Aug302016

SAS vs. Aegean frequent flyer programs for USA flyers

In the next two weeks I have to decide? Credit my United Airlines economy K booking code flight from San Francisco to London to SAS Eurobonus or Aegean Miles+Bonus frequent flyer programs. While there are many Star Alliance frequent flyer programs where I could credit my United economy K class flight, I am focused on these Scandinavian and Greece airlines’ frequent flyer programs due to the value I place on domestic award tickets around Scandinavia and Greece at low miles cost for what are often expensive revenue tickets.

I know 10,000 SAS points (low cost SAS fares California-Europe earn 9,500 points round trip) can buy a $300 intra-Norway airline ticket award for about $30. Aegean is a program I am still exploring and I see potential value there too for island hopping with round trip domestic awards in Greece at 10,000 miles one-way.

Based on past practice, I evaluate earning and redemption values by the potential value I find when looking at sample low fare deals. As a person living in Monterey, California, I look first for low fares from San Francisco, then Los Angeles second for airfare deals to Europe. San Jose SJC, my closest international airport, is becoming increasingly more useful as an international airport as more airlines fly there.

In this post I look at an airfare deal currently available with SAS Airlines at $493 round trip for Los Angeles LAX to Copenhagen, Denmark CPH. This fare shows the potential for how long distance flights between California and Europe can be leveraged for high frequent flyer miles value, despite USA legacy carriers American, Delta and United all operating revenue-based frequent flyer programs.

Even more useful is the availability of LAX-Copenhagen low fares for departures from September to May 2017. A traveler can book three round trip tickets over the next 9 months and earn SAS Eurobonus Silver elite or even higher level Aegean Gold elite status after three round trips (and side trips to Greece for Aegean elite) for around $1,500 to $1,800, in addition to about 40,000 redeemable frequent flyer miles.

The SAS fare Los Angeles to Copenhagen provides an excellent example of a discount airfare for evaluating the earning and burning opportunities between these two different Star Alliance frequent flyer programs of SAS Eurobonus and Aegean Miles+Bonus.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines Los Angeles LAX – Stockholm ARN – Copenhagen CPH

$493.46 round trip  Mon Oct 3 – Mon Oct 10

LAX-CPH $494 fare price

LAX-CPH $494 SK Oct3-10

This itinerary takes advantage of flying SAS from San Francisco to Scandinavia and back to Los Angeles, California rather than a domestic United flight to an SAS flight departing from Chicago, Newark or Washington IAD.

The primary reason for choosing SAS flights from California are more points earned with SAS for California flights than other USA flights from Chicago, Newark and Washington D.C. in SAS Eurobonus and Aegeam Miles+Bonus gives 100% miles for SAS economy flights compared to 50% miles for United flights based on flight distance.

SAS flight distance SFO-CPH-ARN-LAX = 11,348 miles.

Aegean Miles+Bonus earns 11,348 miles.

SAS Eurobonus earns 9,500 points.

Both programs earn a small number of points or miles for the United Airlines LAX-SFO segment, but I’ll ignore those miles for purposes of this example.

Star Alliance Gold Elite Status in SAS Eurobonus and Aegean Miles+Bonus

My primary interest is getting airport lounge access and other benefits of frequent flyer elite status like free checked bags. I want to hold Star Alliance Gold level in whatever Star Alliance member airline I choose to credit flights.

United Airlines Mileage Plus requires 50,000 EQM + $6,000 in tickets (excluding taxes) to earn Star Alliance Gold. I was United 1K for several years and never spent more than $4,000 for status and some years under $2,500. In 2016 I will have gone to Europe on 6 revenue round trip tickets and New Zealand on one revenue ticket and still not reach $4,000 in spend.

There is no spend requirement with SAS or Aegean to earn top elite status and fewer flight miles than 50,000 in a calendar year are needed to earn Gold elite in either program. I wrote about eh elite status programs in these posts last week.

Loyalty Traveler – SAS + Aegean $625 LAX to Denmark + Greece, Star Gold elite with three round trips

Loyalty Traveler – Going for SAS EuroBonus elite for 2017, unless I find a better program

SAS and Aegean Earning Points and Miles for United-operated flights

I have a United flight to Europe in September and an SAS flight to Europe in December. Here is a look at miles and points earned for United-operated flights in economy class.

SAS Eurobonus earn rates for United Airlines flights

  • UA Discount Economy: G, N, S, T, L, K (50%) – minimum 300 points.
  • UA Discount Economy: Q, V, W (75%) – minimum 300 points.
  • UA Economy: Y, B, M, E, U, H  (100%) – minimum 600 points.

Aegean Miles+Bonus Miles earning for United Airlines flights

  • UA Discount Economy W, S, T, L, K, G, N (50%).
  • UA Discount Economy V (75%).
  • UA Economy M, E, U, H, Q (100%).

All my low fare United tickets tend to be K, S, and T booking codes. There is little difference in the earn rates between the two airlines when flying discount United Airlines economy tickets.

SAS EuroBonus and Aegean Miles+Bonus Award Redemption Rates

The second area I am concerned with is how many miles I can earn and how many miles I need for frequent flyer awards. Both SAS and Aegean frequent flyer programs have sweet spots for domestic travel. Scandinavia is a large geographic area and domestic flights can be expensive. There is good value in 10,000 points round trip awards for Sweden and Norway. Likewise, in Greece low 10,000 miles domestic awards means quick and cheap access to islands.

