I had the opportunity to be on two separate Star Alliance flights this month - US Airways and Air Canada. As a Premier Executive on United Airlines and a Star Alliance Gold member, I could board early and access the airport lounges before my international flights. Those are meager benefits for flying 50,000 miles with Star Alliance partners.
Even worse, Star Alliance Gold status doesn’t give any useful perks like advance seat selection when you book your flights on Air Canada and USAir. These benefits from the Star Alliance website are obviously over exaggerated or not honored by all Star Alliance members. I was on a domestic flight operated by USAir, and an international flight operated by Air Canada. Both carriers tried to charge me for picking an aisle or window seat during the reservation process.
USAir claimed their systems were not linked to United, and could not verify my status, when I called them to get out of a middle seat - and told me it would cost an extra $15 to $20 if I wanted to switch. Luckily, the USAir agent was kind enough to give me an exit row seat without any additional fees.
Air Canada also tried to charge me C$15 for selecting an aisle or window seat during the reservation process. Air Canada was more straightforward when I called to change my seat - the agent told me I had purchased a low fare ticket (Tango Class).
Apparently, Tango class ticketholders do not get to pick their seats in advance, regardless of the flier’s status - you can only pick a seat once you check in at the airport. I was very fortunate again, as the agent told me that the flight was completely empty and I should get a good seat on the flight without paying. FYI, below is a chart I dug up from Air Canada’s website:
Given my recent experiences, I’m not sure if there are any incentives to remain loyal to Star Alliance, or any airline, for that matter. If you’re still keen on getting status on Star Alliance, I strongly suggest you checkout Statusmonger’s previous post: Fast Track to Star Alliance Gold.