Which Star Alliance Program Should I Credit Miles To?!?

When it comes to revenue flying, I travel almost exclusively with oneworld, and credit those flights to American AAdvantage.

I fly a good amount of Star Alliance and SkyTeam as well, but typically on awards, which doesn’t earn me any status.

As I wrote about last month, I booked a cheap business class fare between Vancouver and Cape Town, which takes me via Toronto, London, and Johannesburg. The entire trip is about 24,000 flown miles, and since it’s in paid business class, I can potentially earn significantly more miles than that.

YVR-CPT-Fare

While I don’t generally care about Star Alliance status, I’m trying to decide where to credit these flights… and just realized that I need to adjust my strategy.

Last September I status matched to Copa ConnectMiles Platinum, given the generous promotion Copa’s new frequent flyer program was offering. While the program as such doesn’t seem all that compelling (it’s very similar to United MileagePlus), some “free” Star Alliance status is better than none, and I’ve certainly already gotten value out of it by using lounges as a Star Alliance Gold member.

ConnectMiles-Status

However, if I were actually having to earn status with a Star Alliance program the hard way, I wouldn’t use Copa. Still, my plan was to credit to Copa, since I assumed I’d be earning a 75% elite mileage bonus, which would translate into a lot of redeemable miles.

Well, I just realized that you don’t earn that elite bonus when flying on partner airline. That means I don’t get any advantage by crediting those flights to Copa

Star Alliance fans, I need your help. Where should I credit my ~24,000 “butt in seat” miles, which are on a combination of Air Canada and South African Airways? For what it’s worth, all the segments are in the “P” class of service, and the SAA flights are booked as Air Canada codeshares.

Air-Canada-787-Business-Class - 2
Air Canada’s 787 business class

Here’s what I’m looking for, roughly in order:

  • Redeemable miles which are valuable, especially in the increments in which I’m earning them from this trip
  • Star Alliance Gold status from one trip wouldn’t suck either
  • Ideally the opportunity to transfer in points from a transferrable points currency to top off an account

My first thoughts were to consider Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, which is my favorite Star Alliance program for redemptions. The catch is that they only offer 100% mileage for Air Canada “P” class.

Air-Canada-KrisFlyer

I’m also considering Avianca LifeMiles, given how easy it is to buy their miles, so I’d be adding to a currency which I already value. However, LifeMiles only credits 125% mileage for Air Canada “P” class, which also isn’t great.

Air-Canada-LifeMiles

I guess I could also credit directly to Air Canada Aeroplan. I find their miles to be pretty useful, and they offer 150% mileage for “P” class, so I’d earn more miles. I’d also earn Elite 35K status with them off of this trip alone, if my math is right. I also find transferring Membership Rewards points to Air Canada to be a good value, so I could easily top off my account.

Air-Canada-Aeroplan

But I’m sure there are some other good options out there.

I’m already on my trip, so I guess I’ll be requesting retroactive mileage credit for this trip with whichever program I select.

Which Star Alliance program would you credit to in my situation?

I’ll write a follow-up post with a more detailed analysis, but I want to decide on this ASAP, if possible, since the trip is already underway.

Curious what you guys think!

Comments

  1. Same problem with an upcoming LH trip (Fare P aswell) coming up and so far mainly flying oneworld, but another Air Canada Trip is coming up later this year.

    Someone mention aegean Airlines program – sadly that doesn’t work for the LH P fare.

  2. I think you should go Aegean – I was in a similar position about two years back (facing about 26,000 “butt in seat” miles in LH F) and credited to A3 just to get status – I have ended up using the programme quite a lot as there are some good value awards within the chart… and it’s always good to “diversify” where we can.

    AC “P” will credit 200% miles which means that you will be around 50k – good enough for plenty of awards, and you will have (or be close to) Star Gold for the next 20 months. Happy travels – if you pass through Lagos let us know!

  3. @Tina, You could credit LH P fare to UA at 100 % and then AC also to UA , if AC is a P fare then that will be 200 % to UA, providing non of these are ticketed on 016 stock.

  4. I flew etihad. They had a 3x promotion a while back. I applied for it but never received a confirmation mail. For that reason I gave them my Korean air ff mile # for the fights. The miles didn’t post there either. So finally I posted them to etihad.

