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The Ultimate Guide To Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Partner Options

by on August 15, 2013 · 29 comments

in Starwood

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express have expired. View the current offers here – personal, business.

With the current limited-time 30,000-point sign-up bonus offers (when you spend $5,000 in 6 months) on both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express a lot of readers have been asking me about the best uses for Starpoints and the program’s airline transfer partners. I asked TPG contributor Jason Steele to put together this post on SPG’s airline partners – including their alliances and non-alliance partners you can use their miles on, as well as one-way and roundtrip routing rules, and online versus phone – as a comprehensive web resource on the Starwood Preferred Guest program and its airline partners.

Points in the Starwood hotel’s Preferred Guest program are widely considered to be among the most valuable points currencies available in part because they can be transferred to miles in 31 different airline programs and in turn, used for award flights with all of these airlines’ partners. If this program has a flaw, it is that the point transfer options can be overwhelming.

So as I was helping a friend use his Starpoints to plan an award flight, I realized that there was no comprehensive guide to all of the transfer options, and of the other airlines they are partnered with. I also wanted to know which of these programs allowed one-way awards.

Results

Starwood has a long list of transfer partners - and this is just the ones beginning with A!

Starwood has a long list of transfer partners – and this is just the ones beginning with A!

The 31 transfer partners actually represent many more carriers than that number since some programs such as Flying Blue and Miles & More are operated by multiple carriers in a sort of sub-alliance. When I added up all of the carriers you could transfer points to, and all of their partners that you can book award flights on, I came up with 118 unique carriers ranging from Adria Airways to Xiamen Air.

Seventeen of SPG’s 31 direct airline transfer partners allowed one-way awards in all circumstances, four in some cases (usually just their own flights), and the ten other airlines require roundtrip awards, or just require the same number of miles as a round trip in order to redeem a one way award.

The Charts

When you download this Excel document that I created, you will see that there are two separate charts: Starwood Airline Partners Guide

The first one is a list of every partner of SPG’s airline transfer partners (118 in all) including which alliance they are in and which non-alliance partners’ miles you can use to book awards on them. I did not include lists of alliance partners since that information is readily available, so if it says Star Alliance, you can assume you can use ANA, United, US Airways, etc. to book an award on that airline, plus whatever non-alliance partners I list.

The second set of information is a list of the Starwood Preferred Guest airline partners grouped by alliance and then notes on which non-alliance partners you can redeem their miles on.

How to Use this Information

Your Starpoints could get you to the tropical coastline of Tahiti.

Your Starpoints could get you to the tropical coastline of Tahiti.

Let’s say you have a bunch of Starpoints and a burning desire to visit the other side of the world. You should start with the Wikipedia page for your destination airport, and determine which carriers service it and from where. For example, the page for Faa’a International Airport in Pape’ete, Tahiti shows that it is serviced by Air France, Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, Aircalin, Hawaiian, and LAN.

Next, you need to find award availability and want to use the fewest amount of points. You can look at the first chart of the 118 Starwood transfer partners by operating carrier, and realize that flights on all six of these carriers can be booked with Starpoints via partners. For instance, Air France award flights can be booked through its own Flying Blue program (and SPG transfer partner) as well as with miles from any SkyTeam carrier as well as non-alliance partners Alaska, JAL, and GOL.

If you need a one-way award flight, you can further narrow this down by looking at the second chart of Starwood transfer partners to determine that Flying Blue (Air France and others), Alaska, and GOL will allow a one-way award, but that JAL will not. Finally, you will want to consult the award chart for each of these airlines to find out the miles required for my award, as well as any fees, rules, and restrictions.

Also don’t forget that TPG has compiled two other very useful resources when it comes to SPG transfers and booking partner awards:

Maximizing Starwood Preferred Guest Airlines Transfers: Transfer Times

A Consolidated List of Airline Partners and Which Are Bookable Online

Limitations

First, I recognize that Wikipedia is not 100% accurate at showing all carriers and destinations that service a particular airport, but it is very close. Also, it is the fastest and easiest to use free resource that I am aware of that covers the whole world.

The biggest problem with this chart is that it doesn’t (and can’t) account for all of the types of codeshare agreements in place between different carriers. In general, airlines won’t let you book a partner award on the codeshare of a third carrier’s flight, but there are many exceptions. For example, Alitalia may have a codeshare flight with Etihad, but you can’t book these flights with Delta miles even though it is a SkyTeam partner with Alitalia. On the other hand, Air France code shares with Air Mauritius, but you are permitted to book these flights with your Delta SkyMiles. In general, flights operated regional carriers in the United States that code share with major airlines such as Mesa and Great Lakes can be booked with miles from airlines partnered with the major airline.

Finally, I compiled this list, and I am human. If you notice any inaccuracies, please comment below and I will try to update it.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Matt

    Do you have a sheet already for:

    Finally, you will want to consult the award chart for each of these airlines to find out the miles required for my award, as well as any fees, rules, and restrictions.

    I think it would definitely be useful to be able to sort by start/end destination and sort by lowest miles for that routing. Thought I’d ask before I put in the time.

