Huge New Star Alliance Status Match, Mileage Purchase Under 1 Cent Each, and More

Star Alliance member TAP Air Portugal has 280,000 frequent flyer members in the U.S. market, growing at about 12,000 members per month, and now serves 9 North American cities with 81 weekly flights. They’re even launching Boston to the Azores in June. And they acknowledge that their Miles & Go program “hasn’t been as relevant as it should be.” They aim to change that.

TAP Air Portugal flies to their Lisbon hub from Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York JFK and Newark, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles. They frequently run cheap business class fares, including cheap one ways from Europe to the U.S. (it can be a great idea to redeem miles to get to Europe and buy the ticket home on TAP).

The former state-owned carrier was privatized in 2015 and really revamped its business from route network to inflight product. They’ve taken on 30 new aircraft over last 12 months, replacing 20-25 year old aircraft. They’ve grown their route network more than 25% since privatization, and the U.S. has become their third most important market behind Portugal and Brazil accounting for 13% of the airline’s revenue.


TAP Air Portugal Business Class

Bonus For Enrolling In The Program

Receive 1000 bonus miles if you sign up for the program in March using promo code BIRTHDAY01. Members can also earn 1000 bonus miles for new enrollments you refer (earn up to 5000 miles referring members).

There will be a ‘member get member’ option coming to the website this week – it is not yet live. That will allow a member to refer people to the program. Upon enrollment the 1000 miles for referral will be credited (no additional activity required).

Status Matching

TAP Air Portugal is offering to status match customers with existing status in a non-Star Alliance frequent flyer program. During enrollment there’s an option for the match – attach image of current card or screen shot showing status.

In order to be eligible for the match you must either buy one of TAP Miles&Go Clubs or purchase miles by March 31. Clubs are recurring purchases of miles and some include status miles and benefits, ranging in price from $122 to $887.

They’ll actually be offering triple the up front miles when joining a club March 9 – 31, so it’s worth waiting until March 9 to do so. For instance the $122 plan normally gives you 2000 miles up front (and 1000 each month). During the promotion the up front amount will be 6000 miles.

Matched status will be valid for 6 months. To keep status, then during that time:

  • Earn 25,000 qualifying miles to keep Gold
  • Earn 10,000 qualifying miles to keep Silver

Star Alliance Gold members – such as TAP Miles&Go Golds – can access United lounges even when flying United domestically without a United Club membership.

Gold is top tier in the program. Members receive up to 40% off a companion award when redeeming miles to travel with a second passenger. They can also nominate a partner for Gold elite status. They can also advance up to 10,000 miles towards an award when lacking sufficient miles in their account.

Gold status normally requires 70,000 elite qualifying miles on TAP or its partners or 50 flight segments on TAP itself (though just 40 flights on TAP or 50,000 elite qualifying miles to re-up). TAP lets you convert miles into status miles, either 20,000 award miles into 10,000 status miles or 10,000 award miles into 5000 status miles.

One of the most interesting benefits of Gold status is the ability to nominate another Gold member. I specifically asked Miles & Go whether matched Golds are able to nominate a Gold as well and was told that they are. (The nominated person becomes Star Alliance Gold as well.)

Purchase Miles Bonus

TAP is offering either 4 or 5 times the normal miles for purchases depending on the package purchased. For instance a purchase of 20,000 miles yields 100,000 miles at a cost of $870. That’s $0.0087 per miles, which is incredible. TAP Miles & Go processes the sale of miles themselves, rather than using a third party.

25% Discount On Awards

Currently TAP has over 100 origin and destination routes on sale, including New York JFK – Lisbon at 25% off. The current round of discounts run through March 8. However on March 14 they will be announcing a ’75th anniversary surprise’ with discounts on a variety of new routes.

Normally U.S. to Europe or North Africa runs just over 80,000 miles each way plus taxes and fees (fuel surcharges apply based on route, though if flying TAP Air Portugal rather than a Star partner those tend to be about $300 all-in per direction). Where 25% off applies that’s a good value especially to lower surcharge destinations.

The Biggest Limitation Of TAP Miles & Go

Mileage-earning in the program is ultimately going to be limited for U.S.-based members because there’s no TAP Air Portugal credit card in the U.S. market, and because the program isn’t transfer partners with any of the major bank currencies (Chase, Citibank, American Express, Capital One). As a result earning enough miles for an award remains challenging even for someone who flies frequently and plans to credit miles to the program. Marriott points, however, do transfer to TAP miles.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Nice promotion,and the Star Gold gifting for some TAP elites can be a big help for say a family of four to reliably get lounge access when flying economy class on Star Alliance airlines.

  2. If I am a 1K on United but live outside the US would it make sense to switch to Tap? I am not sure under United’s new system if I will get to 1K again – and United flights are more expensive. I fly from TLV- NYC about 5 times a year.
    I have an upcoming trip to Portugal as well soI have been thinking about it what do you advise?

  3. The buy miles price is less incredible if you look at the cost of awards. Unless something changed since I checked, US-EU business is 100k+ one way.

  4. I like flying TAP, but for me the value will likely continue to lie in straight up buying J (often ex-EU, as you note, Gary) and crediting somewhere else.

    Will be curious (hopeful, really!) as to how long they can sustain the current pricing model. The new planes are quite nice, the service and in-flight product are average to above average, and while the LIS hub isn’t a well-oiled machine, it gets the job done. All in all, it’s better than some J products, worse than others – but when you consider it is in many cases half the price, it’s a no-brainer for someone paying their own way.

  5. The price per mile is excellent, but the language on their web site regarding expiration is very confusing. If I understand it correctly, you can extend the miles for one year by renewing the program for a second year. I am not sure what happens afterwards, but it seems that the miles for both years will expire by the third year. IF this is indeed the case, than the program is good only for those who can stash and burn. Please correct me, anybody, if I am reading this incorrectly.

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