We will be adopting a child from China in the early fall 2004. We live in London. We are probably going to get Star Alliance RTW tickets, but my husband flatly refused my request for Business Class for these tickets. We do not have mileage with any of the Star alliance group. United has told me that United miles can only be used to upgrade United legs/segments of the RTW ticket. The HK to NYC segment will be on United. It is the longest leg and will be with our new child (or two, we may get twins). We can probably buy some miles, have a friend transfer some and pay the transfer fee, etc., correct? Our entire trip is LON-PHUKET (via Singapore, I think)-HK-NYC-LON. So my questions are as follows:
1) Are there any mileage programs than can upgrade an entire Star Alliance RTW ticket from Econ to Bus Class?
2) Can a ticketing agent at an airport give a free upgrade on an entire multi-leg journey on different partner airlines or only on the leg from their airport to the next destination?
3) Can anyone at Star Alliance, say, head office, grant free upgrades on RTW tickets, or make notes on these tickets with a good heartfelt story, or is this a waste of time and only done through the airlines themselves?
4) Do you know a wealthy benefactor without a family who would like to adopt us and our soon to be children? Just kidding…sort of!
Please help us Joel, we are mature and going to be first time parents…we are also both quite tall!! Thank you for any useful suggestions.
Answered by The Penny Pincher
Thanks for your question and congratulations on adopting your child. I agree with you regarding your preference for business/first class. You will be traveling a far distance to be cramped in coach. I will first address your specific questions and then offer you some general tips.
1) United miles can be used to upgrade with Lufthansa Airlines. Upgrading on Lufthansa would mean that you would fly from London to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Singapore. In Singapore you can continue on to Hong Kong (without upgrading) on another Star Alliance flight or you can upgrade on United’s flight #862 which leaves the next morning. This routing would allow you to have upgraded seats for your entire route.
2) Yes and no. In most cases, airport agents only upgrade your next direct route. This means the flights you are about to board, including a domestic connecting flight. If your connecting flight is to an international destination, usually the agent will tell you to request an upgrade at the connecting airport. However, gate agents do have some latitude (although not as much as in the past) and can upgrade your entire itinerary if they have a compelling reason to do so. Adopting an overseas child tends to have an emotional effect on gate agents, which could be the compelling reason for them to upgrade you.
3) Star Alliance is a marketing organization and in effect does not have any influence over partner airlines. It is therefore better to contact each airline directly.
Along with the above suggestion, I recommend that you try to earn as many miles as you can before your flight. You might consider United’s Mileage Plus Visa Card. If you can, try to use the card for all possible purchases—including groceries, household items, and even paying your mortgage. You can also find other miles-earning opportunities at www.ual.com orwww.staralliance.com.
As a final point, try to achieve the minimum level elite status with United Airlines. Typically, United’s lowest level or Premier status requires 25,000 miles or 30 segments in a calendar year. However, you can receive either Gold or Platinum status with American Airlines by earning 5,000 or 10,000 points respectively within a 90-day period and then transfer that status to United Airlines. In order to do this, you first need to sign up for an AAdvantage Program account at www.aa.com, then call American Airlines at 1-800-421-0600 and ask to be enrolled in the American Challenge Program. Once you earn Gold or Platinum status with American Airlines you will then need to call United Airlines at 1-800-421-4655, and request that they match your American Airlines Status. Depending on how many points you earn you will qualify for Premier or Premier Executive status with United Airlines.
All the best to you.