Star Alliance plans to introduce a credit card for earning miles with the frequent flyer scheme of any of its 26 member airlines.
While almost every airline offers a variety of credit cards in its own market, this Star Alliance-branded card would be a first from the global group.
The card will debut in a single country later this year, although Star Alliance has yet to reveal which country this would be or which financial institution would back the card – and “if we are successful we will be rolling it out to the next market in the course of the year,” Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh revealed at an overnight media briefing.
The move is expected to see Star Alliance introduce its own form of rewards currency, even if this acts simply as as internal exchange mechanism for card spending to be converted into points or miles with a Star Alliance member airline.
“You will spend on your credit card and collect points,” Goh told Executive Traveller. “Those points are convertible to miles on the frequent flyer programme of your choice.”
Leveraging airline loyalty programs into highly-profitable businesses “is quite the holy grail for most individual airlines,” Goh said, and Star Alliance plans to realise a similar revenue stream from its own branded card.
Star Alliance points and perks on railways?
Goh also said Star Alliance will add a “non-airline partner” to its roster, with indications this could be one of Europe’s railway operators.
Rail has long been an alternative to flying for many business travellers, especially on Europe’s fast rail services, and recent years have seen a continued shift towards rail driven by environmental considerations.
Star Alliance member Swiss already has a ‘Swiss Air Rail’ partnership with SBB Swiss Federal Railways linking Zurich Airport with SBB stations at Basel, Lugano and Geneva, and will launch a new Swiss Air Rail route between Munich Hauptbahnhof and Zurich Airport in July 2022.
With six trains a day running in both directions, the rail ticket can be included in the Swiss air fare; travellers will earn Miles & More points as they ride the rails, while first and business class flyers along with HON Circle and Senator status customers enjoying use of Munich Hauptbahnhof’s DB Lounge.
All travellers using Swiss Air Rail from or to Munich will also enjoy automatic seat reservation and free WiFi access.
France now bans air travel on routes where there’s a train or bus alternative of less than 2.5 hours, such as from Paris to Bordeaux, Nantes and Lyon
Europe’s high-speed rail operators continue to claw away at a large slice of the business travel market, with the ‘Green Speed’ merger between Eurostar and Franco-Belgian rival Thalys increasing their network’s reach and non-stop appeal.
Meanwhile, French startup Midnight Trains aims to reinvent overnight sleeper trains as a ‘luxury hotel on rails’ experience featuring private suites with their own bathrooms, and a seasonal menu with cocktails available à la carte or as room service.
The network of luxe sleeper trains would radiate from Paris to the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and Denmark from 2024.
Going big on biometrics
Goh also revealed over 60,000 frequent flyers have now signed up to use the fast biometric gates it has installed at Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Vienna airports.
Participating passengers on Star Alliance members Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines use their passport and airline app to pass through security and special biometric-enabled boarding gates on a quick ‘contactless’ basis.
“We’re now in advanced discussions on the rollout across the terminal,” Goh said, “for bag drop, pre-security, lounge access, and also for boarding.”
“All the infrastructural changes that will need to be put in place require a significant amount of investment. I think it will not be too long… we’re talking about 12-24 months, before the hardware is available to be installed at the airport.”