You’ve probably heard of SkyTeam, OneWorld, and Star Alliance, but have you ever wondered what exactly these airline partnerships mean for travelers? Airline alliances are partnerships among carriers that enable them to share resources and collaborate for the benefit of both travelers and airlines. When they join together, airlines can expand their flight schedules to include routes offered by partner airlines, and they can coordinate their frequent flier programs so travelers can earn and redeem miles on airlines in the alliance. Ready to learn more? Here’s what every avid traveler should know about the Star Alliance, the first-ever global aviation alliance.
What to Know About the Star Alliance
Star Alliance was founded on May 14, 1997 as the first global airline alliance. It linked five major airlines — United Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Thai Airways International, Air Canada, and Lufthansa — to create a single network and offered new services to international travelers. Today, the alliance includes 26 members and offers a far-reaching network spanning 195 countries and more than 1,200 destinations worldwide. Members include both major carriers and smaller regional airlines.
Major Chicago-based carrier United Airlines is the Star Alliance member American travelers are probably most familiar with. The airline flies to more than 230 domestic destinations and 118 international cities on more than 800 aircraft. Main hubs include Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Dulles International Airport, and New York LaGuardia Airport. Major international destinations for United are London, Frankfort, Tokyo, and Brazil. These hubs and major airports provide convenient options for both domestic and international travelers, and the options are really endless when you consider all the destinations you can reach on United’s partner airlines.
Star Alliance Member Airlines
Members of the Star Alliance include: Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Eva Air, Lot Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, Thai Airways, Tap Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines, and United Airlines.
Benefits for Star Alliance Members
Before airline alliances existed, travelers would have to research the best flight prices and times from each individual airline, piecing together the best flight path for their trip on their own. Today, airline alliances make traveling on multiple partner carriers seamless so you can reach your final destination with ease. Airlines can offer more flight options by providing details on trips flown by other alliance members. For example, United Airlines offers a variety of flight options from Washington, D.C. to Lisbon thanks to the Star Alliance — the United website shows flights on United as well as Lufthansa, Tap Air Portugal, and Brussels Airlines, giving travelers a broader selection of fares, departure times, layovers, and arrival times.
The alliance makes it easy to earn and redeem frequent flier miles on all your flights. As long as you’re enrolled in one of the partners’ frequent flier programs, you can earn miles on alliance flights and redeem them on partner flights via your frequent flier program’s website.
And those frequent flier miles aren’t just great for booking free flights — you can also reach elite status with the airline (which transfers to other airlines in the alliance) to enjoy exclusive perks. Star Alliance Gold entitles travelers to privileges that include rewards, discounts, priority check-in and boarding, extra baggage allowance, priority baggage handling, and entry at more than 1,000 airport lounges. Silver status grants access to the Priority Reservations Waitlist (a waitlist to get a seat in a higher class) and gives travelers higher priority when flying standby.
United’s network of lounges includes more than 45 United Club locations and five United Polaris lounges (exclusively for international travelers in business or first class). Star Alliance lounges are also available in certain cities. Planning a lengthy international trip that involves several carriers is easy with Star Alliance Book and Fly. A traveler can research and book online with over 20 airlines and fly to approximately 1,300 unique destinations.