Earning elite status with airlines can deliver extremely valuable benefits along your travels. But if you’re in the habit of redeeming Miles & Points for flights, rather than paying cash for them, then you’d be forgiven for thinking of airline elite status as beyond your reach.
Indeed, perhaps it’s because our national airline, Air Canada, belongs to Star Alliance, but one of the questions I get rather frequently is whether there are any easy ways to achieve Star Alliance Gold status.
Earning Star Alliance Gold offers additional benefits to travellers in any class of service, as long as they’re departing on a Star Alliance flight, and it can be very worthwhile to have the status, especially if you tend to fly in economy class.
Why Is Star Alliance Gold Valuable?
Let’s begin with a point of clarification, since I know this can be confusing from the outset. Every Star Alliance airline has their own loyalty program (such as Air Canada Aeroplan, United MileagePlus, Avianca LifeMiles etc.), and each program is free to set any number of status levels and qualification requirements within its own program.
For example, Air Canada Aeroplan Elite status has five different levels beyond the basic tier: 25K, 35K, 50K, 75K, and Super Elite 100K. Meanwhile, a program like Aegean Miles & Bonus might only have two status levels: Silver and Gold.
Now, each program also designates two different status levels to correspond with alliance-wide Star Alliance status. Air Canada, for example, has selected Elite 35K to correspond to Star Alliance Silver and Elite 50K or above to correspond to Star Alliance Gold, while Aegean Miles & Bonus has naturally chosen Silver and Gold, respectively.
When you earn Air Canada Elite 50K or Aegean Gold, you also automatically earn Star Alliance Gold, and are accordingly entitled to its benefits when travelling with any of Star Alliance’s 26 member airlines.
While Star Alliance Silver doesn’t offer too many meaningful benefits, Star Alliance Gold is where the benefits really start to kick in, which include:
- Priority airport check-in
- Priority baggage handling
- Airport lounge access for you and one guest
- Priority boarding
- Extra baggage allowance (either an extra 20kg allowance, or an extra piece of baggage, depending on the airline)
- Priority Gold Track airport security
- Priority reservations waitlist
- Priority airport standby
The complete details are available on the Star Alliance website.
In addition to the published benefits, there are some discretionary benefits as well. For example, Star Alliance Gold members are likely just below an airline’s own elite members in line for an operational upgrade.
Back in the early days of holding Star Alliance Gold status, I received a few such op-ups from economy to business on transcontinental North American flights, as well as economy to premium economy on long-haul international flights.
Now, generally speaking, Star Alliance Gold benefits will be most useful to you when you’re flying in economy or premium economy, because a business class ticket would already come with most of the benefits, such as airport lounge access, priority check-in, or priority boarding. With Star Alliance Gold, you’ll basically get treated as a premium passenger, even if you aren’t flying in a premium cabin.
However, there are even a few select benefits to Star Alliance Gold above and beyond those of a business class passenger.
One example might be access to better lounges at some airports around the world, such as the Swiss Senator & Business Lounges (E Gates) at Zurich Airport. If you were merely flying in business class, you’d have access to the very nice business lounge, but as a Star Alliance Gold member, you’ll instead get access to the much more peaceful and well-appointed Senator Lounge, which even comes with an outstanding whisky bar and lounge.
In addition, Star Alliance Gold members can bring a guest into the lounge, whereas business class passengers typically aren’t allowed a guest. The other main benefit would be the extra baggage allowance, if the two-piece entitlement when travelling in business class isn’t quite enough.
So, now that we know what’s up for grabs, what are the best ways to earn Star Alliance Gold?
1. Asiana Club: 40,000 Qualifying Miles Over Two Years
The first few strategies simply involve strategically crediting the mileage on your paid flights to an airline frequent flyer program that’s “easy” for earning Star Alliance Gold status. Remember, every airline sets their own elite levels and qualification requirements, and some airlines have set the bar for Star Alliance Gold lower than others.
One program that makes it easy to earn Star Alliance Gold is Asiana Club by Asiana Airlines. Earning Asiana Diamond, which then bestows you with Star Alliance Gold, requires earning 40,000 qualifying miles every two years, which is again far more generous than the de facto standard requirement across the alliance of 50,000 qualifying miles in a single year.
In addition, Asiana Diamond and Star Alliance Gold status can, in theory, last up to four years because of Asiana’s rather byzantine system of a 24-month qualification period, followed by a 24-month validity period.
If you were to earn the 40,000 qualifying miles at the very start of your qualification period, you’d enjoy the benefits of Star Alliance Gold for several years to come.
Earning the 40,000 qualifying miles over two years could be as simple as crediting a handful of economy long-haul flights earning at the 50% rate, or even a single business-class long-haul flight earning at the 200% rate. As an example, a person flying Toronto–Vancouver–Hong Kong return trips in economy class would earn Star Alliance Gold via Asiana with five such trips over a two-year period.
Furthermore, after earning Star Alliance Gold, the threshold for re-qualifying during the following two-year period is even easier, at only 30,000 qualifying miles over the two years to enjoy the benefits for another subsequent two years.
