Hong Kong is not a Star Alliance hub but plenty of places in Asia are, including Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and more. So it makes sense to have at least one Star Alliance frequent flyer programme membership to which you can credit Star Alliance flights. The question is – which one is the best to join? Here we go through some of the main programmes and look at some key points of what they offer, just as we did for Skyteam.
Please feel free to help fellow travellers by adding your own comments in the comments section.
A word about earning and redeeming miles
One of the biggest considerations for most people will be how easy it is to earn and redeem miles in a given programme. This varies widely – some airlines are much more generous in some ticket buckets than others when it comes to earning. So for example I am a member of multiple programmes but will decide where to credit a given flight using a tool like www.wheretocredit.com which helps show the best earning rates. For redemption, some programmes like Thai and Singapore are generally seen as quite expensive, but most programmes have some sweet spots. Between this, fees and availability, there is no hard and fast rule about which programme is the best – it will depend on your own projected travel patterns. (www.rewardexpert.com does a summary of the best redemptions by programme).
One quirk for Hong Kong travellers is that some programmes classify it as North Asia and others as South Asia, so when it comes to redemptions this can work for or against you depending on which programme you pick. For example, if you mainly redeem miles to travel between Hong Kong and south east Asia you would probably benefit from being in a programme which treats Hong Kong as being in South Asia.
A lot of the programmes offer certain advantages like bonus miles, occasional mileage redemption sales, dedicated phone lines, seat guarantees and so on. In this overview we don’t dig into the details of these.
Singapore Airlines – Krisflyer
Singapore Airlines is a popular premium airline in the region and so a lot of people look at its Krisflyer programme. One of the key advantages is certain redemption availability on Singapore flights which is unavailable to non-members. In general it seems that Krisflyer is mostly valued by people who regularly fly on Singapore.
Asiana – Asiana Club
This programme is notable for giving lifetime Star Alliance Gold membership at 500,000 miles. Before then, status runs for two years which is more generous than most programmes.
ANA – Mileage Club
ANA has an easy to use booking engine for redemptions, but apart from that I have never found their programme to stand out. One good feature if you fly ANA, rather than just crediting miles to the programme, is that they bestow upgrade points which can be used for flight upgrades, separately from miles.
Thai Airways – Royal Orchid Plus
Thai also offers two year Gold Star Alliance status. They have some interesting benefits, such as bookable complimentary upgrades (the number varies by membership tier).
At their platinum level, Thai miles do not expire. Thai’s awards are expensive and as with much at the airlines, big changes can announced at short notice.
EVA – Infinity Mileage Lands
I’ve always had the sense that this is not a very lucrative programme. It does have some flexible redemption opportunities, such as one-way awards.
Air China – Phoenix Miles
I have never used this programme and it doesn’t seem to have many fans, but if any readers have had experiences with it please let us know.
United – Mileage Plus
For those moving to Asia and locals who studied abroad, United membership is often a given. We did a post on good United redemptions from Hong Kong here and set out the basics in an earlier post here which is still useful inspiration though the redemption rates have since been changed.
Aegean Airlines – Miles + Bonus
Aegean is a Greek airline. Their programme is known for offering Star Alliance gold membership with just 24,000 miles – but that also requires four flights on Aegean or Olympic Air. So for Asia based travellers who may not set foot on an Aegean flight, Star Alliance gold actually comes in at the higher level of 48,000 miles. We set out the details here.
Avianca – Lifemiles
This South American airline’s programme is worth a look because they offer a cheap way to buy miles for redemption (if you don’t understand the point of buying miles for redemption, read this). We went into the details in this post.
Alaska is not a Star Alliance member, but you can credit flights on Singapore Airlines to its programme. This can be useful as the Alaska programme has benefits such as selling miles which can be redeemed on Asian airlines like Cathay and generous ticketing policies.