    The point of my pay. Eff etihad. The most horrible IT ever.

    By the way which is better safety wise emirates or etihad? You just hinted at it and then left it.

  5. “I’d also earn Elite 35K status with them off of this trip alone, if my math is right.”

    Unfortunatly not. Air Canada Altitude is now a revenue based program.
    To obtain Elite35K you need 35 000 Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQM) OR 35 Altitude Qualifying Segments (ADQ) AND 4000 CA$ Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQD).

    Rule for AQD: “You’ll earn AQD for the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges (Y,YQ and YR) on eligible flights flown operated by Air Canada and on codeshare flights marketed by Air Canada and operated by Star Alliance member airlines”

    You paid 2250 US$ (around 2950 CA$) according to your post http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2016/04/17/south-africa-trip/

    But definitly: Aeroplan is a good program !

  6. Why not Asiana? The program is very easy to use. 40k miles earns you star alliance gold and the redemptjon is fairly good from experience. IMO, it’s a fairly underrated program

  7. No brainer – 200% on AC metal and 300% on SA from Aegean Miles & Bonus, instant gold status!
    United is actually not too bad either if you first status match with them as they give elite bonus of an additional 50% on top of the 200% P earning as far as I understood….but looks rough when crediting SA to them (0%?)

    I’ll be crediting my CPH-YYZ-YVR-SEA-YVR-LHR-CPH and ARN-LHR-YYZ-SEA-YYZ-YVR-ARN trips from that last ex-OSL ‘sale’ to Aegean but thats all on AC metal 😉

  8. i say status match to TK, and you will get *G for 4 years after the trip… (plus one TK flight within 4 months) since you don’t fly *A and you said *G is a nice to have

  9. Addition to my comment regarding Altitude program: you’re not a canadian resident, so the rule is:

    “For non-Canadian residents, the Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQD) will be 50% lower than the published amounts”

    So your math is right IF your ticket is marketed by Air Canada…!

  10. Definitely Aegean. Not only will you get a substantial amount of miles when crediting to them but you can also take advantage of their Together miles to combine from other people’s travel for more miles. Also, they have one of the best *A award charts for many regions, including 45K for J between the North America and Europe/Israel/North Africa.
    Finally, they are a SPG partner which makes them more valuable now as well. Sorry, I like Aegean! 🙂

  11. I had the same question with oneworld. For years all of my business travel between Washington & KSA was on Skyteam carriers KL, DL and SV, with all the miles credited to DL. As of 2016, my employer has me flying on oneworld carriers BA and QR. I had no idea where to credit the miles. Someone on Ask Lucky suggested crediting everything to BA and I just went with that.

  12. IIRC, it’s not the codeshare fare class but the operating carrier’s fare code that matters, right? Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but there really isn’t a way to find out what that is beforehand. Since the SAA flights are AC codeshares, I think it’s fair to assume that the AC “P” (J > C > D > Z > P) maps to SA “D” (C > J > Z > D).

    @Dan Remo, AC P fares only earn 100% with OZ, so it might not the best place to put them…

  13. Lucky – weren’t you banned from flying UA? Not surprising that you don’t care for Star Alliance if that’s the case…

  14. I had a choice to switch from Singapore Krisflyer to united but I chose not to as Singapore doesn’t yet have anything higher than Gold or any minimum spend/sector requirements, so its much easier to meet the 50k miles for Gold. And when flying on United, I used to get boarding priority 1 (but now it seems to be 2). A colleague of mine still holds onto Thai Orchid for the one reason that their status (silver/gold/platinum) once attained is valid for 2 years compared to most star alliance carriers which only offer 1 year. Anyone know if any other star alliance program offers this?

  15. Gonna suggest something a bit crazy, so take it with a grain of salt! It relates to your post earlier today about Marriott Gold: What if you credit the miles to United in an attempt to work toward United Gold? You’d be nearly there in miles after this trip, and would just have to hit the spend requirement (which is waved when your home address isn’t in the US–not sure what you consider your residence these days!), or you could spend $25k on the United Chase Explorer Card. Then you could use United Gold to get Marriott Gold, which I would imagine would make the eventual transition to the SPG/Marriott world a bit easier! But ignore this if using UA’s frequent flyer program isn’t an option…

  16. @ everyone suggesting Lucky credit to UA

    While they worked hard together for years, United Airlines and Lucky consciously uncoupled some years ago, with hearts full of sadness.