2. Aegean Miles+Bonus: 36,000 Tier Miles + 6 Aegean Flights
In the past, Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus has offered one of the most generous Star Alliance Gold opportunities in history. Indeed, I fully took advantage of it at the time, but eventually allowed it to lapse in 2017.
However, even though the program has been changed, Miles+Bonus remains one of the easiest ways to earn Star Alliance Gold.
You’ll need to get there in two steps: first, earning 12,000 Tier Miles and flying on two Aegean-operated segments to get to Miles+Bonus Silver (and thereby Star Alliance Silver), and after that, earning 24,000 Tier Miles and flying on four Aegean-operated segments to get to Miles+Bonus Gold (and thereby Star Alliance Gold).
In total, you’ll need 36,000 Tier Miles and six segments on Aegean-operated flights, which is considerably lower than the standard 50,000-mile threshold. This should be within reach for anyone with a few paid long-haul trips planned, especially in premium cabins.
Indeed, you might even be able to earn 36,000 Tier Miles with just one long-haul business class round-trip fare, since some discounted business fares, such as Air Canada’s “P” fare, still earn 200% miles with Aegean Miles+Bonus.
The complicating factor is that you’ll also need a few cheap segment runs on Aegean Airlines mixed in there – two segments to get you to Silver, followed by four segments to get to Gold – so this strategy might be best pursued by travellers with a particular weakness for the Greek islands.
Keep in mind that you can also earn Silver and Gold status without the Aegean-operated segments, but that would require 24,000 and 48,000 Tier Miles, respectively, for 72,000 Tier Miles in total, which is no better than other methods of attaining Star Alliance Gold.
Similar to Asiana Club, the other nice thing about Aegean Miles+Bonus is the ease of maintaining Gold status after achieving it. Once you’re Gold, you only need to earn 12,000 Tier Miles the next year while flying on two Aegean-operated segments, or earn 24,000 Tier Miles outright, in order to re-qualify for the following year.
If an annual trip to Greece is in the cards, your best bet may be to credit paid Star Alliance flights to Aegean Miles+Bonus, and then leverage cheaper short-haul fares with Aegean to fulfill the requirements for Gold.
3. EgyptAir Plus: Earn Status through the Family Program
For couples and families, one of the lesser-known ways to get to Star Alliance Gold, at least for one family member, is with EgyptAir Plus.
A unique part of EgyptAir Plus is the Family Program, which allows one member of the family to be designated as the “Main Member”, and up to five other first-degree relatives to be added to the Family. Requests to pool accounts must be sent to EgyptAir by email, along with passport copies, personal information, and their relation to the Main Member.
Family accounts aren’t unique to EgyptAir or loyalty programs in general; however, what sets EgyptAir Plus apart from other programs is that the Tier Miles, which are used to qualify for elite status, earned on paid flights by family members can be pooled to benefit the Main Member.
With this feature, the Main Member is credited with the Tier Miles earned by themselves and the family members, thereby allowing the Main Member to fast track to a higher status.
With EgyptAir Plus, attaining Gold status, which grants you Star Alliance Gold, requires a total of 60,000 Tier Miles earned on EgyptAir or any Star Alliance member airline. The lower Silver status requires 30,000 Tier Miles, and once you’ve fulfilled that requirement, you have two years to earn the next 30,000 Tier Miles for Gold status.
Therefore, by crediting all paid flights from your entire family, one family member can enjoy Star Alliance Gold status, but unfortunately, the others don’t get any benefits.
To maintain Gold status, the Main Member needs to accumulate a total of 40,000 Tier Miles in the two years after obtaining the status. Flights by family members that are credited to EgyptAir Plus count towards this, too, so maintaining it shouldn’t be too difficult.
4. Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles: 40,000 Status Miles in One Year
Aside from having some great sweet spots in its loyalty program, crediting paid flights on Star Alliance airlines to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is one of the easier ways to earn Star Alliance Gold status.
In a 12-month period, you’ll need to earn 40,000 Status Miles to reach Elite status, which is Turkish Airlines’s lowest tier for Star Alliance Gold status. Your Elite status will be valid for two years from the date of earning, giving you plenty of time to make use of it.
If you live outside of Türkiye, you’ll only need to earn 25,000 Status Miles in the first year, or 37,500 Status Miles in the two-year membership period, to renew the status for another two years. Not only is the bar already quite low to earn Elite status to begin with, but maintaining it for another two years is fairly easy to do, too.
Turkish Airlines often has very competitive rates for paid flights, including in business class, which could mean that you can earn Star Alliance Gold quickly and cheaply.
5. Status Match & Challenge Offers
You can always look for status matches and status challenges regularly offered by Star Alliance airlines as a means to earn top-tier Star Alliance Gold status.
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles deserves an another mention due to their historically generous status matches and challenges. The Turkish Airlines status match promotion usually grants you Miles & Smiles Elite status for four months, which then extends to one year upon taking at least one international flight on Turkish Airlines.
Therefore, if you have a paid international Turkish Airlines flight coming up, it may be worthwhile to look for a status match opportunity before you’re set to depart.
