Is the Star Alliance Unravelling?
Elite members of the Star Alliance are not receiving friendly skies at United Airlines check-in counters these days.
Why? The airline, a founding member of the alliance, unilaterally decided to yank some of the privileges that elite travellers enjoy with other member carriers - these include priority luggage tags, up to three free checked bags (United now allows only one), and a 'VIP' imprint on boarding passes. Extra bag fees range from US$30 for domestic flights and up to US$100 for international destinations.
The move sets the airline out of sync with the shared privileges offered by other founding members such as Singapore Airlines and Air Canada. Alliances are meant to provide across-the-board seamless travel but United's move is clearly a slap in the face of the Star Alliance.
United staff at Newark (EWR) airport recently told Savvy Traveller that the changes were imposed recently and that unsuspecting elite travellers have registered their displeasure at the changes. "It all falls on us," said one staffer.
The changes could be a precursor to more cutbacks for elite flyers, including lounge access, analysts say.
We spoke to a seasoned Air Canada staff member who characterized United's luggage allowance changes for elite Star members as "very controversial."
He added: "Ive heard a lot from our own frequent fliers and they are not happy. What people expect in return for loyalty to one alliance is a seamless experience."