A year ago Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh teased the idea of increased award availability and a new top tier within the global alliance. Unfortunately, passengers who have “kept their eyes peeled” as Goh suggested are unlikely to see a new Star Alliance elite tier any time soon. In an update at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul this weekend Goh indicated that no such development is expected soon.
A key challenge for adding the new tier was determining what benefits that might include. Goh indicated that the alliance had conversations with both program operators and top travelers to feel out what benefits might be compelling for that new elite tier. At the same time, however, the alliance considered a number of options around expanding offerings to the existing Star Alliance Gold and Silver tiers. It appears that plan will win out, at least for now.
While the news may be disappointing for some hoping to qualify for the new tier, it does not mean that new benefits will not be forthcoming. During his briefing on Sunday morning Goh announced, “The priority at this time is to pursue delivering additional benefits to existing tiers, either from the member airlines or things we can coordinate as an alliance through other travel partners.”
The idea of an alliance driving and delivering benefits, rather than depending on the member airlines, presents significant potential for the industry. Historically the alliances served as coordinators more than innovators. They work as middlemen to deliver lounge access and priority check-in. Expanding the benefits beyond just the airport experience, to other steps along the travel ribbon, presents a huge opportunity for transformation in the industry.
Exactly how that will play out remains unclear. Much like with the conversation last year around adding the new tier, finding the right mix of offerings that will resonate with consumers and be affordable to the group is likely to prove difficult. But Star Alliance is working on that.