Since its foundation in 1997, the Star Alliance is the world's largest airline alliance with 27 member companies offering over 4,500 aircrafts to serve 192 countries and 690 million passengers each year. Making more than 18,500 daily departures, Star Alliance still outranks SkyTeam and OneWorld in largest passenger count.
These passengers are also able to sign up for a two-tiered rewards program—Star Alliance Silver and Gold—which offers members incentives like free upgrades and priority boarding access provided they meet the individual member airline's requirements for their own frequent-flyer programs.
Member airlines include Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, 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, Tam Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, and US Airways.
History and Growth of Star Alliance
The Star Alliance started on May 14, 1997, when a group of five airlines—United, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, and Thai Airways—came together to create a program that unified everything from flights to airport lounges to ticketing and check-in. Since then, it's grown to include a total of 27 airlines.
Initially, the five-member alliance operated under the five-star logo and the slogan "The Airline Network for Earth," but updated that original messaging to its current iteration, "The Way the Earth Connects," and kept the logo throughout its history.
Still, the end goal of Star Alliance has always been to "take passengers to every major city on earth," and so far it has succeeded in doing so by connecting its members to 1,330 airports around the world.
Although Star Alliance once maintained a membership of over 30 companies, mergers and company collapse reduced that number throughout its 20-year history to its current value of 27; however, the global market for airlines has stabilized in recent years and Star Alliance's membership seems to be leveling out.
Member Benefits for Customers and Airlines
Passengers aboard Star Alliance flights can enjoy two premium levels (Silver and Gold) of membership advantages, based on each individual customer's status in member airlines' frequent-flyer programs. These premium levels offer a variety of perks that are typically respected around the world—with few exceptions.
Star Alliance Silver members must reach the premium level of a member airline's frequent-flyer program, but once they do they are rewarded with priority reservation wait-listing and faster service on airports' stand-by lists. Individual airlines in Star Alliance may additionally offer priority check-in and free baggage handling as well as preferred seating and priority boarding.
Loyal members who achieve the Star Alliance Gold status can expect even more premium treatment when traveling on member carriers. Airlines participating in this premium rewards program offer all of the same benefits as the Silver status in addition to granting customers access to exclusive Star Alliance Gold lounges. Additionally, Gold members are sometimes guaranteed spots on fully booked flights, offered special seating on member planes, or even upgraded free of charge.