Star Alliance Wants To Add Low Cost Carriers As Partners

Filed Under: Star Alliance

Low cost carriers are taking over an increasing amount of the global market share for air travel. It used to be that most low cost carriers operated short-haul flights, though now we’re seeing many low cost carriers operate longhaul flights as well.

While many low cost carriers (Norwegian, WOW Air, etc.) are independent, traditional network carriers have also quite successfully been starting their own low cost carriers to compete. For example, IAG has LEVEL, Lufthansa has Eurowings, and Singapore has Scoot.

As traditional airlines transfer more of their flights to their low cost subsidiaries, it’s typically bad news for frequent flyers, since many times elite benefits don’t apply for travel on these low cost carriers. For example, Star Alliance Gold members don’t receive any benefits when flying on Eurowings. This is quite intentional on Lufthansa’s part, since clearly part of being an ultra low cost carrier is also keeping costs down for things like issuing miles, lounge access, and more. With Lufthansa planning on integrating Brussels Airlines into their Eurowings subsidiary, this could mean the end of Star Alliance benefits on former Brussels Airlines flights.

What would happen to Brussels Airlines’ lounge if they were integrated into Eurowings?

It looks like this is something that Star Alliance wants to change, per a recent Bloomberg interview with their CEO, Jeffrey Goh:

“Many of our members and many airlines around the world are moving a lot to lower-cost platforms. We want to find a way of recapturing these markets offering the benefits and privileges that they used to have and enjoy. We want to use this connecting partner model.”

The Star Alliance Connecting Partner model is fairly new, and Juneyao Airlines is an example of an existing Connecting Partner. Here’s how Star Alliance describes this concept:

Star Alliance’s Connecting Partner model is a new and innovative programme that allows airlines to link to Star Alliance without becoming a member. Connecting Partners have full commercial links with three or more member airlines, but not with all 28 members.

Typically, a Connecting Partner is a regional airline or an airline operating a low-cost model. Connecting Partners may be subsidiaries of a member airline or completely separate entities.

Star Alliance Gold and Silver status customers enjoy a tailored set of privileges in line with the product offerings of the individual Connecting Partner when they fly on an itinerary involving at least one member carrier and the Connecting Partner.

While Star Alliance Connecting Partners aren’t full Star Alliance members and offer scaled back benefits, some benefits are better than none. The question is whether Star Alliance and the individual airlines can come to an agreement that’s both beneficial for customers and not too costly for low cost subsidiaries.

I’m skeptical of them making much progress on this front, though I’m happy that it’s something they’re looking at.

What do you think?

  1. @lucky –

    We would want to see a meaningful earnings chart for members that rewards flights with these partners with some redeemable and elite qualification miles rewarded to those who do fly one of these LCC partners.

    Is that too much to ask?

  2. I would imagine it will be more likely to offer something like lounge access at the main carrier’s hub airport than full mileage earning. eg flying EWR-FRA-XXX, with the first leg on LH and the second on Eurowings, it’s more likely that a passenger would be granted lounge access in FRA- that’s relatively low cost for LH to do, than to offer miles. Indeed they have a partial arrangement with UA to do this already.

  3. Well, they sort of offer such an arrangement now – I’m booked to Rome from LAX on Austrian Air and my connecting flight is on Eurowings in the second row which is their “premium economy” section which is actually pretty decent. I flew them this past summer from
    Zurich to Split and we purchased preferred seating with checked baggage and snack.

  4. It wouldn’t be a stretch of imagination for *A benefits to be offered to those connecting from TG onto WE (Thai Smile, wholly owned by Thai IIRC).

  5. With credit cards and other means of earning, I really don’t care much about earning through flying. These flights tend to be short too and so the lack of earning is not a huge deal.

    Allowing redemptions, but no earning on these carriers would be fine with me. I have a feeling that in a few years, all of the intra EU flights will be on these carriers rather than on BA, IB, LH, AF etc. Then redemptions that can be coupled with long haul will be essential.

  6. United’s Basic Economy fare doesn’t earn miles, seat selection or check bags. Thus United doesn’t need a low fare Star Alliance partner!

  7. I would really like to finally earn miles on Edelweiss Air. Many routes from Zurich and most new routes are flown by Edelweiss as SWISS uses them to expand. Currently you can’t earn status miles on them and normal miles only thriugh miles and more and not my preferred Eurobonus. Quite ridiculous since you can even land on a flight to Paris booked through SWISS but operated by Edelweiss and not earn any miles.

  8. Lucky, I think you’re being too liberal with the term “ultra low cost carrier”. Granted, the threshold is hazy at best, but it’s still worth differentiating a “traditional” European LCC, like Ryanair, Easyjet, Jet2 or Germanwing, from the likes of Spirit, which brought the business model to an entirely new level by really only selling a seat in their basic fare. Southwest may well be an LCC, compared to the Big 3, yet they still provide a certain level of service. Likewise, Norwegian has free wi-fi and complimentary seat assignment at check-in, Ryanair now offers flexible fares, a better baggage policy and even some connections; Volotea is quite family-minded etc. It feels wrong to lump all of these together with some truly barebones airlines out there, much more so in the context of possible alliance partnerships.

  9. Air Canada’s “budget” carrier Rouge is already part of Star. Same mileage requirments for an inferior service. Still earn the same mileage.

  10. So how would they adjust their redemption rates? Who will want to pay same price flying J (or F) on a lousy LCC as on a full-service carrier?? Not me, for one!

  11. If we can’t earn on these CPs then *A frequent flyers would not want to book on CPs but on *A airlines instead. This is probably what they want, being able to give passengers more routing options without giving too much away to CPs.

    But the question now is will the mere affiliation and some compensation from *A work well for the CPs.

  12. United MileagePlus members can earn and use some benefits flying on EuroWings, not just on connections. I also believe the same applies to ANA, another LH joint venture partner. So EuroWings isn’t far off this Connecting Partner status; it’s just that Lufty is calling the shots.

  13. i thought that united golds and above can use the lounges on eurowings this wouldnt affect
    can they bring a guest as well?

  14. One World have been selling Vueling as Iberia for Years and Vueling is not just a Low cost carrier they are also a “even-less-comfort-then-Ryanair-carrier” but with older planes.

    Lounge access is not that important when you fly non-stop as most budget airlines do.

  15. Jetstar is owned by Qantas and any Qantas Gold, Platinum or Platinum one frequent flyers flying on Jetstar in any class gets lounge access when their is a Qantas lounge at the departing airport.

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