If you are a business frequent flyer traversing the globe all the time, you will, at some point or another, begin appreciating little perks along the way. An upgraded seat here, access to a lounge there, speeding up through security lines and other perks can make the life of a frequent flyer much more tolerable.
Unfortunately, achieving elite status with any major U.S. airline has become a daunting task lately due to reduced benefits and introduction of the revenue component into airlines elite schemes.
Frequent flyers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Airlines want them to spend more money on the ticket while companies are working equally hard to reduce corporate travel expenses. Thus, achieving and maintaining status with a U.S.-based airline has become extremely hard for most business travelers.
Fortunately, there is another way. If the carrier of your choice, for example United, is a Star Alliance member, you can credit your revenue flights to another Star member, such as Aegean Airlines, which, arguably, has the most generous elite benefits program of them all.
You may have never heard of the Athens-based carrier, and you might have no intention to fly with it, but that’s not a problem. If you achieve elite status on Aegean, that means you will automatically gain status with the Star Alliance that you can leverage to get more perks and benefits out of your flights on United or any other Star Alliance carrier.
Star Elite Benefits
Star has two elite levels, Silver and Gold. The Silver level is nothing to write home about – all you get is Priority Reservations Waitlist and Priority Stand-By. These perks can come handy at some point, but they are not something that makes your travel easier.
Gold status, however, is another story. Here is what your Star Alliance Gold Status gets you:
- Priority Airport Check-In
- Priority Baggage Handling
- Airport Lounge Access
- Priority Reservation
- Waitlist Priority Boarding
- Priority Stand-By
- Extra Baggage Allowance
- Priority Security Clearance (Gold Track Security)
And that list doesn’t even mention upgrade possibilities. Whether you fly Aegean or not, there are anecdotal reports of people being upgraded on Star Alliance flights by airlines like Lufthansa or Swiss. Of course, upgrades are never a guaranteed benefit, and the chances of getting upgraded by a partner airlines are relatively slim — still, attaining Gold Status with Aegean can make the world of difference. The question, therefore, is how to reach and retain it.
Earning Aegean Status
The short story is, you need to earn 12,000-24,000 Tier Miles to attain Silver, and another 48,000 to attain Gold. So if you’re just getting started you will need to earn 72,000 Tier Miles. But you need to reach Silver first in order to begin your journey to Gold.
To reach the Silver Tier, all you need to do is fly Aegean or Olympic Air at least twice and earn 12,000 Tier Miles within 12 months or collect a total of 24,000 Tier Miles, regardless of which airline you choose to fly with. Whichever you do first will get you there.
So if you don’t fly Aegean, you will need to earn all 24,000 Tier Miles with partners. Whether they are easy to earn depends on your travel patterns. Getting Silver can be as easy as taking two transpacific or transatlantic roundtrip flights to Europe in business, or five oneway segments in economy. Of course, the cheaper the ticket, the fewer bonus miles you get and vice versa.
Aegean pays between 50 percent (for deep discount economy) and 300 percent (for first class) bonus on long-haul flights. Even then, some carriers offer better earning rates than others, so you need to pay attention to your earning rates. SAS, for example, often gives you 100 percent even on a deep discount ticket and 200 percent on everything else. You can find the Aegean earning tables here.
To upgrade from Silver to the Gold Tier, all you need to do is fly Aegean or Olympic Air at least four times and earn 24,000 Tier Miles within 12 months or collect a total 48,000 Tier Miles, regardless of which airline you choose to fly with. Whichever you do first will get you there.
In other words, if you don’t fly Aegean, you will need four-five roundtrip flights to Europe in business or six-seven in economy. Of course if you usually travel longer routes, like Asia or Australia, the math will be more in your favor.
While earning initial 72,000 Tier Miles may not feel super-easy, where Aegean really shines is retention.
To retain your Gold Tier, you have a fixed 12-month period from the date of your upgrade or renewal of your tier to collect 12,000 Tier Miles, including 4 flights with Aegean and/or Olympic Air, or collect a total of 24,000 Tier Miles, regardless of which airline you choose to fly with.
In other words, if you frequently fly long-hauls, it’s very easy to requalify for Gold, and keep it coming year after year, maintaining the Star Gold original benefits.
If You Do or Can Use Aegean for Your Business Trips – You Are Golden!
If you can incorporate two Aegean flights a year (haven’t you always wanted to fly to Santorini?) into your quest for Silver, and four Aegean flights to upgrade to Gold, you will only need to earn 12,000/24,000 Tier Miles respectively. This shouldn’t be an issue for most long-haul frequent flyers. And Aegean is a highly rated airline with devoted, albeit mostly European, followers.
Also when you do fly Aegean, you will find that your Aegean Tier benefits can come very handy, as well.
Notable Aegean Silver Benefits:
- 10% extra award miles.
- Pool your award miles with up to six people into a single account.
- Two coupons for complimentary seat upgrade on Aegean and Olympic Air.
- Access to any Aegean Club Lounge (Athens, Thessaloniki and Larnaca).
- Get closer to your next elite tier by purchasing up to 1,000 Tier Miles within your membership year.
Notable Aegean Gold Benefits:
- 20% extra award miles.
- Four coupons for complimentary seat upgrade on Aegean and Olympic Air.
- Access to Aegean and Star Alliance Club Lounges for member and a guest.
- Get closer to meeting your retention requirement by purchasing up to 2,000 Tier Miles within your membership year.
So if you feel that it’s getting harder and harder to qualify/requalify for elite status with major U.S.-based airlines, it might be the time to look across the pond. While the entry barrier for the Aegean elite program might seem a little high, you may find that excellent retention levels are worth applying an effort.