USA – Europe award tickets

SAS

SAS flights award chart

  • 36,000 economy one way (60% rt price)
  • 60,000 economy round trip
  • 48,000 business one way
  • 80,000 business round trip

Star Alliance award chart

  • 42,000 economy one way (60% rt price)
  • 70,000 economy round trip
  • 66,000 business one way
  • 110,000 business round trip

Aegean

Star Alliance Award Chart (Aegean does not fly to USA)

  • 30,000 economy one way
  • 60,000 economy round trip
  • 45,000 business one way
  • 90,000 business round trip

Aegean is easily winner for redeeming fewer miles for USA-Europe award tickets.

USA Domestic Flight Awards

The other main uses I have for miles are domestic USA and domestic Europe. Low cost awards in USA are more valuable to me since low cost revenue tickets around Europe are much more prevalent.

SAS North and Central America Award Tickets

  • 15,000 economy one way (60% rt price)
  • 25,000 economy round trip
  • 30,000 business one way
  • 50,000 business round trip

Aegean North America Award Tickets

  • 12,500 economy one way (60% rt price)
  • 25,000 economy round trip
  • 21,000 business one way
  • 42,000 business round trip

Aegean wins on Business Class awards, but SAS has the advantage of including Central America with North America for low cost awards compared to Aegean with Central America and South America grouped together for award prices to Central America the same as USA-Europe.

Aegean is the winner for me on domestic awards, since I do not care much about traveling to Central America.

Domestic Europe Awards

SAS does have one other advantage for domestic Europe awards at 20,000 points round trip or 12,000 points one-way with Star Alliance carriers

SAS Europe

SAS Europe-Europe Star Alliance Award Tickets (Austria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Spanish mainland incl Balearics, Switzerland, Turkey)

  • 12,000 economy one way (60% rt price)
  • 20,000 economy round trip
  • 18,000 business one way
  • 30,000 business round trip

SAS Europe SAS-operated flights from Nordic countries:

Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. (Connecting flights within Nordic+ to all zones are included in the price)

  • 12,000 economy one way (60% rt price)
  • 20,000 economy round trip
  • 18,000 business one way
  • 30,000 business round trip

Austria, Croatia, Belgium, Czech republic, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom

  • 18,000 economy one way (60% rt price)
  • 30,000 economy round trip
  • 30,000 business one-way (60% rt price)
  • 50,000 business round trip

Aegean Europe-Europe Star Alliance Award Tickets

  • 12,500 economy one way
  • 25,000 economy round trip
  • 21,000 business one way
  • 42,000 business round trip

SAS is winner for most Europe domestic tickets.

Two Primary Questions Remain

1. What are the taxes for award tickets in each program and is there a competitive advantage for either program?

2. Will Aegean and/or SAS Eurobonus Star Alliance Gold elite give me complimentary access to United Airlines Red Carpet Club in USA when flying United? I assume Star Alliance Gold elite with each of these programs will have that benefit, but I don’t know in practice how domestic lounges treat international Star Alliance Gold elites flying United domestic.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. Based on what I have read, Aegean Air award tickets will incur the fuel surcharge on certain carriers to certain destinations. For example, award tickets booked on UA and AC will not have the fuel surcharge but any airline in the LH group will. As far as Star Alliance Gold benefits, I have not had any issue entering United Clubs on domestic flights. All SA Gold benefits are honored – including the free additional bag.

  2. Just flew SAS yesterday – let’s say I’m not a big fan of there
    I’m united gold ( no biggie I know) and they give me a middle seat in a row that doesn’t recline
    Just saying but you do alot in Scandinavian countries which may tilt your decision but greece islands are priceless

  3. Kevin is correct, all *A Gold benefits are honored. There may be specific lounges which are more restrictive, but not as a widespread policy. I’ve used my Aegean Gold to access lounges for about half the *A airlines.

    A note regarding Aegean awards: you are limited to two flight numbers one-way; I don’t know is SAS has the same restriction. Last year I used Aegean awards from LYR on our way to ATH. The flight from LYR to OSL had a stop in Tromso for customs & passengers but continued with the same flight number so it counted as one segment (there were no direct flights on our travel days). There were no direct *A flights with availability from OSL to ATH, and we wound up overnighting in ZRH because we could only get one more segment on the award. The next day we took a paid A3 flight to ATH.

    One additional note on Aegean: they issue coupons to their elites that will upgrade someone on a paid fare to business class on flights they operate; one segment per coupon. There must be availability and you earn miles based on the paid fair. This includes their Go Light fares. On last year’s trip we paid about $90 per person ZRH-ATH and then about $100 ATH-ARN, and flew in the front on both. The coupons aren’t particularly useful for island-hopping due to the short flight times, but are useful for long international flights.

    I haven’t looked into SAS’s program, there may be restrictions and benefits to it that are comparable to the two-flight-numbers on awards and the coupons.

  4. Leaning to Aegean for easier Star Alliance Gold qualifications and it about time I visit Greece.

    Fuel surcharges on Miles&More airlines could be problematic, combined with no miles earned for economy K fares, which tend to be many of the deals I find with LH, LX and OS.
    SAS gives 25% miles for these Miles & More airline economy K flights.

    As long as airfare remains as low as it is now, my primary objective is Star Alliance Gold elite status for airline lounge access rather than earning miles.

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