Oct252016

Choosing my 2017 Star Alliance elite program challenge

This is day five of intensively manic 2017 international travel planning. A change in my primary frequent flyer program from United Mileage Plus and American AAdvantage to an international program like Aegean Miles+Bonus, SAS EuroBonus or Singapore KrisFlyer is my main objective when looking at ticket options. I am currently AAdvantage Executive Platinum. Now that AAdvantage is revenue based, I will drop to AAdvantage Platinum for 2017 and I will not earn any elite status after 2017 with AAdvantage since I do not come anywhere near the minimum spend requirement. 

After five days of studying Aegean Airlines Europe routes, I can write down from memory at least 10 Aegean two-segment routes across Europe via Athens with layover time in Athens, departure and arrival times and the price to fly to Portugal from those airport destinations across Europe for cities like Paris, Copenhagen, Rome, Vienna, Zurich, Munich, Berlin, Budapest, Geneva, Barcelona, Milan, Stockholm, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Amsterdam and London.

Even more amazing is the fact that I can fly Aegean Airlines from Amsterdam to any of these other European cities with an overnight in Athens for $65 to $90 one way this winter 2017.

The frustrating part for my winter travel plans is my preferred destination in Europe is Portugal, one of the few countries in Europe where Aegean does not fly. I kind of had my mind set on hanging out in Portugal by the sea in winter for a few days. Some itineraries like Aegean $82 for Amsterdam to Zurich one-way allow for a full 24 hours from 4pm to 4pm in Athens on the overnight transit layover. Then $45 from Zurich to Lisbon on Swiss Airlines.

Athens and Rome would occupy a week with plenty of old stuff to visit without the additional cost of travel to Portugal, but I have not quite warmed up to the idea of a winter trip focused on Greece and Italy.

Going for Gold

American, Delta and United have crapped on their USA frequent flyers with a revenue based model for attaining elite status dominating the skies. Since most of my flight miles are international travel, I am looking for a Star Alliance program where I can maintain Star Alliance Gold membership for access to USA domestic and international airport lounges. While I care somewhat about miles redemption, my primary objective is to find a program where I will maintain an upper-mid-tier elite providing benefits of Star Alliance Gold level membership with most of my airline travel on deep discount economy tickets.

In August I examined frequent flyer programs for SAS Scandinavian Airlines EuroBonus and Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus

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

Loyalty Traveler – SAS vs. Aegean frequent flyer programs for USA flyers

Aegean Airlines is my initial choice for 2017 frequent flyer program, despite never having flown the airline.

The deal with Aegean Airlines is the program has lower flight miles requirements than SAS EuroBonus and Singapore KrisFlyer to reach Star Alliance Gold benefits. There might be other Star Alliance programs worth considering, but I have not looked carefully at other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs yet.

Star Alliance Gold Elite Qualifications

 

 

  • Aegean Miles+Bonus Silver 12,000 Tier Miles + 2 Aegean flight segments (Silver elite) or 24,000 Tier Miles without Aegean flights.

 

  • Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold 24,000 Tier Miles + 4 Aegean flight segments or 48,000 Tier Miles without Aegean flights. Once Silver elite earned, then 12 more months to qualify for Gold elite. Renewal of Aegean Gold elite is far easier with only 12,000 Tier Miles and two Aegean flight segments or 24,000 Tier Miles without Aegean flight segments. (My plan is earn 36,000 tier miles and fly six Aegean flight segments by August to move from no status to Silver in March and then to Gold elite by August.)

How elite miles are calculated is important to consider with my flight pattern.

Singapore Airlines has one big advantage over Aegean and SAS in earning elite miles. United Airlines economy K fares earn 100% flight miles as elite miles in KrisFlyer. UA Economy K booking code is the most common low cost domestic and international fare USA to Europe and many other places. United Airlines economy K tickets earn 50% flight miles with Aegean Miles+Bonus or SAS EuroBonus

Keep in mind though that Economy K on Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian earns 25% flight miles in Miles & More, but economy K on the Miles&More airlines earns no miles in other frequent flyer programs like Aegean, SAS and Singapore.

Aegean’s Advantage for Californians

My base airports are San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Monterey. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego also work if my travel dates coincide with low fares from Monterey to these airports.