    😉

  17. A3 earns x2/x3 miles flown as others have commented. However it wouldn’t get you Gold all at one whack…A3 resets the mileage counter for status qualifying once you reach a status level. It take 24k to reach Silver, then another 48k for Gold. However, any excess miles from reaching Silver during a flight don’t count towards Gold; you have to get those 48k on separate flights. The total needed is 72k.

    YVR-YYZ-LHR earns 11,242 miles each way after x2; LHR-JNB-CPT earns 19,283 each way after x3. 30.5k miles each way YVR//CPT, or 61k total.

    So on the flight down you get 30.5k A3 miles and Silver status.The 6.5k extra miles over Silver do not count towards Gold qualification (they *do* count as award miles). The 30.5k on the return isn’t enough to get you to Gold, though you’re only 17.5k away at that point.

  18. @eponymous I think most of the blog does not realize that Lucky is banned for life from United. @Lucky, why not do this on Kris Flyer or on Lufthansa since those are the only Star Alliance airlines that you like

  19. For status, definitely consider Asiana. AC P class gets 100% miles on Asiana but SAA gets 150%. Say that gives you 30,000 eqm from this trip – you’d be 3/4 of the way to star alliance gold, and the status would last from when you qualified until May 2020 (Asiana gives you two years to qualify and then you hold onto the status for another two years from when you started accumulating the miles that qualified you for it).

  20. I have a very good experience with Turkish miles and smiles program. As a gold member, Besides thier awsome lounge at IST, it is quite easy to upgrade and you get access to all star alliance lounge. Swiss and Air Canada seemed also to respect this status of TK too with unlimeted access to thier lounges and upgrades.. lufthansa however least! As for UA, i cannot judge, since I avoid them.
    I would try TK for sure!

  21. You’ll get 150% if you credit to Turkish Airlines in class P, so 36,000 miles. (4,000 short of Star Alliance gold).

    You can fly from Istanbul to within Europe for 15,000 miles one-way in Business Class; or from Istanbul to Africa for 20,000 miles one-way in Business Class. The miles don’t expire.

  22. @ Tracy S – that is not correct about earning status on A3. It is cumulative miles, so 48K would earn Gold. Of course, if you flew 4 A3 flight segments, that number drops to 24K needed!

  23. @Tina – if you have any status with UA you get a bonus redemable miles from LH when booking on LH and crediting UA. The bum in seat miles count towards status miles but not qualifying dollars.

    From UA website – MileagePlus Premier members receive the following mileage bonuses for flights flown before March 1, 2015, and on tickets that do not start with “016” purchased from an airline other than United or from a travel agency or other travel website for flights flown on or after March 1, 2015.

    Premier Silver members earn a 25% mileage bonus
    Premier Gold members earn a 50% mileage bonus
    Premier Platinum members earn a 75% mileage bonus
    Premier 1K members earn a 100% mileage bonus

  24. @Charlie, it’s 24,000/12,000 + 2 A3 flights from base to *S within 12 months. Once the *S qualifying flight posts, the calendar resets and Tier Miles goes to 0. Any excess mileage over the 24k/12k gets taken away. You’ll then have 12 months to earn 48,000/24,000 + 4 A3 flights for *G, but ONLY if you’re already *S.

    @Tracy S, I highly doubt the SA flights would earn 300% on A3. The earnings table hasn’t been updated in 6 years, and SA no longer has First Class. Plus, as I posted above, AC P fare on SA metal doesn’t = SA P fare, so it’ll probably book into one of SA’s Business Class fare codes and earn (a still significant) 200%.

  25. I think US bloggers often overlook Miles&More, just because it’s not a transfer partner of credit card currencies, but in fact it’s a very generous program when it comes to redemptions, especially if you have Senator status.

