Dear Star Alliance: I love you, but we need to take a break. I just don’t know who you are anymore – and it’s just not working out.
That’s right – I finally found the courage to say it: Star Alliance and I are just not working out. Between the devaluations and reduced award earnings, I’ve lost that loving feeling for Star Alliance. Which frustrates me, because I really, really want to feel good about the world’s first alliance.
So this should be the end of the post, in theory. My Star Alliance affair is done, and I’m moving on to another alliance. It’s as simple as that, right?
Well…it’s not that easy. In the words of Selena Gomez: the heart wants what it wants. And this heart wants to feel good about flying Star Alliance.
So why do I feel an identity crisis with Star Alliance?
Why not credit flying to United? You are U.S. based, after all…
That’s what they want me to think! United Airlines was one of the five star points of the Star Alliance as a charter member, and is the only U.S. based airline with membership (Now that “The New American” is flying). Putting aside the in-cabin product, there are many reasons why it makes little sense for me to invest my time with United.
In 2015, United moves to the “pay as you go model,” similar to that of Southwest and Delta. This means that my mileage earning while flying the “friendly” skies will be based on how much I spend on my ticket.
Wait – that’s not right. My actual mileage earnings is based on a number of factors:
So that hypothetical $500 flight that nets me 2500 miles (regardless of the actual distance flown) is based solely on my base fare and imposed charges. On a cross-country flight, I’m barely earning 50 percent of my miles flown.
There are two redeeming factors in the United equation. First, my Premier Qualifying Miles are still based on distance – meaning if I fly cross country, then I’ll still earn miles on the entire distance flown. Second, the Premier Qualifying Dollar amount can be negated if I “spend” $25,000 annually on my Chase United credit card. But even then, I’d have to make it to Premier Platinum (75,000 air miles and $7,500 if I don’t use the card) before I start seeing an even return on cross-country flights (assuming the “base fare + imposed charges” equal $500). And that’s not to mention the downgrade in United elite benefits.
Besides, who can stomach that much United flying?
So why not defect your Star Alliance credit to Air Canada? You spend enough time there…
That’s what I thought, too. Except Air Canada announced a number of changes to Altitude coming in 2015. In order to make Air Canada Altitude status, half of my flights need to take place on Air Canada metal, based on how I earn my status. That’s a minimum of 12 segments or 12,500 miles for the lowest tier, with minimum increases to reach the next tier.
In addition, any flying I do on non-Air Canada airlines are subject to reduced earnings. Discounted flights on other carriers are reduced to only 50% credit, putting me back on par with United earnings. Not to mention – if my flight is below a certain distance (like Cleveland to that city I currently inhabit), then I earn different elite and award mileage minimums. Clear as mud, right?
In short: because Air Canada is not going to be my primary airline (yet), defecting to Air Canada is a difficult proposition. Without being able to fly Air Canada on a regular basis, there’s very little chance that I could make elite status – let alone earn enough miles to be useful to me.
Don’t you have Star Alliance Gold with Aegean? What’s wrong with that?
Why yes, I do have Star Alliance Gold status with Aegean – which has been nice for getting into lounges and priority boarding. And for many of us that don’t fly Star Alliance regularly (thanks to United), having the Gold Aegean card was a lifesaver. But all good things must come to an end – and so, effectively, has the Aegean Gold status.
While I have Gold status through November 2015, re-qualifying will be a little bit…difficult, at best. Without flying Aegean or Olympic Air next year, I’ll be forced to fly a total of 24,000 qualifying miles. And Aegean views United flights through a strange filter. For instance, a number of booking classes and flight numbers don’t earn any Aegean miles. And six common discount booking classes only grant 50 percent of miles flown, with a 500 mile minimum. At that rate, I would have to fly nearly 50,000 miles to requalify for Star Alliance Gold next year. Not to mention redeeming miles requires a phone call to Greece.
In short: this once great loophole in the system is now gone. No more free lounge access after November – which genuinely makes me sad.
So Where To Now on the Star Alliance, St. Peter?
This is where I have a problem – and desperately need your help. I really, REALLY want to find some way to keep status on Star Alliance. But there’s no way to do that without flying a lot of United, moving to Canada, or traveling to Greece.
What do you recommend that I do to get over my Star Alliance identity crisis? I genuinely want to know – let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and I’ll use your ideas and discussion to come up with a solution!
(P.S. This may all be negated if I can find a way to relocate to Canada, after all. It’s going to happen…I just don’t know how.)