a table with food on it
Swiss First Class is exquisite!

It sounds great, but the red tape can stick ya’..

Unlike SkyTeam and OneWorld, Star Alliance offers a fairly simple and uniform way to upgrade. It doesn’t matter which type of Star Alliance miles you’re trying to use, or which airline you’re flying on – which makes upgrading on Star Alliance far easier than on others – at least in theory. Here’s everything you need to know about upgrading using “Star Alliance Upgrade” awards…

a seat in an airplaneAny Miles Will Do

You can use miles from virtually any Star Alliance Airline to upgrade a flight on any Star Alliance Airline. That’s generally great news. For example, you can upgrade an ANA ticket booked with ANA using United MileagePlus miles – or points from any other Star Alliance Airline. One crucial tip: you cannot upgrade if you book a codeshare flight. The flight number must be from the airline you’re flying to upgrade. A reservation with a Swiss Air flight number for an Air New Zealand flight would not therefore be upgradeable.

One Cabin

All Star Alliance Upgrades are one cabin – but fortunately that still means business class. Even if an airline has premium economy in between your present ticket and business class, you’ll still be upgraded to business class. Star Alliance doesn’t offer a premium economy upgrade using miles, so this works in your favor – for now. Yep, economy to business! You can only use one upgrade per flight, so you can’t upgrade from economy to first though. No big deal!

a plane flying in the skyRestrictions

Unfortunately, we may have gotten you too excited up to this point. Sadly, Star Alliance Upgrades are almost entirely restricted to expensive tickets, generally only booked by travelers paying for extra flexibility or by businesses. But some airlines allow discounted tickets to be upgraded too. You can quickly find out if you can upgrade your ticket here. Find out the one letter booking class of your ticket and then reference it against the list.

Cost In Points

The cost in points will vary depending on which airline’s miles you use. You can generally expect prices between 25,000 – 50,000 points one way. At the higher end, it can be far cheaper to just book a flight using points, rather than booking a cash ticket and using points to upgrade. But at just 25,000 miles using miles such as United MileagePlus, it can be excellent value. It’s always important to consider how much your points are worth in cash, before parting ways with them.

a bed in a planeYour Points

Want to know the specific amount of points you’ll need to use with the airline where you have all your miles? No problem! Here’s the Star Alliance Upgrade site for every airline. Choose the airline where you have points, and the site will show you how many you’ll need for any flight – worldwide. Remember, you can use your points from any Star Alliance Airline to upgrade on any other Star Alliance Airline, as long as your ticket was booked on an eligible fare. The longer the flight, the more worth it!

How To Book

It’s important to note that you’ll book your upgrade with the airline where you have your points, not with the airline you’re actually flying on – unless they are one in the same. Upgrade space must be available to apply an upgrade. You can find upgrade space, using tools like ExpertFlyer or by calling your preferred airline. Hot tip: if you want to upgrade using Star Alliance Upgrades, confirm availability before booking. It makes things much easier and less stressful.

Enjoy the upgrade!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. Star Alliance Partner awards including Upgrades for flight within USA are about as likely an as see a Flying Pigs

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