    I just booked 2 one-way business class tickets from SFO to continental Europe for 78k miles (52k for one passenger, but Senator’s companion gets 50% off), while first class redemptions are 85k miles (127,500 for 2!). And this is on premium routes like SFO-FRA, where you will pretty much never find availability on Aeroplan or LifeMiles. I easily found availability for 2 weeks out, 1 month out and even in Aug/Sep which is a dead zone on Aeroplan/LifeMiles – they don’t even have any availability in economy!

    Earning is fairly easy with Barclaycard’s Miles&More, especially if you also fly paid tickets frequently.

    Bottom line: I’d try to get to Miles&More Senator, which is a valuable status worth earning. Everything else can be bought on sale…

  26. As others have said, A3 requires you fly them now which would make them a bad choice. Frankly, I do not like TK and I think their IST lounge is the only redeeming part about them. TG is sliding with service in recent years. Even in first, the cost of their cuts are hurting them. Also their call centre is a disaster.

    I have to put in a plug for OZ. It only takes 40,000 miles over 2 years to get Star Gold. While they are far from one of the more glamorous airlines out there, their service is always incredible. I have also gotten upgraded on about 1/3 of my flights with them as a Diamond member (not Diamond plus).

  27. @ Tennen – Thanks for the correction. Obviously, you are Tracy were right. I was thinking from already having the status (and from the old program still). Good thing I keep mine going! 🙂

  28. I’m not a big fan of Lufthansa’s Miles & More, but one thing I do like about them is their “Fly Smart” awards, where as long as you book no earlier than two weeks ahead, you can get a return trip award within Europe in economy for 15,000 miles. Business class would be 25,000. Since you don’t usually credit miles to Star Alliance, you’ll have enough miles for an award trip once you finish your paid trip.

  29. Beware some programmes credit miles for the operating airline instead of the marketed airline. In your case you should look at the rate for SAA for the flights to Africa instead of AC as AC is just the marketing carrier.

  30. Lucky, could you make a quick ‘How to…’ posting on how to change where you are crediting the miles to both before and after the flight? This would be quite helpful and I am not seeing any great explanations in my searches.

  31. @Lucky sez, dismissively: “While I don’t generally care about Star Alliance status….
    Last September I status matched to Copa ConnectMiles Platinum, given the generous promotion Copa’s new frequent flyer program was offering. While the program as such doesn’t seem all that compelling (it’s very similar to United MileagePlus), some “free” Star Alliance status is better than none, and I’ve certainly already gotten value out of it by using lounges as a Star Alliance Gold member.”

    That is why travel blog posts need to be read with a huge grain of salt. By far, the best airline alliance out there in terms of fulfilling the whole rationale for such alliances — seamless travel to any destination around the globe — is Star Alliance because it is the largest. And yet, here’s a blogger straining to make carriers and FF programs within *A seem subpar!!! If Copa’s FF program is like UA’s then I would say that it is a compelling program because, after AA converts to the revenue system, UA MileagePlus will standalone as the more compelling FF program among the US Big Three, especially with the gutting of the SWU perk for top AAdvantage elites.

    So, why is @Lucky so dismissive of *A? Well, because he’s banned from flying on UA metal or participating in UA MileagePlus! With UA being (a) US domestic, (b) the largest carrier in *A, and (c) one of the original 5 founding members of the alliance, anyone who resides in US and is banned from flying on UA metal or participating in their FF program would naturally find *A to be less rewarding. So, beware when bloggers disparage some programs (even great ones) while touting others (even mediocre ones). They may an ulterior motive 😉

    G’day!

  32. I love SQ and they seem to only give award flights to KrisFlyer members so I would always do that.

  33. I’d suggest Turkish Airlines as well. The status will be valid for 2 years, plus, in the future if you want to hold on to *Gold, Turkish requires just 37,500 status miles every 2 years. Plus, they have pretty good business class fares as well. Additionally, business class travel on TK gets another 25% status miles.

    On the cheapest C fare, this is 160% status miles meaning if you fly ~11,700 miles on the lowest C fare on turkish every year, you’ll stay *Gold unless they change the program extensively.

    Turkish has pretty good business class (not your fav type seat, but still flatbeds) and their catering is quite good. Plus they have one of the best business class lounges around at their hub in IST.

