Best Star Alliance Programs for Award Flights to Asia

by joeheg

Each of the major airline alliances has its strengths and weaknesses. It all depends on the airlines in each alliance and the rules of each program. Award flights with oneworld (ever wonder why oneworld starts with a lower case letter? We found out) to Eastern Europe are costly because partner airline British Airways tacks huge fuel surcharges to award flights. However, paying for flights to Asia in business class with American Aadvantage miles is a relative bargain.

It’s also pretty easy to find flights to Asia with Star Alliance partner airlines. Here are the member airlines:

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Asiana Airways
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

So you can choose from Air China, ANA, Asiana, EVA Air, United, and Singapore Airlines to get from the US to Asia. Considering that many of these airlines offer a great product, even in economy class, it makes sense to focus some of your points earned towards one of the Star Alliance loyalty programs. Luckily, many airlines partner with banks and allow transfers from flexible point cards to their programs.

Until now, most of my redemptions through Star Alliance have been with United MileagePlus. That’s because I had many points in the program from the sign-up bonuses Sharon and I earned with the MileagePlus Explorer credit card.

I’m not tied to United, as we no longer have a co-brand card. So now I have the question of which airline I should use for Star Alliance redemptions. Looking at the list, several options stand out as contenders.

Air Canada Aeroplan re-launched in 2020 to almost universal praise, has a co-brand card with Chase, and is a transfer partner for Ultimate Rewards. Since Aeroplan is already partnered with Membership Rewards, Bilt, and Capital One, it will be relatively easy to earn points in the program. That, plus a generous award chart, makes them an early frontrunner.

ANA Mileage Club has the best award chart of any of the Star Alliance airlines. If you’re looking to book a round trip on ANA, there’s no cheaper way to do it with points. Even flying with partners, the prices are darn cheap, like when I booked my dad and his wife flights in business class to Bali and home from Bangkok for 136,000 miles each. It’s easy to accumulate miles with ANA since they’re a partner with AMEX Membership Rewards. The one downside is that ANA requires you to book a round-trip ticket. No one-way tickets are allowed.

While I’ve used the two programs above in the past, I have no experience with this one. I know it takes fewer Avianca miles to book flights than other airlines; it’s the nightmare stories about dealing with the airline that’s keeping me away. Avianca is a transfer partner with AMEX, Citi, and Capital One and is known for selling miles at a low price, making it easy to earn miles. Instead of the negative, do you have any positive stories about using Avianca miles that can change my mind?

The next airline program on the list is Singapore KrisFlyer. They’re partners with Chase, Citi, Capital One, and American Express, so it’s easy to earn points to use with their program. I transferred points from three banks to book flights from New York to Frankfurt. The downside of the program is that points expire three years after earning them. The upside is that Singapore opens up way more award space to its own loyalty program than they do to Star Alliance partners.

The last program on the list I’m interested in is Turkish Miles & Smiles. It’s a program that I don’t know much about than the ability to book cheap flights to Hawaii on United. Any other good uses for this program?

While there are several ways to book Star Alliance flights, I have limited experience with them. Apart from United MileagePlus, which program do you prefer to book Star Alliance flights?

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Christian January 13, 2021 - 1:00 pm

I was a huge Aeroplan fan until the massive devaluation last year. Early in 2020, a friend and I went on a guys trip to Asia for 77,500 miles one way in business class on Turkish. Now the same itinerary is 105,000. That’s pretty gruesome. Now I’m looking into ANA. Doesn’t ANA require specific family relationships in order to get someone an award ticket from your account? That’s my big sticking point.

Enore Antonio Bondan Filho January 13, 2021 - 2:07 pm

I use Aegean and TAP a lot nowadays. Bought millions of poins from Avianca, but today they are in hot water, unfortunately, so i zeroed.

christ January 13, 2021 - 10:36 pm

i continue to use avianca miles (obviously fingers crossed). i find their miles to be great value. last month i had to fly SFO to PHX at short notice. to get on a UA flight, UA wanted 13,000 miles, SQ 12,500, and AV 6,500. SQ miles are useful for SQ flights but not much else, plus their expiration policy is difficult.

Peter January 29, 2023 - 10:48 pm

Aeroplan with the Chase card has been pretty amazing value for me. The status that comes with the card gets you 20 eUpgrades credits. Their eUpgrade program is complicated, but really worth looking into. They clear pretty consistently for me, you can apply them to points bookings, and if you’re willing to buy a full-fare ticket (and prices on Air Canada’s full-fare economy tickets aren’t that outrageous, usually), you can clear them day of purchase. They’re what United’s PointsPlus upgrades wish they were. (I couldn’t give my PointsPlus away last year. Horrible year for clearing upgrades on United.)

The other big positive of the Aeroplan/Chase route is the big spending bonus, 1-status-teir bump up. If you credit to Air Canada and fly *A even a little, *Gold should be in reach. (Which for me, means I could cancel my United Club membership.)

I’m seriously considering giving up United 1k status and switching to AC this year or next. The only downside I can see for me is I wouldn’t have access to E+ on United.

I can’t say enough good things about my Aeroplan experience, even if the point redemption rates have been hit or miss. (There are still some great sweet spots, though.)

Chris January 30, 2023 - 7:36 pm

Turkish gives you status for two years and offers multiple ways to re-qualify. Having status in a foreign airlines also enables you to access United Clubs

UnitedEF January 13, 2024 - 2:58 pm

If you are wanting to fly in J on BR best way is thru their program. I read a few reviews on OMAAT and they are incredible. The availability is so good I was able to sign up for Citi premier, earn the SUB within a month transferred my points to BR which took a few days and the J award inventory was still there for the exact same dates I wanted a month before! Until inventory improves it’s the only program worth anything to get to Asia. 75k one way in J to get to China is nowhere to be found except with BR.


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