Star Alliance Reduces Third Party Lounge Access

Filed Under: Star Alliance

One of the great things about the global alliances is the consistent lounge access benefits they offer, regardless of the airport or the member airline you’re flying.

Well, the Star Alliance has just updated their terms to give airlines the option of reducing lounge access for many elite members.

Star Alliance cuts contract lounge access for Gold members

The Star Alliance has just updated their terms so that member airlines no longer have to offer lounge access to Star Alliance Gold members at airports where third party lounges are used.

Many airports have official Star Alliance Gold lounges, but then there are also some airports where there aren’t any Star Alliance lounges, so airlines use contract lounges for their premium passengers, including business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members.

With this change, Star Alliance no longer requires member airlines to offer Star Alliance Gold members access to third party lounges.

Here’s what the terms used to say about contract lounge access (bolding mine):

At airports where neither a Star Alliance branded lounge nor a Star Alliance member carrier offers a lounge, third party lounges are contracted by some of our member airlines. As a Star Alliance Gold customer traveling on a Star Alliance member airlines operated flight from such airports, you have access to these third party contract lounges, if the member airline you are traveling on has a contract with this lounge.

They’ve now updated those terms as follows (bolding mine):

At airports where neither a Star Alliance branded lounge nor a Star Alliance member carrier offers a lounge, third party lounges are contracted by some of our member airlines. As a Star Alliance Gold customer traveling on a Star Alliance member airlines operated flight from such airports, you may have access to these third party contract lounges. Please refer to the Lounge Finder to identify which lounges you may have access to, according to the policy of each airline*.

What brought about this lounge policy change?

Why is the Star Alliance suddenly making this change?

Because earlier this month United Airlines violated Star Alliance policy by making the above update as well. With United’s update, they stopped offer access to third party lounges for Star Alliance Gold members.

Rather than Star Alliance telling United they were violating the rules, Star Alliance updated the rules so that United was no longer violating them. Nice.

With United’s policy change, they’re now only offering lounge access to business class passengers but not Star Alliance Gold members at just over two dozen airports, including Cape Town, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Keflavik, Lima, and Papeete, just to name a few.

Bottom line

While this is no doubt a negative development for Star Alliance, ultimately keep in mind that most airlines will probably continue to go above and beyond, at least for now.

It seems that Star Alliance has updated their policy to appease United, given that they updated their policy in violation of the alliance rules.

It’s always interesting to see the inconsistent ways that airlines treat alliance elite members. For example, Lufthansa gives Star Alliance Gold members access to Senator Lounges, which are better than Business Lounges. Yet at airports with contract lounges, technically only business class passengers are entitled to access, while Star Alliance Gold members aren’t…

What do you make of Star Alliance’s policy update?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments
  1. SAS stopped contract lounge access a few years ago.

    So just because United starts doing it, Star Alliance changes policy? Why didn’t Star Alliance force SAS to comply with this policy during those years?

  2. Unless you have it in writing that UA violated the rules, I’d be more inclined to say this change was coming and UA just released it early. I don’t see an alliance changing their own policy that quickly based on a member airline’s apparent “rouge decision”. But then again, Gary reported this, so why should any of it be accurate in the first place.

  3. @matt really want to give United the benefit of the doubt with Cost cutting Kirby calling the shots to please corporate shareholders? Yea, right.

  4. Delta has been doing this since 2012. It’s very annoying, I have reported it to SkyTeam multiple times, they did not even reply.
    I bet if CSA airlines would do the same, they were be punished immediately by the alliance. But some airlines are just stronger than the alliance itself.

  5. If this is true, then regarding lounge access, it is not very different between UA 1K and UA Gold. Another reason NOT to try to spend $24,000 on UA fare. Save the cash to buy lounge pass or eat at the airport which will cost much less than $$$ trying

  6. Ok I find all of this confusing United flyer gold status Typically use maple leaf lounge in Toronto or Lufthansa senator lounge at Dulles Not clear if this is still allowed

  7. United got away with it because they’re the biggest airline in Star Alliance. The only other airline of similar size is Lufthansa, and I doubt Lufthansa was interested in a fight over something as minor as contract lounge policy.

    Like most loose associations, airline alliances have no real power to “enforce” policies on members unless they have the weight of the other members (or at least the largest members) behind them.

  8. @JN, SAS got away with it because they stopped offering contract lounge access to ALL of their pax, including intra-Europe C (technically PY, but considered C for ground services). They weren’t in violation of the rules, because they didn’t contract with any lounges at the affected airports. They would have been in violation if they offered access to SAS Plus but not *G. Since they removed access for everyone, they were in compliance.

    In any case, this move really sucks. 🙁

    @Lucky, what’s your take on whether or not this new policy will cause airlines to discriminate within *G ranks? For example, do you think some will start to offer contract lounge access to their own *G elites (not talking about super top tiers like GS, HON, PPS, but rather regular *G) while simultaneously excluding other *Gs? Now that would be a huge slap in the face.

  9. @Adam that’s still allowed. Those are star alliance gold branded lounges of member airlines air canada and Lufthansa. So you can still use a lounge operated by a member airline.

    The difference is that now for airports that don’t have any member operated airlines and just a contract lounge, you can no longer access those lounges. Case in point, last week I flew United from Mumbai to Newark. Mumbai doesn’t have any star alliance operated lounges but rather just a GVK lounge that all business class passengers + Star gold passengers get to use. In the past I’ve been able to get in every single time no issues. This time, they didn’t give a lounge card and there was a sign at the Premier check in desk that said “Polaris Business Passengers May use our contract lounge. No guests allowed”.

