SAS Eurobonus members (but not only): which loylaty program to join to stay with Star Alliance?

As planned, SAS will leave Star Alliance on September 1 to join Skyteam, as part of Air France-KLM’s acquisition of a stake in the company, paving the way for a potential takeover within two years.

An event that is anything but neutral for its customers and loyalty program members. The new alliance means new partners, and therefore a substantial transformation of the SAS network in terms of destinations, airlines and connecting hubs.

The equation for them is much more complicated than “instead of flying Lufthansa via Frankfurt, we’ll fly Air France via Munich”.

A network change that doesn’t suit all SAS customers

For many customers, this change will be neutral apart from any preference for one airline or another, while others will see it as a very good thing. For French expatriates in Scandinavia, for example, access to the Air France network will be a real plus, and in some cases will no longer oblige them to lead a double life between SAS and Air France, Star Alliance and Skyteam, diluting their loyalty between two programs, with the result that they will have an attractive status on neither.

But for others, it’s bad news. I’ll pass over those who have an aversion to Air France, KLM or Skyteam, as this is a highly subjective notion. But it’s clear that, other than perhaps Air France, whose progress we’re watching closely, Skyteam doesn’t have any airlines of the same quality as ANA, Singapore Airlines or Eva Air, to name but a few, and is known to be the worst of the three alliances.

But there are above all those who, for professional or personal reasons, travel a lot to countries where the national airline is a Star Alliance member. To put it simply, this concerns just about all of Europe east of France, and tomorrow, perhaps, Italy if the psychodrama of Lufthansa’s takeover of ITA comes to an end one day, or even Portugal when TAP is put up for sale.

It’s no secret that Scandinavia is more in the German sphere of influence, if only from an economic and trade relations point of view, than from a French one, and that for many Scandinavian businesses, “business” leans more towards Central Europe than the Mediterranean. For everyone concerned, systematically going via Paris or Amsterdam to get to Germany, for example, makes no sense whatsoever, especially as the airlines in the Lufthansa Group, a member of the Star Alliance, offer very solid services from major and medium-sized Scandinavian cities to their hubs. We should also mention Turkish Airlines, which serves its Istanbul hub from the main Scandinavian cities several times a day, making it a very attractive option for flights to the Middle East, Asia and, more recently, Oceania.

Also affected are certain Eurobonus members domiciled abroad, as well as those who were using Eurobonus as a reference program with Star Alliance, but who already have a status with Skyteam and logically no longer have any interest in the program.

For these, the solution is simple: fly Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish, etc. This was simple as long as these airlines were SAS partners in the Star Alliance, but the change of alliance makes it more complicated. Their SAS status will no longer be recognized by former SAS partners, mileage earning will be impossible, and so on.

For those ones, the question arises of joining a Star Alliance frequent flyer program to accumulate miles when flying on the airlines concerned, or even more radically, of permanently changing alliances and leaving SAS if they are not on an intra-Scandinavian flight.

Which Star Alliance loyalty program for Eurobonus members?

With three months to go before the change of alliance, many Eurobonus members are looking for a new Star Alliance program to complement or replace Eurobonus (which we believe will one day merge with Flying Blue, which will be a second cold shower for its members).

As Eurobonus Diamond members, we’re both concerned (Eurobonus being the program we used to credit miles when we flew Star Alliance) so we started looking into the subject.

To begin with, there are several things you need to know.

The first is that the definition of a good loyalty program depends on the individual and what is looking for. Need a status? Earn lots of miles? Depending on your objectives, not all programs are created equal, and what’s good for one passenger won’t be for another. It’s up to you to decide which loyalty program criteria are most important to you.

The second is that reflexively choosing the program of the airline with which you fly the most is not always the best strategy. If your main concern is status and earning miles, it’s sometimes better to choose a partner airline with a simpler or more generous program. Typically, this is why we chose Eurobonus even though we mainly flew with Lufthansa and Swiss: very easy-to-acquire status, the possibility of earning extra miles by flying with SAS and sometimes even using award tickets, lifetime status after 10 years, credit for flights on partner airlines at very attractive rates, and the possibility for a Diamond member to gift Gold status to a friend.

The third is that, in order to make our decision, we carried out an in-depth quantitative and qualitative benchmark of the various Star Alliance programs. And the fact that we chose Eurobonus means one thing: according to our criteria, it was impossible to find anything better. So for people who function like us there is one thing to know: you won’t find better, not even as good and often worse, the question being how worse.

Quick benchmark of Star Alliance loyalty programs

Given the current context, we’ve brought this benchmark up to date, and here’s the result.

Before you start, you should know that only the Miles&More (Lufthansa etc.), Mileage Plus (United) and Lifemiles (Avianca) programs offer lifetime status, if you exclude the SAS and Asiana programs, which will be leaving the alliance.