  34. I’d also consider whether the status gets you preferential redemptions via that program.

    Aeroplan is a little odd in that it has its own elite status, “distinction”, from Air Canada’s “Altitude” program. I’d assume you already have Aeroplan status via Amex MR, which reduces the cost of dynamic “Market” awards a bit, but given that you go after premium cabins, I think you’d get more use out of having a bit better access to classic/fixed awards on AC metal through Altitude status.

    I’m not familiar with Aegean’s program, but even if they did have preferred redemptions on A3 metal, I can’t imagine you’d get as much use out of it.

  35. I use Asiana Club as my program. Your trip being 24,000 miles, that alone would be enough for Star Alliance Silver not even factoring in any class of service bonuses. And you have two years to attain miles for status and once you do the status is valid for the remainder of the period plus 2 more years. Unfortunately, P class on Air Canada only earns 100% but is still still one of the fastest ways to attain status; so unless you’re main focus is trying to get the most miles for redemption I’d say it’s still worth it. You only have to earn 40,000 miles over 2 years for Star Alliance Gold. That’s only 20,000 per year, and is less than what most airlines require for Silver!

    As far as redemption value goes, I don’t have award charts of all Star Alliance airlines memorized, but my impression is that redemption values on OZ aren’t the best but are still very good, and they are partners with Etihad and Qatar Airways which are among your two most frequently flown airlines. 80,00 miles for First Class between the US and Asia? And what’s that? You can redeem those for flights on ANA, Etihad, Qatar, or Thai among others? (From what I can tell the award chart for Star partners and non-Star partners is the same.) Sounds like a hell of a good deal.

    I concur with Dan Remo when he says that it is an underrated program. I’d go further in saying that it is an almost criminally underrated program. While I haven’t combed through the specifics of every FFP of every airline in the three alliances, I believe it to be the single best way to attain elite status within any alliance. Add in the very solid redemption rates in some areas and I’d say we have a winner.

  36. @stvr — Now that the wool appears to be off of your eyes, stay tuned for more of the same — making a lot of sense, that is, as I have been for the last couple of years… 😉

    G’day!

  37. @stvr – DCS as usual doesn’t have the full picture, and likely isn’t aware of the three tiered oneworld status system, which has great benefits Star doesn’t (int’l F lounge access regardless of cabin flown; same cabin protection across airlines during IRROPS; better transfer experience; etc.)

  38. Why is this moron following me around?

    Have you not realized by now that whatever mush you have between the ears does not generate sufficiently coherent cognitive impulses for you to keep trying to have fights with me on matters that I am infinitely more equipped to discuss?

    Just go away!

  39. Just getting my feet wet with this Travelhacker thing, I love traveling and am studying you and others like a college course. I got all the great credit cards, excellent credit 820 and up and now need to know where/how to start. Also, without going into debt, you know how all these cards want you to first spend 2,000. -5,000 for points. What is the best use besides paying all my bills with cards to get around that, if at all? Thank you for your time.

    Russell

  40. I would credit to Aeroplan or Avianca for redemptions on the rapidly evaporating Lufthansa first.

  41. If you like traveling on Singapore Business/First/Suites and will do so again in the next three years then KrisFlyer is a good choice. No other program has access to SQ longhaul premium cabins.

  42. I credit to Turkish: since they also allow 4 free upgrades when flying on there metal with there FF program.

    2.
    Can anyone here confirm regarding A3: Are you NOT allowed to do more than one connection in an award ticket?
    They say clearly connections aren’t allowed, though transit within 24 hours is.
    Though don’t clarify if 2 connections are permitted.

    Thanks.

  43. I am top tier SQ and thats where the miles go but SQ is not great in redemption availability. There could be better options.

  44. Turkish Airlines earns 1.5x for P class, and they have some very reasonable redemption rates!

  45. I feel like Lucky should make a post about why he can’t fly UA. Although it might have been for an embarrassing reason or something, I would say that 1) you were a lot younger and perhaps more foolish (like we all were!) so mistakes are very forgivable, and 2) it sounds so badass to be banned from an airline. Like seriously, ultimate street cred!

  46. @VS

    He covered the situation with UA many years ago.

