Star Alliance member COPA used to just use United’s MileagePlus as its frequent flyer program. They’ve now launched their own program, Copa Airlines.
Their launch promises in March were:
- 1 mile = 1 mile “never less.”
- elite status doesn’t have a revenue requirement
- Top elites earn upgrade certificates that can be used on United
Copa used to be majority-owned by Continental Airlines, and Copa took on a variant of the Continental logo and joined the old Onepass frequent flyer program. Continental started selling their investment in 2005, and the airline is independent now, but they’re pretty well integrated with United.
They’ve called out United and Delta over revenue-based mileage-earning. And indeed, Copa’s own flights earn at least 1 mile per mile flown on revenue tickets.
Unfortunately, while their award chart is reasonable for economy and business class redemptions (and similar to United’s) it’s quite expensive for first class redemptions (which are on partner airlines, they do not have a first class themselves).
And mileage-earning on United while not revenue-based isn’t 100% earning for discount fares.
Unsurprisingly, as with most airlines, mileage-earning varies by airline flown. Here’s earning on United:
Cheap paid tickets only earn 50% flown miles, which can still be better than United (for instance you’ll earn more miles through Copa ConnectMiles than United MileagePlus on a $300 or $400 roundtrip cross country itinerary). But isn’t the best you can do.
For mileage-earning I still like crediting United flights to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer. Downsides are three year expiration of miles and fuel surcharges on awards. The award chart itself is reasonable in most cases, a 15% discount applies for online redemptions (Singapore Airlines flights only), and there’s far far better availability for Singapore flights using Singapore miles than partner miles.
There are separate award charts for travel on Copa, for Star Alliance partners (.pdf) , and for other partners. Roughly speaking there’s a small (eg 5000 mile each way) discount for travel on Copa metal. Sounds like they took some idas from United here, though unlike with United weren’t pressed into the discounted award arrangement by partners.
Star Alliance award redemption begins July 1. There are some fairly good deals outside North and South America. But overall the chart itself isn’t a driver of excitement.
Still, it’s a reasonable earn structure, a reasonable redemption structure, and for a new program that’s a good thing to see.