Star Alliance lounge access rules for Gold members changed

Star Alliance, for the longest time, has had some of the most straightforward rules in the aviation industry for the use of lounges for Star Alliance Gold members. Qualifying as a Star Alliance Gold member meant that you are going to get access to similar facilities like the Business Class passengers on a Star Alliance member airline, i.e., business class check-in, additional baggage allowance, priority handling of bags and lounge access being the headline items.

The Star Alliance lounge in Rome FCO Airport

Star Alliance Gold Customers Lounge Access until 2019

On Lounge Access, the Star Alliance Gold Tier Lounge Access Policy was very simple. You could access any Star Alliance member lounge at the airport of your departure along with a +1 departing on a Star Alliance member airline flight on the same day from the same airport.

Since all airports may not have a Star Alliance member lounge, airlines frequently use contract lounges for their members as well. For instance, Air India has a member lounge at Delhi Terminal 3 which many Star Airlines member carriers use for international flights (apart from the Lufthansa and the Singapore Airlines Lounge). Still, at Mumbai and Bengaluru, only contract lounges are available. There was a separate wording for Contract Lounges, which essentially offered similar access to these contract lounges along with a +1 again.

Star Alliance Gold Tier Lounge Access modified for Contract Lounges

The policy has been recently modified to move from assured lounge access to contract lounges for Gold Tier customers and a +1 to maybe. Read the new language which states, “As a Star Alliance Gold Customer travelling on a Star Alliance member airlines operated flight from such airports, you may have access to these third party contract lounges. Please refer to the lounge finder to identify which lounges you may have access to according to the policy of each airline.”

The simple switch of words affects the reliability of the Star Alliance and the Gold Tier for Economy Class passengers. Star Alliance Members have earlier tried to keep their costs lower on lounge access for the economy class Gold Tier customers, but that has been made possible by just opening a separate lounge for Gold Tier members only, and not admitting them into (perhaps) the more expensive Business Class Lounges.

What caused the change?

It seems the change came after the T&C of United Airlines Lounge Access were modified earlier in January 2020. Whether United changed its policy and Star Alliance amended their T&C to accommodate that, or whether this is a Star Alliance alliance wide decision which United jumped on earlier than others is not clear as of now.

But United is the first airline to have implemented this decision. Per ViewFromTheWingthey will be offering the lounge benefit for Gold customers at just about a couple of dozen lounges across the globe now.

  • United has been inviting business class customers and Star Alliance Gold members flying coach to use contract lounges in about 30 airports.
  • However earlier in the month, United has mostly eliminated access for Star Alliance Golds who aren’t in business class.
  • The cities where United offers invitations to contract lounges – rather than to United’s lounges or those of Star Alliance partners – includes Amsterdam; Athens; Barcelona; Cape Town; Chengdu; Delhi; Dublin; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Lima; Madrid; Manchester; Milan; Mumbai; Naples; Nice; Osaka; Palermo; Pape’ete; Porto; Prague; Quito; Reykjavik; Rome; Santiago; Shannon; Stockholm; Venice; and Zurich.
  • Some of these cities have lounges operated by Star Alliance carriers that Star Gold members would be able to use. This includes Athens, Chengdu, Delhi, Osaka, Singapore and Zurich. United continues to invite Star Alliance Gold members in economy to use contract lounges in Tel Aviv and Singapore.

As per some comments I read at another blog, United, for instance, has stopped issuing Lounge Access Invitations to the GVK Lounge Mumbai for Star Alliance Gold Tier members, limiting it to their own United Polaris customers only.

Bottomline

This is a significant blow for Star Alliance Gold Tier customers who fly economy most of the times.  Now more than ever is perhaps the time to jump ship to oneworld or get yourself a Priority Pass. You also get unlimited lounge access with the American Express Platinum Charge Card and other credit cards.

What do you make of the new changes to Star Alliance Gold Tier membership?

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Comments

  1. Star Alliance, as usual, shooting itself. Complaints had begun with non-standard mileage accrual between member airlines. Flying Business (P) class will get you ZERO miles at your TK -Miles and Smiles. Keep the good work Star Alliance. You will be craving for Frequent Fliers.. sooner or later!

  2. I don’t think anything has actually changed. Airlines were never obligated to give contract lounge access to gold members – look at SAS in Europe!
    This kinda post seems a bit sensationalist and speculative to me…

  3. That’s unfortunate news. I used the domestic and international GVK lounge dozens of times in 2019 as Star Gold and lounge access was a very important reason to book with AI instead of Indigo.

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