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You may be familiar with the Star Alliance because of its well-known U.S. member airline, United. What you may not know is that it’s also the largest airline alliance in the world and is highly celebrated, having won the SkyTrax World Alliance Award four years in a row.
With over two dozen members serving thousands of destinations around the world, the Star Alliance covers lots of ground. Here’s your guide to the Star Alliance.
Airlines in the Star Alliance
There are currently 26 airlines in the Star Alliance, flying to over 1,317 destinations in 193 countries around the world:
Air New Zealand.
All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Lot Polish Airlines.
South African Airways.
TAP Air Portugal.
With such a vast network of strategic partners, the Star Alliance provides a great opportunity for travelers to explore the world while earning (and burning) frequent flyer miles. If you happen to be a globetrotter racking up lots of miles, you’ll be glad to know that the Star Alliance has its own elite status levels that come with some pretty cool perks.
Flying with Star Alliance member airlines can pay off, with two different elite status levels: Silver and Gold. When you earn status with an affiliated airline, you’ll then get a corresponding status through Star Alliance. Star Alliance has a handy tool that lets you determine which level your airline elite status translates to. For example, if you have United Premier Silver status, that translates to Star Alliance Silver, while United Premier Gold and above gets you Star Alliance Gold status.
Below is a breakdown of what these status levels gets you.
Star Alliance Silver
Star Alliance Silver members earn the following perks:
Priority reservations waitlist. You’ll have a higher waitlist priority if seats are not available in the class of service you want to book (paid tickets only).
Priority airport stand-by. If your flight is canceled or your travel plans change, you’ll be ahead of non-status flyers on the waitlist. This benefit does not apply to award tickets.
Star Alliance Gold
Star Alliance Gold elite members receive all the same benefits as Silver elites, plus several more:
Priority airport check-in.
Priority baggage handling.
Priority boarding. You’ll board with first and business class if available.
Access to Star Alliance’s 1,000+ airport lounges around the world (when you’re traveling on a member airline flight).
Extra baggage allowance (up to 44 lbs or an extra bag). There are some restrictions on basic-economy type fares, so check in advance.
Access to Gold Track priority security lanes where available.
Star Alliance Lounges
With over 1,000 airport lounges around the world, the Star Alliance network has you covered on your most far-flung travels. In addition to partner airline-branded lounges, there are also eight dedicated Star Alliance airport lounges:
Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
Rio de Janeiro.
At these lounges, you can find complimentary food and drinks, a comfortable environment to relax and even spa services. You can get free access to Star Alliance lounges if you’re a Star Alliance Gold elite and/or traveling in international premium cabins on a partner airline.
If you’re in the latter group, you’ll want to look into the cheapest ways to score award travel on Star Alliance carriers. Luckily we’ve got you covered!
Redeeming points for Star Alliance awards
If you’re looking to redeem miles for a flight on a Star Alliance carrier, there are lots of great options. Several Star Alliance partner airlines have sweet spot redemptions that can make reward travel much more attainable. Below is a breakdown by region.
North America (domestic flights)
Turkish Airlines is the unsung hero of the Star Alliance, with some incredible sweet spot awards. Within North America, Turkish Miles & Smiles offers one-way award tickets for just 7,500 miles.
That’s right: Fly from Los Angeles to New York and pay just 15,000 miles round-trip. Compare that to United, which currently charges 25,000 miles for the same flight. For that amount of Turkish miles, you could actually book the trip on United in business class.
If you’re short on Turkish Airlines miles (aren’t we all?), you can easily stock up by transferring points from the Citi ThankYou program. Don’t have any ThankYou points? Pick up the Citi Premier® Card for a nice sign-up bonus.
Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values Turkish Airlines miles at 1.1 cents each.
» Learn more: Find the best airline credit card for you
Want to head to Costa Rica for some sun and adventure? United offers surprisingly reasonable redemption rates to Liberia, in the western part of the country, at just 35,000 miles round-trip in economy class.
United miles are easy to score. The airline has several co-branded credit cards as well as a partnership with the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program. Below are some credit cards that can give your MileagePlus balance a boost, either directly or with transferable points:
Flying to South America using miles can be quite a bargain, depending on where you want to end up. For example, United charges just 40,000 miles round-trip for an economy class award to “Northern South America.” This includes flights to Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
Meanwhile, flights to “Southern South America” go for 60,000 miles round-trip and include destinations in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. A better option would be redeeming 55,000 All Nippon Airways (ANA) miles for the same itinerary.
» Learn more: How to find the best travel insurance
Singapore Krisflyer offers round-trip economy class tickets between North America and Europe for just 55,000 miles round-trip. Business class tickets are pricier at 130,000 miles.
That’s why Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is a great alternative at just 110,000-115,000 miles for a round-trip business class award. Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards; you can transfer those points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. Don’t have any of these currencies? The following cards can help you stock up:
If you’re looking for premium cabin flights to Europe, ANA offers terrific value with round-trip business class flights costing just 88,000 miles. ANA partners with American Express Membership Rewards. To get more of these points in your account, check out the following cards:
Turkish Airlines comes in for the win again, with some great award redemption rates to Africa. For 60,000 miles round-trip, you can fly to Central and North Africa from the U.S. — or get all the way to Southern Africa for 90,000. Flying business class will cost you 98,000 miles to North and Central Africa, while Southern Africa clocks in at 135,000.
If you want to travel to the Middle East on points and miles, Star Alliance offers lots of opportunities to do so. The best deal is once again from Turkish Airlines, which requires just 64,000 miles round-trip in economy class and 94,000 miles in business.
ANA’s zone-based awards offer terrific value if you’re traveling to Asia on points. Round-trip economy class to South Korea will cost you just 60,000 miles, and business class is just 95,000 round-trip.
Looking for a ticket to Japan? Time it during the low season and you’ll redeem just 40,000 miles round-trip in economy class or 75,000 in business. That’s an incredible deal, especially considering how easy it is to accrue ANA miles via the airline’s various transfer partners.
If Australia is on your bucket list, you’re in luck, because Star Alliance partner ANA offers excellent value with its award chart. You can book an economy class ticket for 75,000 miles or business class for 120,000 round-trip.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you 5 things Star Alliance is doing right Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies