Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles have far easier elite qualification for Star Alliance Gold in their frequent flyer programs compared to United Airlines.
As a U.S. resident I have membership in both of these two international frequent flyer programs and currently hold Silver elite with Aegean Airlines. I am one $550 flight away from earning Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite. I have spent about $1,200 on tickets so far in the past year for Aegean Airlines elite qualification. Earning Star Alliance Gold elite cost about $1,750 in airline tickets over the past year with three California-Europe round trip tickets and several intra-Europe flights.
Why this matters: United Airlines Mileage Plus has become exceedingly difficult to earn Premier Gold elite status and Star Alliance Gold member status for U.S. residents, due to its minimum spend requirement of $6,000 PQD.
Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold Elite
Aegean Airlines Gold elite can be maintained for around $1,000 in year when you pay attention to buy high elite miles earning cheap economy tickets or premium economy tickets.
Most of my Aegean elite Tier Miles were earned through San Francisco – Stockholm flights on SAS Scandinavian Airlines flights in Economy T booking code.
SAS Economy T earns 100% flight miles as Aegean Miles + Bonus Tier Miles. I also earned Tier Miles for flights with:
United Airlines economy K 50% Tier Miles(LHR-SFO),
Air Canada economy K 50% Tier Miles (CPH-YYZ-SFO),
LOT Polish economy W 25% Tier Miles (PRG-WAW-NCE) and
Aegean Airlines economy P 75% Tier Miles (NCE-ATH-SOF-ATH-PRG).
One more SAS flight to Scandinavia puts me over 24,000 Aegean Tier Miles in 12 months to qualify for Aegean Gold elite with Star Alliance Gold elite benefits like free checked bag and airport lounge access, even when flying United Airlines domestic.
Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold and Star Alliance Gold Qualification
Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite requires 24,000 Tier Miles + 4 Aegean/Olympic Airlines flight segments in a 12-month membership year. The membership year is 12 months from the date of your first qualifying flight or the date you received an elite status upgrade.
Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite renewal requires 24,000 Tier Miles or 12,000 Tier Miles + 4 Aegean/Olympic flight segments.
Over the past few months I have found ways to maintain Star Alliance Gold elite through Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus for under $1,000 per year on a single round trip airline ticket flying SAS Premium Economy Stockholm to San Francisco earning 200% miles.
Turkish Miles&Smiles Elite and Star Alliance Gold
Miles& Smiles Classic = initial membership
Miles& Smiles Classic Plus (Star Alliance Silver) = 25,000 Status Miles in 12 months. Membership lasts 2 years. Renew with 17,000 Status Miles in following 12 months or 35,000 Status Miles in 2 years.
Miles&Smiles Elite (Star Alliance Gold) = 40,000 Status Miles in 12 months. Upgrade from Classic Plus to Elite after earning 40,000 status miles in 12 months. Membership lasts 2 years. If you are not a resident of Turkey, Miles&Smiles Elite status (Star Alliance Gold) renewal takes 25,000 Status Miles in following 12 months or 37,500 Status Miles in 2 years.
100% Flight Miles as Elite Miles on cheap economy tickets is key to cheap elite
The key to cheap elite Star Alliance Gold on a budget with Aegean or Turkish frequent flyer programs is finding flights that still earn 100% flight miles as elite miles.
Lufthansa and Swiss Airlines have $300 round trip tickets from Europe to San Francisco, however, LH/LX Economy K tickets do not earn Aegean Tier Miles or Turkish Status Miles.
United and Air Canada frequently offer $400 to $450 round trip tickets SFO-Europe and these tickets in Economy K earn 50% flight miles as Aegean Tier Miles or Turkish Status Miles.
SAS Scandinavian Economy T and L ticket prices tend to be quite a bit higher priced than other Star Alliance airlines, from $550 to $700 round trip for LAX/SFO to Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm. Ticket prices are frequently at least $100 less flying Europe to California. SAS sweet spot is 100% flight miles as Tier Miles in Aegean Miles+Bonus, but only 25% Status Miles in Turkish Airlines.
That one factor is one of the main reasons I chose Aegean Miles+Bonus rather than Turkish Miles&Smiles. I find Scandinavian cities are some of the best airports for cheap flights around Europe and Choice Privileges points make an overnight hotel stay quite affordable when transiting through any of those airports.
Where to Credit your Flight Miles?
It was common a decade ago to earn 100% flight miles as redeemable and elite qualifying miles on deep discount economy fares in most major airline frequent flyer programs. Over the years the number of miles earned on cheap economy fares dropped across most frequent flyer programs. In 2018 all kinds of earn rates are found across Star Alliance frequent flyer programs. Matching your travel pattern with a frequent flyer program suitable for your typical ticket purchases is key for earning elite status and additional travel benefits.
A site like wheretocredit.com is invaluable for keeping track of what airline codes earn in other airlines’ frequent flyer programs.
All my travel for Aegean Gold elite involved European flights on North American and European airlines.
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Travel in the Americas for Star Alliance Gold Elite
Copa Airlines Economy E (100%) and Economy T (50%)
Copa Economy E earns 100% flight miles and Copa Economy T earns 50% flight miles in Aegean and Turkish frequent flyer programs.
Copa Airlines Economy T is commonly the lowest economy fare code for international flights from SFO and LAX to Central America, South America and Caribbean.
Avianca Airlines Economy S (100%).
My next post on Star Alliance Gold elite with Aegean Airlines or Turkish Airlines shows examples of ticket prices with Copa and Avianca on routes in the Americas earning elite miles.
Loyalty Traveler – Avianca and Copa flights for Aegean and Turkish Star Alliance Gold elite (March 20, 2018).