    This wasn’t his choice…UA banned him, falsely accusing him of manipulating their FF program. I’m guessing there’s no coming back from that.

  47. While deciding what programme to credit that will give you the most bonus miles and other status features, it is equally important to take a look at their redemption terms as well. My wife and I fly Toronto to Asia several times a year and not only are the points required to fly on Air Canada with Aeroplan increasing, the add-on taxes and fuel surcharges can sometime make a nonsense of the programme. When an economy class ticket YYZ – HND costs C$1200 and Aeroplan wants 115,000 miles AND approximately $1,000 in surcharges for a single ticket, you have to question the value of accumulating points at all, regardless of how many bonus miles are on offer.

  48. I absolutely agree with Douglass. The add-on airline fees make some programs irrelevant.
    Earlier this year I joined Turkish M&S program. Last months I made it to gold and today I was looking for an ward ticket IST to NYC. They are asking for $467 in airline fees (!!?) in addition to the miles. This is ridicules
    I like the TK lounge a lot but ultimately I’m looking to get free award tickets.
    I used to have a United platinum level but lost my status after moving out of the US and didn’t have 4 flights with United. I’m now looking for another program. any suggestions? How is Aegean?

  49. Hi everyone, i could do with some advice. I’ve been collecting miles on the miles & more programme but it’s been slow this year and frustratingly i’m not going to move up to the next tier. Next year i have a lot of trips coming up from UK to USA particularly so I’m thinking of going with a different programme. Any advice? Generally fly with Star Alliance airlines… Thanks!

  50. It sounds like status is the main thing you’re after. If so, Asiana Club is undeniably the best. 20,000 miles for Star Alliance Silver and 40,000 for Star Alliance Gold. Also, you get TWO years to earn those miles, rather than the industry standard one. I’m an 18 year old, not exactly loaded with cash, and travel only a few times per year. Even so, I’ve been able to attain Diamond status (equivalent to Star Alliance Gold) in that time.

    If the ability to redeem your miles for award flights is more important, you may want to just stick with Lufthansa. I don’t know how their redemption rates compare to other airlines, but I generally wouldn’t split miles between programs, even if accrual rates aren’t 100%, unless you already have a ton of miles in the program. For example: 50,000 miles in a single program are worth more to me than 70,000 miles spread across multiple programs which is why I credit my United flights to Asiana even though most economy fares only earn 50% or 75%.

    If you are sure you want to switch programs Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is probably the best. They’re super easy to earn miles for since you can transfer points to them from AmEx, Citi, and Chase. I don’t think their redemption rates are the best out there, but they certainly aren’t bad. They also give you a 15% discount if you use their website rather than calling in, but that’s limited to flights on Singapore only since their website (to my knowledge) doesn’t have the ability to search Star Alliance awards or even add connecting flights.

  51. Hi! I need your help. Where should I credit my business class flight (JFK-Turkey-Budapest) “butt in seat” miles flown on Turkish Airlines?

    From JFK, I mainly fly to ICN and LAX and want to use my miles for economy reward tickets so considering adding my Turkish “butt in seat” miles to Asiana or United. Could you shed some pros/cons/general advice on how to achieve and maintain gold status?

    A few other points:
    – I tend to buy the cheapest flight possible
    – I fly 1-2x/year to Asia, 3x to LA, 1x to Europe
    – I don’t understand Star Gold alliance status or levels and have been with sky team for 15 years

  52. I would recommend you to credit those miles to Lufthansa M&M. Comparable to other star alliance, LH requires much less miles in award travel. For example, award ticket in business class from Zurich to Los angeles costs 105k M&M miles. In United or Air canada you need around 170k miles. Taxes are higer in miles and more but it is still better.

  53. Over the next year I am scheduled on multiple trips on Thai Airways as I will be based in Bangkok.
    I want your help to identify which FF plan I should credit my miles. After going over all the comments above I think the best options are Asiana or Turkish for availing the Gold Status. But I will mostly travelling on Thai so is that a drawback in any way. Also I might miss any opportunity to avail offers or credit cards to earn miles on Thai FF while in Bangkok. But for Gold class status in Thai I have to travel 50,000 miles and then same to retain also which is much higher than Asiana and Turkish.
    Looking forward to your advices.

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