There are three major global airline alliances — Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and oneworld — and each offers some level of reciprocal elite recognition. In this post I wanted to talk about the benefits of Star Alliance Gold status. The Star Alliance is the world’s largest airline alliance, and Gold is Star Alliance’s highest reciprocal elite tier.
What is Star Alliance status?
One of the major benefits of the global alliances is reciprocal elite recognition across airlines. While you’ll generally be treated the best when flying “your” airline, there are certain perks you can expect regardless of which member airline you fly.
You don’t earn elite status directly with Star Alliance, but rather you earn status with a Star Alliance member airline, and that status maps over to an alliance elite tier. In other words, if you’re a Star Alliance Gold member through United MileagePlus, you can expect some level of recognition, regardless of whether you fly Air Canada, Brussels Airlines, EgyptAir, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, or many more airlines.
What are the benefits of Star Alliance Gold status?
Every Star Alliance airline offers frequent flyers the opportunity to earn Star Alliance Gold status. This can typically be earned with somewhere around 50,000 elite miles per year (though the qualification requirements can vary considerably across airlines).
Gold status is Star Alliance’s highest elite tier, and most Star Alliance frequent flyer programs offer this status when you earn somewhere around 50,000 elite miles per year. For example, in the case of United MileagePlus, you earn Star Alliance Gold status when you earn Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, or Premier 1K status.
At the moment there are some especially easy pathways to Star Alliance Gold status — Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is offering it when you transfer 250K bank points, while Air Canada Aeroplan is offering status matches to members registered in the United States.
Below I wanted to share the benefits of Star Alliance Gold status, roughly in the order in which I value them.
Star Alliance Gold lounge access perks
The biggest perk of Star Alliance Gold status is lounge access — you get access to over 1,000 Star Alliance member lounges around the world when flying a Star Alliance member airline the same day. You can even bring a guest with you for free.
Lounges accessible by Star Alliance Gold passengers will typically have the Star Alliance Gold logo at the entrance. The quality of these lounges varies significantly:
- In some cases, airlines have a dedicated Star Alliance Gold lounge that’s worse than the business class lounge (for example, this is the case with Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer Gold lounges)
- In most cases, the Star Alliance Gold lounge is the same as the business class lounge
- In some cases, airlines have a dedicated Star Alliance Gold lounge that’s better than the standard business class lounge (for example, this is the case with Lufthansa Senator lounges)
There’s one important exception with this lounge access perk — if you’re a Star Alliance Gold member through United MileagePlus, you can only access United Clubs when flying internationally the same day, and not when exclusively flying United domestically.
In other words, a Star Alliance Gold flyer through Air Canada Aeroplan could use a United Club when flying United from Los Angeles to San Francisco, while a Star Alliance Gold flyer through United MileagePlus couldn’t.
Star Alliance Gold extra baggage allowance
Star Alliance Gold members receive an extra baggage allowance:
- Receive an extra 20kg (44 pounds) of checked baggage where the weight concept applies
- Receive an extra piece of checked baggage where the piece concept applies
Note that this benefit isn’t offered on all ticket types. For example, it doesn’t apply on:
- “Light” fares offered by Lufthansa, Austrian, and SWISS
- “Check&Go” fares on Brussels Airlines
- “Go light” fares on SAS
- “Seat” fares on Air New Zealand
Star Alliance Gold priority check-in
Star Alliance Gold members receive priority check-in when flying with all Star Alliance airlines. Always be on the lookout for the Star Alliance Gold logo at check-in counters.
In most cases Star Alliance Gold members can check-in with business class passengers, while some airlines will allow Star Alliance Gold members to check-in with first class.
Star Alliance Gold priority boarding
Star Alliance Gold members get priority boarding when flying with Star Alliance airlines. Each airline has a different policy when it comes to when Star Alliance Gold members can check-in, so make sure you listen to the announcements at the gate.
While it’s most common that you can board with business class, there are some exceptions. For example:
- Lufthansa lets Star Alliance Gold members board with first class, HON Circle, and Senator members, ahead of business class
- United lets Star Alliance Gold members board immediately after first & business class
Star Alliance Gold priority baggage handling
If you have Star Alliance Gold status, your checked bags will receive priority tags. In theory these should be among the first bags out on the baggage claim belt, though the execution of that varies — some airlines are great about getting priority tags out first, while on other airlines it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.
Star Alliance Gold fast track security
Star Alliance Gold members receive priority airport security screening at Gold Track priority lanes. These are available at select airports around the world.
Star Alliance Gold priority waitlist & standby
While the exact terms vary, as a general rule of thumb Star Alliance Gold members receive priority for waitlisting on sold out flights, as well as standby when trying to change flights same day.
Individual airline policies vary surrounding when standby is allowed, as it can vary based on the market, type of fare you booked, etc.
How does Star Alliance elite status compare to others?
Star Alliance is the world’s largest airline alliance, so there’s big value to having reciprocal perks on all member airlines. That being said, how does the status as such compare to status with oneworld and SkyTeam?
- I’d say Star Alliance Gold is better than SkyTeam Elite Plus (the equivalent status with the SkyTeam alliance), as there’s more consistent and generous recognition; for example, SkyTeam Elite Plus members don’t get lounge access when traveling within the United States
- I’d say Star Alliance Gold is marginally better than oneworld Sapphire status, which is oneworld’s mid-tier elite status
- However, I love how oneworld has a higher elite tier, oneworld Emerald, which I consider to be the best alliance elite status; this offers access to many oneworld international first class lounges, and Star Alliance doesn’t have anything equivalent
- One thing I find frustrating about Star Alliance Gold status is that preferred seats on partner airlines aren’t a perk
Star Alliance Gold status is the top reciprocal status offered by the world’s largest airline alliance. Star Alliance Gold offers perks like lounge access, extra baggage allowance, priority check-in, boarding, baggage handling, and more.
Star Alliance Gold status can be incredibly valuable, especially when flying a partner airline on which you wouldn’t otherwise have status.
If you’re a Star Alliance Gold member, what has your experience been like?