Dwarf Star Alliance

I fly United Airlines with a frequency sufficient to earn me 1K status. That stands for more than 100,000 miles per year. I’ve had that status for at least the last three years, and was an Premier Exeutive (next status down) for years before that. United belongs to the Star Alliance, which includes a bunch of other airlines, including Swiss, the airline I am flying today.

So here’s what skeeves me. I can’t pick a seat on Swiss, no matter how far ahead of the flight I book. It’s just not available to non-Swiss flyers. As a non-Swiss flyer (as I understand it, and by now I have spoken to half a dozen or more people), I have to get whatever seat I can at the gate.

Now, I realize that sitting in a chair at 35000 feet and zooming through the sky is a recent and still rare privilege, so maybe I shouldn’t complain. But what’s the point of having flying privileges, and an “alliance,” if there are no privileges for “partner” airlines other than supplying them bodies to fill the seats?

One plus: they have a nice lounge here at Heathrow. See ya in Zurich. Then Boston.


  1. Dirk’s avatar

    You have this problem only on Swiss? Or also on Lufthansa and other Star Alliance airlines. But you should have early boarding privileges and a different check in desk.

    But I agree, the Star Alliance integration is not fully there yet.

  2. Stephen Downes’s avatar

    It works the other way around as well.

    I fly Air Canada and am elite status. Star Alliance gold. But United would take a seat booking from Air Canada, no matter what. Worse, when i arrived to make my connection, they classified me as a late-check-in and would not honour the seat selection on my original ticketing. So far as I can tell, this is a deliberate policy, so they can allocate seats preferentially to United customers on all flights.

    United does not reciprocate other aspects of Star Alliance services, such as preferred boarding for Star Alliance gold (they are lumped in with the first group of economy passengers).

    My suspicion would be that the SwissAir action is in retaliation for United’s practices, since my other Air Canada to Star Alliance match-ups appear to move smoothly.

  3. Stephen Downes’s avatar

    correction – United would NOT take a seat booking from Air Canada, no matter what

  4. dave taht’s avatar

    It’s not too late to seek a dual passport. Citizenship in Switzerland would be a good idea.

  5. Todd’s avatar

    Further, if you want a decent seat on United, you’ll have to shell out the $50-$100 for the “United Plus” seats, which you don’t have an option to receive unless your a United FF. I would hope that these are free for Gold+ members.

    Are we seeing the beginnings of the dissolution of the Star Alliance? Perhaps I should reconsider Delta/NW. Seems like the only decent options anymore out of BWI is Southwest. And that’s only applicable for SWA cities, not the million other places I need to fly.

    Hope you’re enjoying Zurich and can’t wait to see you in a few weeks.

  6. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

    I use AA out of BWI and the OneWorld Alliance with tie ins to BA and Cathay for my Asian trips. There are still silly rules on that alliance too. I guess none are perfect.

  7. Milan Davidovic’s avatar

    “Now, I realize that sitting in a chair at 35000 feet and zooming through the sky is a recent and still rare privilege, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.”

    Louis CK made a similar observation…

  8. Doc Searls’s avatar


    The Star Alliance seems more together than ever. At Terminal One at Heathrow, they’re almost finished with a whole new section for Star Alliance. I saw it and thought “this looks like a whole new airline,” even though it had tiny logos for each of its many members, between the Star Alliance logos behind the counters. When we were pulling away from the gate in my Swiss plane, I noticed a plane with a big Star Allance on its fuselage and tail, and small logos of member airlines on the side. This indeed suggested that Star Alliance is now its own airline and not just a collection of them. But I see here that this is “the new Star Alliance promotional aircraft livery,” plus this:

    With the Star Alliance name painted in bold letters across a white fuselage and the familiar alliance logo covering the full vertical stabilizer, the aircraft will serve as a flying billboard on Asiana’s extensive route network.

    The new design was approved today at a meeting of the alliance’s Chief Executive Board in Rio de Janeiro and will be implemented by all member airlines. Each airline is going to paint at least one aircraft with the new livery. The operating carrier will be identified by its logo located on the forward part of the aircraft fuselage below the Star Alliance name.

    “Member airlines promote the Star Alliance brand through a variety of channels, one of them being the aircraft exterior,” said Jaan Albrecht, Chief Executive Officer of Star Alliance. “Our promotional livery designs have been in circulation since the beginning of the alliance. The expansion of our extensive network with the joining of new members gave us a great opportunity to look at a new promotional livery. The design which has been endorsed by the Chief Executive Board is a cost efficient, simple solution which embraces the brand values and personality of the alliance.”

    Star Alliance is the only airline alliance that consistently displays a promotional aircraft livery. The flying billboards, featuring Star Alliance’s unique symbol, are highly visible at airports and in the air, and serve to build Star Alliance awareness and stature around the world.

    Starting in March, the Star Alliance member airlines will implement the new design in a phased approach timed with scheduled maintenance or repair, or delivery of new aircraft.

    Star Alliance was established in May, 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to provide customers the benefits of global reach and a smooth travel experience.

    That’s from 21 November 2002, so I guess it’s been going on for awhile. I just wish that they’d spent more on the no-bullshit IT work required for a truly “smooth travel experience,” rather than confusing paint jobs on random planes.

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