I initially wrote this post a while ago and started writing another one talking about this problem – while forgetting that I had already written about it! 🙂 Since I am banging my head against this restriction quite a bit lately – and it is costing me money – I thought I would just publish this one again with some of the things I was going to say in the new post.
My preferred airline for booking premium cabin awards on Star Alliance carriers is Aegean. They have an awesome award chart that allows you to fly between the US and Europe for only 45,000 miles in business class! That same ticket on an airline like Turkish Airlines would cost 70,000 miles with United! Yes, there are fuel surcharges on some airlines but there are still plenty of options that do not have them or have low amounts (like Turkish Airlines). That is not the thing that I hate!
What I Love AND Hate About Aegean’s Star Alliance Awards
With Aegean being a transfer partner of SPG’s Starpoints, they have become more popular with many people in the last couple of years. There are a few things to be aware of when you are booking Star Alliance awards with Aegean:
- Limited to one connection in each direction
- That connection cannot last longer than 24 hours
- Fuel surcharges are added for certain airlines (like Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian)
- Partner awards can now be booked online but the booking engine is wonky to say the least
On the plus side, there are some great things like incredibly low cancellation fees and change fees for awards, not to mention their very attractive awards between the US and Europe. You can fly business, as mentioned above, or even in something like Lufthansa First Class for only 60,000 miles one way (compared to 115,000 miles using United miles)!
So, what do I love and hate about their awards? It is the same thing and that is the limit of one connection in each direction.
Why Do I Hate That Rule?
That means that you are likely to be out of luck if flying with United from some regional airport in the US to a small-ish airport in Europe. For example, my family would typically fly from Rochester to either Newark or Dulles and then to Europe to transit something like Frankfurt, Munich, or Istanbul before arriving in Greece. Because that involves 2 connections, that is not allowed by Aegean’s award rules.
Single Segment Availability Loss Can Hurt
When summer travel hits Europe, it is definitely possible to need more than one connection since your preferred flight may likely not have any award seats left on it. For example, last year I took a flight from the US to Greece and it had this itinerary – Rochester – Newark – Zurich – Vienna – Thessaloniki. Such a flight would never work with Aegean! So, I had to go with United miles, which cost 57,500 miles (since the over-water segment was on United).
This single connection rule can really limit the awards you book. Of course, you could always connect with a different ticket/airline but that would involve more miles/cash and you may not have the same baggage allowances you would if it was the same ticket all the way through. Simply put, I hate it (or, rather, strongly dislike it) because it adds an inconvenience that can easily become a roadblock when it comes to booking certain awards.
Aeroplan > Aegean With This Rule
Most recently, our family flew from Arizona to Europe. Half the family flew on Aeroplan-issued awards (57,500 miles per person) and the other half flew on Aegean-issued awards (45,000 miles per person). Thanks to this rough rule of a single connection, we had to buy tickets for the 3 of us to fly to Houston from Arizona – which cost $150 per person. Whether you wipe that out with miles or pay cash, that is an extra cost you don’t need to pay with other airlines.
Why Do I Love That Rule?
So, what could I possibly love about that rule? I love it because it limits the amount of awards that would be booked with Aegean miles which will likely stave off some kind of serious devaluation that I would hate much more! Having to phone to book a ticket, especially a foreign airline, already causes many people to pass over a program. But being limited to a single connection really helps to keep the amount of award bookings lower than if it was as generous as United is with connections.
When it comes to award travel, many of the things that are difficult end up being the things that also preserve award charts and categories. So, that makes me appreciate them even if they are inconvenient!
I guess I would call this rule a mediocre like from me in light of all that – yet still incredibly frustrating right now!