If gifting status is important to you, you should know that the only programs to offer it are Miles&More (but only for HON Circle members and only for your partner, so very restrictive) and Miles&Go (TAP).

Finally, we’ll focus on how to achieve a status equivalent to Star Alliance Gold, recognized throughout the alliance with attractive benefits, unlike Silver, which is virtually worthless. Then there’s the question of benefits linked to status, but specific to the airline in addition to what is common to the alliance, but as long as status has not been achieved, the question of benefits does not arise.

Miles&More

Miles&More is the joint program of Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, LOT, Croatia Airlines, Air Dolomite, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Discover Airlines and Luxair. Tomorrow, they may be joined by ITAs and even TAP.

In principle, this is the most obvious choice, since these are the most obvious, or even compulsory, carry-on airlines for former SAS customers, at least for Europeans.

But it can be the perfect example of a false good idea. Indeed, since the overhaul of Miles&More, announced for 2019 and then postponed because of the COVID but finally coming into force, this program, which was already difficult, is becoming even more so.

Not only are the thresholds very high (a Eurobonus Gold customer would no longer be a Star Alliance Gold customer with M&M for the same number of flights and distances flown), but you also have to earn half the points needed to acquire the status by flying on airlines with Miles&More as their frequent flyer program.

So yes, Senator status is prestigious (Frequent Traveller status is meaningless, as it is not recognized by the other airlines in the alliance at Star Gold level), but much harder to achieve than SAS Diamond or even Flying Blue Platinum. I’m not talking about the famous HON Circle, with its enormous benefits but unattainable for people like you and us.

So a program that offers prestigious status is all well and good, but if you can’t achieve it, it’s pointless.

However, as you might expect, Miles&More has just announced a “Status Match Challenge” for Eurobonus members, who can automatically be granted a status equivalent to their current one, and it’s up to them to keep it.

This is the way to go:

– Create a Miles&More account if you don’t already have one.

– Go to lufthansa.statusmatch.com and fill in the form.

– Download a copy of your Eurobonus card or a screenshot of your Eurobonus account.

– After review of your application, Silver members will receive a Frequent Traveller status, Gold, Platinum and Pandion a Senator, valid until February 2025.

– They will have until November 30, 2024 to complete 4 segments on a Miles&More airline for Frequent Traveller and 6 for Senator. If they succeed, their status will be extended until February 2026.

After 2026, you’ll have to requalify in the “normal” way, and that’s where things are going to get complicated, because I think that even in our cases it’s going to be anything but obvious.

A simple and quick solution at first, but it’s not certain that it will be sustainable. For us, it’s of no interest to Silver and Gold, who, if they maintain the same travel habits, will never be able to keep their Senator status beyond 2026, and therefore their “Star Gold” status recognized by the entire alliance.

You’ve been warned.

Miles&Smiles

This is the Turkish Airlines loyalty program.

The statuses are not too complicated to achieve, but beware: if you often travel on economy light and business saver fares on Lufthansa, Miles&Smiles will credit absolutely nothing.

Otherwise, it’s a very good choice.

Miles+Bonus

It’s not the merger of Miles&More and Eurobonus but the Aegean program.

These thresholds are easy to reach, but depending on your status, you will have to make 2 or 4 flights a year with the Greek airline. Not impossible at all, but a constraint to be taken into account.

Miles&Go

This is the TAP program.

We could tell you that the statutes are easy to achieve, but the airline’s ground operations are catastrophic, and these people are also dishonest.

Instead, we’ll just remind you that in a year’s time, TAP will be put up for sale, and is likely to be bought by Air France-KLM or the Lufthansa Group. In one case, you’ll end up with Skyteam, back to square one, and in the other with Miles&More, with the constraints mentioned above.

Royal Orchid Plus

This is the Thai program.

Not difficult to achieve statuses, but an airline that can go bankrupt overnight.

Krisflyer

This is the Singapore Airlines program.

Here too, the statuses are not excessively high, but there is a catch: the program credits its European partners’ medium-haul flights at very low rates. So for a European, it’s best to stay away.

ANA Mileage Club

As the name suggests, this is ANA‘s program.

Again, statuses at thresholds normally achievable, but more than half the miles must have been earned by flying on ANA. So if you don’t go to Japan often, or don’t transit Tokyo to go elsewhere, you can forget it.

Airpoints

This is the Air New Zealand program.

You have to earn half your status points by flying Air New Zealand, so you can forget it.

Flying returns

This is the program of Air India, a highly ambitious airline from which we expect a lot in the future.

Depending on your status, you’ll need to fly 4, 8 or 12 flights a year with Air India, so unless you fly regularly to Asia and accept the airline’s currently very average service and airport…

Aeroplan

This is Air Canada‘s frequent flyer program.

The first interesting status requires spending $6000 a year with Air Canada.

Mileage Plus

This is United’s program.

Requires a large number of flights on United, so if you don’t travel to the U.S. often, this program isn’t for you.