  10. Agree with: “Unless you have it in writing that UA violated the rules, I’d be more inclined to say this change was coming and UA just released it early.”

  11. Time to go back to One World.
    These things are always cyclical. When they have enough money they start punishing the customers. Star Alliance will shrink in 5 years, just like how the stock market will plummet this year.

  12. If buying a seat-only fare on Air New Zealand as *G, you get no checked bags. If you pay for one bag, you magically get a second one free.

    Need only one bag on NZ as *G? Sucks to suck. Will *A enforce compliance? Clearly not.

  13. The way voting arrangements have been changed in Star Alliance and given how the greedy airlines needed to find ever more ways to cut costs attributable to economy class passengers and boost ancillary revenue sources from the same, this kind of changing of rules isn’t shocking.

    Also, airlines creatively working around some alliance rules and doing so without serious, non-toothless reprimands isn’t new in the word of Star Alliance, but it also doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a vote and a changing of the rules. 😉

  14. “SAS stopped contract lounge access a few years ago.

    So just because United starts doing it, Star Alliance changes policy? Why didn’t Star Alliance force SAS to comply with this policy during those years?”

    ANA doesn’t provide contract lounge access for Star Golds either, according to their website. So United was at worst the third Star member to do this. I suspect it was UA’s announcement and its coverage on the likes of FlyerTalk that “forced” Star to update its website rather than change its rules.

    I usually fly UA business class anyway, either paid or upgraded, so it doesn’t affect me. But just in case I have my Amex Platinum with Priority Pass for the cases where I’d be stuck.

  15. @USBusinessTraveller, where are you seeing that ANA doesn’t provide contract lounge access for Star Golds? It’s pretty clear on their website that they do. In fact, they even provide a list of all the lounges they contract with and have pictures of the statuses/classes that are eligible. As for SAS, see my reply to @JN. SAS didn’t violate the terms since they took away lounge access for everyone and not just *G.

    Before this change, UA was the *only* one reneging on contract lounge access for *G.

  16. Tk airline didn’t offer any lounge access in ASB and ALA airport few years ago. I am business class pax.

  17. @flyingrohit except Singapore Airlines stick *G in a different, really crummy lounge down in the basement with no windows…
    The GVK lounge is rather nice, even compared to some airline lounges.

  18. @Ben
    Qatar Airways does the same for their Privilege Club members, if they are flying another Oneworld carrier in Y, they will not have access to contract lounges. Only to Oneworld lounges.

  19. SQ in Mumbai airport gives a pretty bad lounge access to its own *G members.. while Air India being part of *Alliance gives GVK which is a much better lounge. I guess the above rule change will apply to only some airports.. ?

  20. @Jesper I’m not actually clear how this would be enforced. Contract lounges are listed on the Oneworld Lounges page along with the operating airlines you must be flying with to access them. For each airline, the policy is to grant access to OW Sapphire and Emerald cardholders. This is also true for contract lounges used by Qatar, according to the Oneworld Lounges page – example Primeclass Lounge in CPH. So are you saying every contract lounge has received a memo not to allow QR elites access? Or have I misunderstood?

  21. So right now, as star gold you get acces to star member lounges and the star lounges if flying star. Also acces to contract lounges of the carrier you fly.

    And they are now allowed to exclude star golds from their contracted lounges. That sure is gonna complicaat this…

  22. @Jesper I think you get confused. QR offers lounge access for Silver members if they travel on QR – However Silver is only Oneworld Ruby so of course they don’t get any lounge benefits when they travel another airline.

  23. Swiss have already been doing this for a few years at GVA.

    When you fly with LX to a French destination, the only lounge in the French sector is the AF lounge. Passengers in Business + Hon Circle and Senator have access to the AF lounge. Star Gold don’t. I’ve complained many times to Swiss (and AF as lounge operator) both didn’t care.

    Clearly if you’re UA or LH Group then Star doesn’t care what you do.

  24. It’s not a change and it’s not new.
    No alliance has any obligation for their member airlines to use contract lounges if they don’t want to. Many airlines don’t offer contract lounge access at all destinations to all of their customers who would otherwise be eligible to use an airline own lounge.
    Have travelers on many airlines in business class from out stations where lounges exist but the airline doesn’t have any contract in place.
    Hardly news…

  25. (Also there is no real difference between the old text and the new text… the previous text was conditional with the big “IF” following… The “may” replacing it is also conditional just in less words.)

  26. “Yet at airports with contract lounges, technically only business class passengers are entitled to access, while Star Alliance Gold members aren’t…”

    Not correct, Lufthansa gives access for Star Gold at many airports with third party lounges.

  27. I had the same experience as @Hugo when flying TAP out of TLV last July. I was told that they are the only Star Alliance airline that doesn’t grant access to the Dan Lounge for economy passengers. They clearly had a contract with the lounge since they were granting access to business class customers.

  28. QR added this interestingly little note to their lounge access description back in June last year.

    Note: According to oneworld policy change effective 1 June 2019, Qatar Airways Privilege Club Platinum and Gold members travelling in Economy cabin of other oneworld carriers can access lounge offered by the operating carrier only

    Which in some airports have meant people are being turned away from contract lounges.

  29. When some OW stop check bag through….that to me is the real big deal. Im so mad I stop using OW about 70% of the time. Now * do this….us customer have no real power indeed. Some keep saying stop support the airline but unless a huge amount of people do it together then they dont feel anything. No way us customer can united in something like this.

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