Starwood Just Added a New Star Alliance Transfer Partner With Fantastic Business/First Class Award Pricing

Starwood’s Starpoints are already the most valuable loyalty program currency.

They have the most airline transfer partners where points transfer 1:1 and of course when you move Starwood points into 20,000 miles you get 5000 bonus miles. That gets you effectively a 1:1.25 transfer ratio with most airline partners.

Now, Starwood has added a new transfer partner: Star Alliance member Aegean Miles+Bonus.

I just had my Aegean Gold status (obtained via a status match from bmi Gold, and which was once lifetime Gold status) downgraded to Silver.

Since I joined they’ve made it possible to change date and time on award tickets and also cancel awards and redeposit miles for only 20 euros. You can’t make changes to a routing though, only change date and time or cancel/redeposit. Still — just a 20 euro fee is fantastic.

Their award chart has some interesting values:

  • 42,000 miles roundtrip for United domestic first class (although US-Hawaii awards are bizarrely 110,000 miles roundtrip up front!)
  • 90,000 miles roundtrip for US-Europe business class, and North Africa is included in Europe. First class is 120,000 miles roundtrip.
  • 110,000 miles roundtrip for US-Middle East business class, 150,000 miles roundtrip for first class
  • 150,000 miles roundtrip in business class between US and all of Asia and the South Pacific
  • 90,000 miles roundtrip in business class between the US and South America
  • 110,000 miles roundtrip for US-Africa business class, 150,000 miles roundtrip for first class

One-way awards are available at half these prices.

The two biggest downsides to the program are:

  1. They add fuel surcharges to the cost of awards
  2. They have the strictest routing rules of any program with a region-based award chart.

    An award ticket on Star Alliance flights may include one stopover with duration up to 24 hours

    This doesn’t mean you get to have a ‘stopover’ — it means you can only have one connection in each direction of your award! That means flying from a regional US airport to a regional European one is impossible without redeeming two awards, since it would require two connections.

Transfers Won’t Prevent Mileage Expiration

I do wish that I could simply transfer 1 Starpoint into 1 Aegean mile and extend the expiration of my account. However that’s not the way it works. Aegean’s terms and conditions say that Gold members get soft landed to Silver and Silver members get downgraded to Blue — and that a Blue member without flight activity in the previous 24 months has their account deactivated.

The terms are poorly drafted, and do suggest that any mileage retroactively credited to an account during the 12 months after deactivation will reactivate the account (and doesn’t say the activity must be flight activity) however I’m not certain that’s correct.

If the Blue Member has not performed a single flight activity within a period of twenty four consecutive (24) months from the date of the last valid flight that registered miles, then his/her card and Account will be inactivated for a period of twelve (12) months in which the Member may retroactively credit Miles to reactivate his/her Account. The card and Account cannot be used during the inactivation period (miles accrual, miles redemption). Should no reactivation occur within the twelve (12) month inactivation period, the Account will be closed permanently.

The Opportunity

If you can book awards with a single connection in each direction and are willing to pay fuel surcharges (which vary by destination, and for Asia can be quite low and are usually non-existent for Central and South America) this can be a highly valuable transfer partner.

Starwood points can be hard to come by other than with their credit card, but many people are looking to use their points since Marriott is buying Starwood (I don’t expect big changes to Starwood Preferred Guest over the next year, but it could be a really good idea to get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express before the merger closes).

It’s amazing in some ways that there’s still a program that will let you book such reasonably priced (in miles) Star Alliance business and first class awards.

It’s not necessarily a place for long term value, for instance they made lifetime elite status no longer lifetime and of course… Greece. But if you have immediate needs for booking awards through the program or are willing to credit perhaps a United flight to your Aegean account every couple of years to keep the account active it’s an intriguing option.

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, 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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  1. Very nice – this should be helpful to folks who scored A3 miles for the status.

    And the inclusion of North Africa in Europe provides a fantastic sweet spot.

    IIRC, the Caribbean is included in North America, providing yet another.

  2. “Starwood’s Starpoints are already the most valuable loyalty program currency.”

