Surprisingly very little has been written on this topic even though exceptions can be seen throughout the alliance.
One of the top benefits of being part the “big three” global airline alliances is that they offer reciprocal lounge access for their members.
As with the other two major alliances, Oneworld and SkyTeam, Star Alliance doesn’t offer its own frequent flyer program. Rather, joining any Star Alliance member’s frequent flyer program will allow you to earn and redeem miles across the network. Star Alliance Silver and Gold, the two priority tiers, can make your journey significantly more enjoyable.
The Star Alliance network consists of 26 member airlines, who as a whole, fly to more than 1300 destinations, more than any other airline alliance. The alliances fleet is comprised of more than 4,500 aircraft that transport over 670 million passengers per year.
Generally speaking, only Star Alliance Gold lets you into Airline lounges!
So, What’s the Minimum you need to know?
There are some general rules, but this is not the same for Skyteam and Oneworld lounge access rules who have their own rules and policies regarding lounge access.
Generally speaking, only Star Alliance Gold lets you into Airline lounges, which is in contrast to Oneworld where there are two tiers, Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald, which let you into their networks Business and First class lounges respectively.
Additionally, One of the standout weaknesses of Star Alliance membership is that you have to access a lounge based on the cabin you’re travelling in (ie Business Class lounges when travelling in business class). What’s more, is that it’s the departing flight that counts, so if you depart in Business and then go onto First class, you will only have access to business class lounges.
Again this is in contrast to Oneworld which uses the longest sector when a stopover is involved. However, Star Alliance carriers get around this by branding your ticket as first in a lower cabin – which is a little redundant.
As a general rule of thumb:
This is what you need to know when trying to access lounges
Star Alliance Gold Customers travelling in any class of travel
Star Alliance Gold customers travelling in any class on a Star Alliance member airline operated flight can access Star Alliance member lounges if the following conditions are met:
- You present your boarding pass of a Star Alliance member airline-operated flight which departs on the same day as your visit or latest by 05:00 AM the next morning.
- If your boarding pass does not carry the Star Alliance Gold indicator, you will need to also show your valid Star Alliance Gold card.
- The lounge displays the Star Alliance Gold logo at the entrance.
- You are entitled to bring one guest travelling on any Star Alliance flight departing from the same airport on the same day. As of May 3, 2021, the guest must be travelling on the same flight.
If you are a United MileagePlus Star Alliance Gold customer, you may only access the United Clubs within the U.S. when departing from that airport on an international Star Alliance flight, not when departing on a domestic flight with United.
International First Class Lounges
As an International First Class Customer, you have access to International First Class and any Star Alliance member carrier’s own lounges at the airport where your flight departs if the following conditions are met:
- You have access to (the majority) of international first class and any Star Alliance member carriers’ own lounges
- You must present a boarding pass for travel in first class on a Star Alliance flight
- Your flight departs on the same day of your visit or latest by 05.00 AM the next morning.
- The lounge shows the Star Alliance Logo at the entrance.
- You must be departing from the local airport in first class
- You must have paid for your ticket with cash or miles; staff travel doesn’t qualify
- You are entitled to bring one guest, and they must be travelling on the same flight
International Business Class Lounges
As an International Business Class Customer you have access to any Star Alliance member carrier’s owned Business Class lounge at the airport where your flight departs if the following conditions are met:
- You present a boarding pass in International Business Class on a Star Alliance member airline-operated flight
- Your flight departs on the same day of your visit or latest by 05:00 AM the next morning
- The lounge shows the Star Alliance Gold logo at the entrance
- You are not entitled to bring any guests.
STATUS VS TRAVEL CLASS
IS THE TRAVEL CLASS MORE IMPORTANT?
One of the more visible interpretations of this rule is when it comes to Airline lounges with varying access criteria designed specifically for their own elite members.
In some instances, your travel class with an airline will hold more importance than the status you hold. There are some important exclusions, as a Star Alliance Gold Member alone won’t consistently get you access to:
- Lufthansa HON/First Class Lounges in Frankfurt and Munich – unless flying First with Lufthansa or Swiss or have HON Circle status
- SWISS HON/First Class Lounges in Zurich and Geneva – unless flying First with Lufthansa or Swiss or have HON Circle status
- Austrian HON/First Class Lounges in Vienna – Ironically unless flying First with Lufthansa or Swiss or have HON Circle status
- Thai Airways Spa Lounge in Bangkok – access to Thai Airways First and Business class travellers only via first come first serve basis (and is not part of the base service agreement of Star Alliance)
- Singapore Airlines The Private Room in Singapore – Only accessible when travelling in Singapore Airlines Suites or First Class customers
The confusion lies in the fact that Star Alliance’s own rules stipulate carriers must maintain a minimum standard to which all airlines must adhere, but member airlines are free to go above and beyond.
However this is not unique to Star Alliance, both Oneworld members British Airways and Qatar Airways operate two first class lounges at their main hub airport. One which is accessible to holders of Emerald status (thereby adhering to the OneWorld Rule) and one which is only accessible, by invitation, or when travelling in first class with the airline (thereby going exceeding their requirement).
IS THE STATUS MORE IMPORTANT?
- That said, with Star Alliance Silver, offering comparatively little, airlines do sometimes take it upon themselves to allow their own Silver members access to their own lounges when flying with them. notable example:
- Being a non-United status card holders can allow you into united lounges when flying domestically. This is because of a quirk the carrier imposes on their own members but cant enforce on their partner carriers.
- ANA Mileage Club Bronze and Shenzhen Airlines Phoenix Club Silver members can access their own lounges with a small fee.
- Eva Air Infinity Silver and Air Canada Aeroplan 35k members are allowed access to select lounges when flying with their respective carriers for no fee
- SAS sometimes runs promotions for their EuroBonus Silver members to allow access to SAS lounges with no payment at all.
North America Lounge Access with United and Air Canada
Unsurprisingly, US airlines tend to get in the way of the unified airline policy when it comes to lounge access. That’s because within the United States you generally don’t get lounge access just for flying domestic first class, or on account of having elite status. Rather US airlines try to sell United club lounge memberships.
- A first or business class ticket within the United States on United generally won’t get you lounge access, with the exception of a limited number of premium routes. Lounge access is reserved for International and transcontinental routes
- Star Alliance Gold through United Airlines don’t get lounge access when traveling within the United States unless you have United Club Membership
Unsurprisingly, North American carriers United and Air Canada are willing to sell you lounge access at a pretty hefty fee
- United is willing to sell you access to their worldwide network of lounges with United Club membership
- Air Canada is willing to do the same with their Maple Lead Club, even allowing you the option to bolt onto United’s worldwide lounges as well.
- Lufthansa is also trailing access to its lounges in North America in partnership with Priority Pass
- Access to Star Alliance branded lounges (notably the one in Los Angeles) is also available for paid access; however, your milage may vary if it is worth the hefty price tag.