Is Star Alliance Gold Really Worth It?

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For the first time in nearly two years, I managed a weekend getaway to another country. Because I was travelling to Lisbon, Portugal, TAP Portugal was one of the airline options available to me.

Notwithstanding the Take Another Plane jokes, TAP offered the lowest fare and I assumed that my Star Alliance Gold status would provide me with the usual perks that differentiate alliance airlines from low cost carriers such as Ryanair or Vueling.  So I went ahead and booked my flights with TAP.

cheap business class flights
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But for a regular Oneworld flyer, Star Alliance Gold doesn’t offer quite as much as one would assume. Here’s the full list of Star Alliance Gold benefits:

  • Airport lounge access
  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in at Business Class desks
  • Fast track security
  • Extra baggage allowance (not on Hand Baggage Only fares offered by Lufthansa, Austrian, SWISS, Brussels Airlines and SAS)
  • Priority baggage handling

Taking them one by one…

Airport lounge access

I was able to use the lounge for my return flight from Lisbon. But unfortunately… TAP doesn’t pay for Star Alliance Gold members to use certain third party lounges, including the one in Barcelona…

So, instead of assuming that you will receive lounge access, you must always double-check whether your airline does actually allow you into the airport lounge (especially when travelling in Economy but relying on elite status for lounge access).

Priority boarding

Received without problem.  And since I wasn’t in the lounge, I was waiting at the gate in Barcelona…

Priority check-in at Business Class desks

Not needed with online check-in and hand baggage only…

Fast track security

Received without any issues, although the regular queues weren’t long. Especially in Barcelona, where I was in no rush to access the lounge anyhow… 🙁

Extra baggage allowance and priority baggage

Not needed for a hand baggage weekend…

What’s Missing?

Seat selection

It is worth highlighting that, unlike Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald, Star Alliance Gold status does NOT entitle you to free seat selection. This even applies to online check-in.

As i researched further, I could apparently change my assigned seat 3 hours before departure. But in the COVID travel age, you must fill in Passenger Locator Forms ahead of departure, and these generally include your seat assignment (for contract tracing I presume).

Luckily I was assigned a window seat for both flights – although I would normally prefer an aisle – so I decided to stick with those seats for the short flights.

The Bottom Line

No guarantee of lounge access? No free seat selection to guarantee no dreaded middle seat? Suddenly, there’s very little difference between flying on a Star Alliance carrier (with Gold status) and flying on a low-cost carrier. Moreover, I only earned 122 miles for a heavily discounted fare on a short route!

Although in this specific case my Star Alliance flights were also the cheapest, I won’t be making a similar assumption (regarding elite status benefits) in the future…

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