SAS flies San Francisco to Copenhagen nonstop and there are occasionally very low fares. Aegean credits all SAS economy discount fares at 100% flight miles. An SAS ticket SFO-CPH-ARN earns 5,827 miles one-way with Aegean Miles+Bonus. This is more elite points than SAS EuroBonus credits for the same flights. The reason is SAS EuroBonus has a fixed rate of 4,500 tier points for SFO-Europe flights on SAS. Fly from Boston or New York and SAS EuroBonus credits only 3,000 elite points each way.

Miami is the sweet spot for SAS EuroBonus flyers since the earning rate changed last month to 4,500 elite points. SAS sold MIA-Oslo $227 round trip tickets last month.

Partner airline flights are distance based earning for SAS EuroBonus, same as Aegean.

100% Aegean elite miles on Ethiopian Airlines Los Angeles to Dublin cheap summer tickets

One of the most amazing deals right now is the option to buy cheap tickets flying Ethiopian Airlines nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Dublin, Ireland for peak summer July travel.

Ethiopian Airlines  Los Angeles LAX – Dublin Ireland DUB

$582.08 round trip  Sat July 1 – Friday July 14

LAX-DUB $582 ET Jul1-14

Ethiopian Airlines LAX-DUB-LAX economy class booking code U earns:

  • Aegean Miles+Bonus 100% flight miles.
  • Singapore KrisFlyer 50% flight miles.
  • SAS Eurobonus 25% flight miles.

Winter fares are even lower for Dublin to Los Angeles round trip tickets.

Ethiopian Airlines  Dublin, Ireland DUB – Los Angeles LAX nonstop

$476.75 USD (437.04 EUR)  Sunday Jan 22 – Sun Jan 29

DUB-LAX $475 ET Jan22-29

Ethiopian Airlines LAX-DUB-LAX Economy Promo Instant Purchase class booking code 0 earns:

  • Aegean Miles+Bonus 100% flight miles.
  • Singapore KrisFlyer 0% flight miles.
  • SAS Eurobonus 0% flight miles.

Aegean credits deep discount Ethiopian Airlines economy O code with 100% elite miles. This booking code does not earn miles in SAS or Singapore. While this may seem like a small point to many flyers, this low fare Ethiopian ticket option for LAX to Dublin is one of my most searched itineraries for trips to Europe.

Many factors to consider when choosing a frequent flyer program

I am still stuck in Europe in March 2017, until I decide on which ticket to buy for my return to California to end my winter trip.

SAS has even lower priced tickets for Stockholm to San Francisco at $427-$456 round trip this winter and I can get home to Monterey in a rental car rather than paying for an additional ticket from LAX to Monterey.

My main plan for 2017 is to focus on Star Alliance tickets to earn Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite, while also flying some Oneworld Airlines in 2017 whenever there is a better deal. I’ll have AAdvantage Platinum elite and international lounge access through Oneworld for 2017.

If flight plans work out, I will reach Aegean Silver elite in March and qualify for Aegean Gold elite after my summer trip to Europe. 

Now back to my problem of deciding where to go in Europe for a few days in February flying two Aegean Airlines flight segments from Amsterdam.

Aegean Airlines  Amsterdam – Athens nonstop

$47.40 USD (43.53 EUR) Friday Feb 17

AMS-ATH 43EUR A3 Feb17

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. Have you considered Turkish? Gold is good for two years and only 25k to requalify. Can status match to start

  2. Seems like a lot of time and work for little benefit. Why not simply get the Chase UA card, which eliminates the need to worry about EQD at the Gold level? They fly your normal *G routes and accumulate the 50k EQM normally? And get a CSR card for priority pass lounge access (which is much better overseas)

  3. With Aegean, you can get gold directly without getting silver first. So you will get gold with just 24000 miles + 4 Aegean segments.

  4. No, it’s not true. They changed the rules and you first have to become Silver, then the counter of Aegean flights reset (even if you had more than 2) and you have to reach Gold.

  5. @Boraxo – Too simple to simply pay for cards. I think of my blog niche as how to travel, and travel well, without the cards.

    @Alan – Comments on my first post detailing my objective for Aegean Gold elite confirmed you have to earn Aegean Silver elite, then counter sets to zero for Aegean Gold elite qualification at 24,000 tier miles + 4 segments.

    @TokinoMaso – Good to know about Lisbon flight.

  6. @Boraxo Mist people in the planet, even the rich ones, cannot get these cards without a permanent residential address in the U S of A.

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