several long-haul trips per year, mainly in Economy or Premium Economy. We’ve assumed this person takes the following trips each year:
- Perth-Auckland (return) in Air New Zealand Premium Economy (O class)
- Perth-Johannesburg (return) in South African Airways discounted Economy (G class)
- Perth-London (return) in Singapore Airlines Standard Economy (W class)
- Perth-Tokyo (return) in ANA discounted Economy (K class)
With this travel pattern, Person B would only be able to qualify for Star Alliance Gold with Asiana Club. However, as they would earn 25,343 tier miles annually with Aegean, earning Aegean status would also be possible if Person B took the 4 Aegean/Olympic flights during the first year. (In subsequent years, 24,000 tier miles is enough to requalify for Star Alliance Gold without flying on Aegean or Olympic Air.) It’s also worth noting that, while this person is not flying enough to qualify for Turkish Airlines elite status, they would be able to re-qualify every two years with this travel pattern.
Example C – the frequent short-haul Economy flyer
Person C represents somebody that takes lots of shorter flights in cheaper Economy fare classes. For the purposes of this experiment, let’s assume they take 10 flights of 1,000 miles in length each year in Economy with Avianca (T class), Asiana (W class), United (K class), Swiss (K class) and South African Airways (G class). So, that’s 50 short-haul Economy flights in total.
In this example, this person would only be able to earn Star Alliance Gold with Ethiopian ShebaMiles – based on segments. However, this person would be also able to re-qualify for Gold status with Asiana Club if they already held status.
We can conclude that, while the best program for you will depend on your travel patterns, Asiana Club is the clear standout. It’s arguably the best Star Alliance frequent flyer program for earning status. But Aegean Miles&Bonus and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles are competitive runners-up.