Always be on the lookout for any other status matches or challenges from other Star Alliance airlines as well. In previous years, we’ve seen everything from Copa Airlines to the now-defunct Avianca Brazil offering very generous status matches directly to Star Alliance Gold, so there are possibly more “golden” opportunities to come.
6. Status Gifting
Some airline and hotel loyalty programs allow some members with top-tier status to gift a lower-tier status to anyone of their choosing. In the context of North America, Air Canada is the only Star Alliance airline that allows members with Aeroplan 75K and Super Elite 100K members to gift 35K or 50K status, respectively, as one of their Select Benefits.
Aeroplan 50K status comes with Star Alliance Gold status, which means that you can actually earn it without ever having set foot on a plane. Therefore, if you know a Super Elite who might have a 50K status gift at their disposal, it might be well worth your while to cozy up or arrange for a night nice out on the town for them.
7. Chase Aeroplan Card: Elite Status Level Up
The US-issued Chase Aeroplan Card made quite a splash upon its debut in late 2021. One of the many perks that the card offers is the Elite Status Level Up, which allows cardholders to boost their Air Canada Aeroplan Elite Status by one level upon spending $50,000 (USD) in a calendar year.
Getting to Aeroplan 50K status, and therefore Star Alliance Gold Status, through the Elite Status Level Up would require you to earn Aeroplan 35K status either organically or as a status gift from a 75K, and then meet the spending requirement to reach Aeroplan 50K status.
Note that if you organically earn Super Elite status, and then spend $50,000 (USD) on the Chase Aeroplan Card, you’d earn the ability to gift 50K status to another member in lieu of a Level Up benefit.
8. HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card in Australia
If you happen to live in Australia, or at least if you have access to Australian credit cards, then perhaps the easiest way to earn Star Alliance Gold status is by applying for the HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card, which launched in November 2022.
As part of its benefits, you’ll be granted with Star Alliance Gold status after spending $4,000 (AUD) in the first three months of being a cardholder. The status can be renewed each year by spending at least $60,000 (AUD) in each cardholder year, and while the spending requirement is a bit steep, if you’re able to meet it, it represents a very easy way to maintain status without ever taking flight.
It will be interesting to see if Star Alliance rolls out similar credit cards with similar benefits in other markets over the coming years.
9. Shangri-La Jade and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
There’s a potentially lucrative “backdoor” method to Star Alliance Gold that’s only available if you enjoy Shangri-La Jade status, either through hotel stays or historically from the Amex Platinum Card. As of April 1, 2021, cardholders have no longer been granted Shangri-La Jade status, but if you had Jade status prior to then, the status should have been extended through to December 31, 2022, due to the pandemic.
Shangri-La has made renewing Jade status very easy for 2022, through a targeted promotion. If you’ve received the renewal offer, to enjoy Jade status until December 31, 2023, which comes with free breakfast, room upgrades, 11am early check-in, and 4pm late check-out, you simply need to complete a stay, make a purchase at a Shangri-La hotel, or buy something worth at least $1 (USD) from the Shangri-La Boutique.
The email sent out by Shangri-La even mentions buying a cup of coffee as a qualifying purchase, so be sure to check your Shangri-La Golden Circle account to see if you have Jade status, and then complete an eligible transaction before December 15, 2022.
Shangri-La and Singapore Airlines have a mutual partnership, where holding Jade status within the Shangri-La program entitles you to an instant bump to KrisFlyer Silver with Singapore Airlines, and thereby Star Alliance Silver. Furthermore, you can then follow a fairly simple status challenge for Star Alliance Gold.
You’ll need to fly three segments on flights operated by Singapore Airlines or SilkAir within four months of registration; it doesn’t matter what class of service you’re flying, how long the flights are, or even what fare class you’re booked in. Rather, any three paid segments will do, but note that points bookings and codeshare flights don’t count.
If you’re headed to South East Asia anytime soon, a four-segment round-trip on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir can be booked for as little as around $250 between certain cities, and even if you can’t work that into your trip organically, it’s definitely a price at which many would find it worthwhile to “buy” Star Alliance Gold for the upcoming year.
Just remember to register for the promotion at most four months prior to your scheduled trip.
Keep in mind, however, that the status you earn via Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer will only last for one year, and in future years you’ll need to re-qualify the “normal” way (i.e., by racking up 50,000 qualifying miles through flying), so this challenge will likely be a one-time affair for most of us.
Star Alliance Gold status won’t be useful for everyone, especially if you tend to fly in business class to begin with. But whether it’s due to a lack of flexibility or award availability, we’ll all need to book an economy class ticket at one point sooner or later, and having Star Alliance Gold status would mean priority check-in, Gold Track security, a drink in the lounge, and priority boarding.
Generally speaking, with Star Alliance Gold, the ground experience as an economy flyer improves greatly. In the vast majority of cases, getting there will require a bit of leg work, but with some strategic crediting of paid flights, a kind friend, or the right credit card, you can obtain Star Alliance Gold status without meeting all of the usual requirements.