    LOL. Speaking of a statement that always rang hollow to those knew better ringing even hollower… 😉

  3. Does anybody know how to actually book a flight using miles – I can’t even seem to find any partner flights / cities trying to book through their website – it’s just their own destinations. I was just trying to price out things and see miles / fuel surcharge info

  4. @Gary, longer term, looking at the card space vis-a-vis Amex and Chase what is the most likely scenario? Given what happened with Amex and Costco appears that anything goes.

  5. But is there a place that I can verify how many miles / what the fuel surcharges will be, or is it just a matter of “hope for the best”? (Guessing the latter)

  6. @ Gary — I thought awards had to be booked by email request, which can days for a reply. Has this changed? If not, this is a huge downside unless you are booking something that has lots of availability.

  7. @Win it depends on what the SPG-Amex deal says happens in the event of change of control, but if there ceases to be an SPG then one imagines the Amex relationship goes away.

  8. Gary, can you provide any details on the competence level of the Aegean Miles+Bonus phone agents? Are we talking Alitalia bad here?

  9. Living around Europe and most of the time in Greece has given me plenty of experience with Aegean. There is also a very active Flyertalk subforum with plenty of information for anyone who may be interested.

    Couple of things;
    1. Multiple stops/transfer points are possible, and not limited to 1. Almost all of the M+B members are based in Greece, thus, flying from a domestic airport and connecting at ATH or SKG. With a one-stop limit one could only fly within Europe as there are no *A long-haul flights out of these airports.

    2. Booking awards should be done by phone only. Make sure you pre-calculate the taxes beforehand to see if their offer matches your expectations.

    3. The comment about ‘lifetime’ status annoys the hell out of me. Because this was *never* the case, and never advertised as such. It is blogs like these that advertised that lifetime status was offered, making large amounts of US-based flyers opening M+B accounts solely for the benefits…which was then promptly responded to by Aegean by tightening the rules for everyone. Thanks for that. Not to mention all these US based members which have now lost their status and are ranting about Aegean while the fault lies with other parties.

    Anyway, the SPG partnership is a great addition. But one of the reasons their FFP is so good is because it is a small community with people that actually fly for their miles. I do hope that anyone looking to use this transfer functionality will at the least keep their account active by also crediting some flights every once in a while.

  10. I was excited to see this addition, though I do wish that it was a two-way street and that I could use miles for SPG redemptions (as I have a ton via Greek CC spend and not nearly enough SPG points).
    In terms of the usefulness of booking awards tickets through A3, I have found their phone agents to be quite competent and helpful, though Aegean does charge a 20 euro phone booking fee which they don’t waive. In terms of everything else, on the one side you have low mileage cost and large regions, while on the other hand you have strict routing rules and fuel surcharges. So all in all, its a wash and really depends on your particular needs.

  11. @Xandrios the 1-stop limit applies to Star partners without spending additional miles. “Advertised” or not, lifetime status was how the terms and conditions were written. Not mad at Aegean for changing that, I predicted they would (just as Airtran here in the US did).

  12. @MEOW I don’t have a TON of experience with the phone agents but they’ve been far better than Alitalia, LifeMiles, etc. I’ve had quite good experiences actually.

  13. @Gary, I dont mean to be too argumentative about the lifetime thing (and perhaps at one point it WAS in fact written like that), but as far back as I remember it was: once you had Gold status, any (flight?) activity within 36 months would mean you would retain it. So it was *in effect* lifetime, but I only remember it mentioned as such in blogs.

  14. @Stratos it wasn’t marketed as lifetime, it just *was*. You needed a flight every 36 months to prevent your account from expiring, not to renew the status.

  15. @Gary: no mixed class award booking. You gotta do 2 bookings, one for business class leg and the other one for first class leg

  16. Does anyone remember that Starwood owners received lifetime starwood gold status as well as gold star alliance status? We received a card stating so but the card needed to be requested every year as it held an expiration date on it. I used it for flying perks such as free baggage or waived fees on heavy baggage. I can’t seem to find anyone who knows what I’m talking about as far as the star alliance card.

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