Phoenix Miles

This is the program run by Air China and Shenzhen Airlines.

It’s not easy to understand how the program works and whether you acquire status with miles AND segments or miles OR segments.

In any case, the thresholds are too high.

Lifemiles

This is the Avianca program.

Half of the status miles must be flown on Avianca. On the other hand, the program is 100% revenue based, but with very reasonable thresholds for a gold status…well, with European or American wealth.

What a pity…

ConnectMiles

This is the CopaAirlines program.

It is necessary to fly 4 segments with Copa each year. Forget it.

Asiana Club

This is the Asiana program.

Forget it, the airline, acquired by Korean, will be joining Skyteam.

Shebamiles

This is the Ethiopian Airlines program.

Once again, I was expecting to find impossible conditions for a European passenger, and well…not so much.

To achieve Gold status, you need 50,000 miles or 50 qualifying segments, which can be earned on any airline in the alliance.

Clearly, credit rates are low for European medium-haul airlines, and Lufthansa’s economy flex and business saver fares don’t credit anything. On the other hand, 50 segments are not unattainable for someone who claims to be a frequent flyer.

I’d have to delve deeper into the subject to be sure I haven’t missed a trap, but it may be an option to consider depending on your travel profile.

Infinity Mileagelands

This is the Eva Air program.

High thresholds and yet another airline that doesn’t like Lufthansa’s economy light and business saver fares.

Egyptair Plus

This is the program of Egyptair.

On the face of it, the thresholds seem easily attainable, but don’t be fooled by appearances. First of all, you can’t reach an interesting status all at once: as with Flying Blue, the counters are reset to zero after each status. So to become Gold you first need the 30,000 miles required for Silver status, and then another 30,000 miles.

On the other hand, retaining status now only requires 40,000 miles or 36 segments (without specifying whether segments can be flown on partner airlines only) within 2 years, which is the period of validity of the status.

Another limitation is that medium-haul flights operated by European airlines do not offer attractive credit rates.

A little exotic and the health of the airline is debatable, but it’s worth a look.

South African Airways Voyager

This is the South African Airways program.

Another airline that doesn’t like Lufthansa’s business saver, even though their site and Wheretocredit say contradictory things about it.

And here too, passengers who make a lot of medium-haul flights in Europe are at a disadvantage, as the airline credits partners’ flights according to distance, with no minimum credit if the distance is low. Credit rates are fairly good, not low but not high either (150% on Lufthansa in first class versus up to 125% in business).

However, the thresholds are very low, at 42,000 miles for Gold status in 2024.

If you’re not afraid of an airline that could go bankrupt at any moment.

Bottom line and advice

As you can see, there is no convenient, obvious choice for the European traveler who wants a Star Alliance frequent flyer program, either as a main or complementary program, offering the possibility of achieving an attractive status (Star Gold level) at a realistic cost. This applies equally to Eurobonus members and to anyone looking for a good Star Alliance program.

The fact that some programs require a proportion of qualifying miles to be flown on the airline concerned excludes de facto North American, Asian and Oceanic airlines, except perhaps for those who often travel to these destinations for business purposes.

Travelers who are certain they really do travel a lot, and who also want a status with solid benefits, will choose Miles&More, especially as there is now a Status Match option for Eurobonus members. But, once again, this is a demanding program. Senator status, which is the one we’re interested in, will not be achieved or retained after the match status period by passengers who have a travel profile that formerly qualified them for Eurobonus Gold. Only Diamond members will survive in the long term.

If you don’t mind flying to Greece every year, you can take advantage of Aegean’s Miles+Bonus program. But it’s doable: depending on your status, you can make one or two round trips to Athens, or one round trip with a connecting flight to Athens.

Thai’s Royal Orchid Plus can be interesting, but the airline’s health worries us and you risk losing your miles overnight.

If exotic programs don’t put you off, Shebamiles may be of interest, unless there are hidden constraints we’ve missed. In the same vein, there’s Egyptair Plus, with the same reservations about the airline’s health as Thai.

No answer as obvious as Eurobonus was in its day.

What’s my choice? I asked for the Miles&More status match without much conviction, but at least I’ll be enjoying the Senator for a year and a half before wondering whether to stay or go elsewhere. And in that case I think my choice would be Miles+Bonus.

For Olivier, who is in the USA, the Status Match question does not arise, as he is not able to make the number of flights required by the challenge in such a short space of time. Here too, it looks like the move is towards Miles+Bonus.

In any case, steer clear of Asiana and TAP, whose exit from the alliance is a foregone conclusion.

What about you? If you have this need to find a “ convenient ” program on Star Alliance, whether or not to compensate for the departure of SAS, what is or would be your choice? Is there something we’ve overlooked or a nugget we’ve missed? The comments are open to you.

Photo : Eurobonus vs Miles&More by Marija Krcadinac via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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