You can use any type of Star Alliance miles to book any Star Alliance flight. The 27-member alliance has more than a dozen frequent flyer programs, many of which offer good or great deals on some routes.

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I’ve taken the time to make a comprehensive spread sheet of eight programs’ award prices from North America:

  • United (on United flights and on partner flights)
  • Copa
  • Asiana
  • Singapore
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • ANA

These programs were chosen because they all have at least some awards that are really cheap. And other than Copa and LifeMiles, Americans can easily get all these miles through transferable points programs:

  • United: Ultimate Rewards
  • Copa: no easy way to get the miles yet, but the program is brand new
  • Asiana: SPG
  • Singapore: ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG
  • LifeMiles: buy miles for 1.5 cents each
  • Aeroplan: Membership Rewards, SPG
  • Lufthansa: SPG
  • ANA: Membership Rewards, SPG

There are other Star Alliance programs into which Americans can transfer miles–Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to EVA and Thai miles–but their charts don’t offer any value compared to the eight I’ve selected.

Of course, the spread sheet only captures one part of an award: its mileage price. The routing rules and fuel surcharges matter too. Where relevant, I will note those as we go through the regions, but here are a few big things that applies to all charts:

  • United, Copa, and LifeMiles never collect fuel surcharges. All the others collect fuel surcharges on most awards.
  • All programs allow one way redemptions for the prices listed on the charts except ANA. It only allows roundtrip redemptions for double the price on the chart. I used its fictitious “one way price” that you can’t actually book just to more easily compare to the programs that do allow one way bookings.

Cheapest Awards Within Mainland United States and Canada

For awards starting in the mainland United States or Canada and staying there, these are the award prices.

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The lower prices in the Lufthansa column are for awards just within the continental United States. The higher price is for an award from the United States to Canada.

There are no fuel surcharges on any of the United or Air Canada flights within North America, so you can just focus on using the miles that offer the lowest price. Most of the programs agree what a domestic award should cost. The exceptions are the great prices offered by Lufthansa and the Business Class discount when flying a Singapore award.

The fanciest Business Class within the United States is on United’s routes from Newark to Los Angeles and San Francisco. These feature fully flat beds.

United States to Alaska

United is the only airline that charges extra for a flight to Alaska, so the rest of this chart is the same.

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Again, no one collects fuel surcharges on these awards, so use Lufthansa or Singapore miles.

United States to Hawaii

Here are the prices from the United States mainland to Hawaii.
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The reason that Singapore is highlighted as the cheapest and that Asiana has an asterisk is one weird routing rule that trips up Asiana awards to Hawaii. From Asiana’s routing rules: “Transit is available only on routes for which MPM is specified by IATA.” United doesn’t publish an MPM on routes from the United States to Hawaii, specifying the cities you can transit instead.

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United’s Fare Rules from Philly to Honolulu. No MPM listed, just cities you can transit.

If that all sounded like gobbledygook to you, the upshot is that the prices listed on the Asiana chart are for direct United flights only. If you have a layover, like flying Philadelphia to Los Angeles to Honolulu, the award breaks into two, and you pay Asiana’s intra-North America price plus USA-to-Hawaii price. Yes, Asiana phone agents really do this in practice.

There are no fuel surcharges on any of the United flights to Hawaii, so you can just focus on using the miles that offer the lowest price. So if you need a layover to get to Hawaii, Singapore awards are the best option. Lufthansa awards are a good deal too. ANA awards are a good deal if you are flying roundtrip, since one way awards are not permitted for 20k/34k miles.

Searching and Booking the Awards

A truism of miles is that–with few exceptions–award space is equally available to all partners. One corollary is that you can search any award search engine that displays an airline’s award space, and if space is there, you can book it with any partner.

All Star Alliance partner award space is searchable on aeroplan.com. Here’s how to search for award space on aeroplan.com. All the award space you find there is bookable with all the miles discussed in this post. Ignore the price quoted on aeroplan.com. You will pay the price on the award chart of the miles you’re using.

To book, call the airline whose miles you’re using (or go to their website to book online if you can.) Feed the agent the award space you found on aeroplan.com.

Getting the Miles

Singapore and Lufthansa miles are the best within the United States, Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

  • Citi ThankYou® Premier Card40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also earns 3x points on travel and gas and 2x points on dining and entertainment
  • Citi Prestige® Card: 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.
  • Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. 2x on dining and travel.
  • Ink Plus (business card): 50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. 5x on office supplies and telecom bills.
  • Whichever Membership Rewards card (Platinum or Gold, personal or business) is offering a big 50,000, 75,000, or 100,000 point sign up bonus

Lufthansa miles are an SPG transfer partner, and Lufthansa offers Americans a co-branded credit card from Barclaycard. The bonus alternates between 20,000 and 50,000 miles, and right now it is 20,000.

Bottom Line

There are much better options to fly United and Air Canada flights within North America than using United or Aeroplan miles. Singapore and Lufthansa offer the cheapest rates on flights to Hawaii, Alaska, and within the continental United States.

For the most part, all Star Alliance partners have access to the same award space on all airlines. There are differences in routing rules and fuel surcharges, but there are no fuel surcharges on any flights in this post.

 

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