  • clayd333

    You left me hanging.. I wanted to see the best redemption for the downhill run to Pape’ete!

  • Jerry

    with decent point earnings, good conversion ratios and huge number of partners to redeem with, i’m starting to believe that SPG is by far the best loyalty program at the moment

    especially since most competitors are devaluating their points/miles

    am i right ?

  • Jason Steele

    That was definitely something I considered, but the problem was that each airline had zone or distance awards, and many of the zone charts were different. Some listed South America as one zone, others split it up into two or three. Perhaps in the future we can consider some common city pairs, but I would need to develop some sort of computer program to cover all routings.

  • Kyle

    I guess I don’t get it. For the average person, SPG points are tough to get other than the 2 signup bonuses. Wouldn’t you value 60K of SPG much higher than 70K of an airline program? I feel like there is a huge emphasis on the transfer bonuses of SPG points, only because for some (cough cough), there are other ways of racking up huge amounts of SPG points. For us little guys we basically cap out at 60K per year (maybe less), unless we want to try and rack up spend at 1X. The opportunity cost of this is pretty poor when you think of all the other cards out there with category bonuses.

  • Matt

    Are there a ton of variations for the different zones or are there a few main groupings that most airlines share with just few one offs?

  • Jason Steele

    These points are really valuable, but they are hard to get. Yes CC sign up bonuses are the best way for those of modest spending. I also hear that you can get them from paying to stay in their hotels. And if I was manufacturing spending at a retailer that only offered 1x rewards, I would use my SPG card.

  • Jason Steele

    The beauty of SPG, and Chase Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, is that you are somewhat immune from devaluations. Say you were about to book a Delta award for next summer, but they just devalued their chart. You could then use your SPG pts on another SkyTeam carrier, or non-alliance partner.

  • Jason Steele

    There are some generalities,but way too many exceptions for me to make a useful chart.

  • Jiakan W

    TPG – this great offer is hard to pass, and I am thinking about getting both the personal and biz cards. However, I am about to apply for a car loan. Should I wait after I get the car loan? If I do that, will the car loan affect my credit card applications?

  • smartcookie

    As a corporate event planner, I get meeting planning points for booking groups at hotels. I really appreciate the ability to transfer them as I value free flights much higher than free hotels (due to possibility of getting hotels very cheaply via bidding on Priceline and because prices for decent hotels in Third World countries are much lower. Plus, I don’t spend much time at hotels when traveling.) This year, I was able to transfer 40K SPG points to 50K AA miles in order to redeem 75K for a flight to Australia on Qantas (it would have cost me $1700).

  • Diotallevi

    I transfer most of my hotel points to airline miles. As an SPG Gold member and Marriott Gold member, The Marriott 140K points (was 125K not so long ago) to 50K miles works out much better for me, because I accumulate SO many more points from Marriott, dollar for dollar, than I do SPG. Last year i accumulated 110,000 Marriott Megabonus points alone, not including the normal and gold bonus points I accumulated. SPG does win out in the variety of partners you can transfer too, and I can transfer at 20K (+5K bonus) whereas to max the Marriott transfer, I have to wait ’til 140K, which takes a little longer. I always transfer the points to US Airways, then book a 90K mile business class ticket to Tokyo from EWR or JFK on ANA.

    It looks like SPG would definitely win out in hotel award stays if that’s your thing. I’ve just had bad luck with SPG properties lately (crickets in my room at Four Points in NE Philly, for real; no air conditioning and broken TV in my room at Four Points, Chelsea, NYC) so I think I’ll stick w/ Marriott.

  • yodaddy

    Since when does LAN fly from either IPC or STC to PPT? I’m not finding any direct flights from either.

  • Jessie Hernandez

    There’s already a website for that, though it could be improved (does not include Virgin America, for example): http://www.milez.biz/

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  • Cameron

    The flight is a direct SCL-PPT flight with a stop in IPC. It’s an afternoon departure out of SCL, and I believe it operates twice a week (Monday and Thursday, maybe).

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  • ellen

    can Delta or other miles be transferred to SPG?

  • thepointsguy

    no

  • Andrew

    Could anyone tell me, if I transfer my SPG points to my Miles&More or to my Flying Blue account as miles, will those transferred miles be status miles and be counted to reach Frequent Traveler status?

    I’ve been browsing around since a while but can not fond the answer.

  • thepointsguy

    They do not count towards elite status

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  • jean

    how do you use star points to up grade an international airline seat? i got the ticket with my star points initially

  • hawks

    anyone happen to have that document in .xls (as opposed to .xlsx) format?

  • NicoleM

    Hello,

    I’m in need of some assistance… I’m looking to transfer my American Express MR to miles… I need to fly 2 seniors, 2 adults, and one child (3 years old) to Miami FL from NY.

    I have a little under 400,000 reward points. Could someone please point me in the right direction? This is all incredibly confusing to me!

    Are there any promotions running right now to get the most out of my MRs?

    Thank you in advance!

    -Nicole

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