Star Alliance just announced that Thai Smile Airways – the low cost carrier of Thai Airways International – will become the next Star Alliance Connecting Partner providing benefits to Star Alliance elite members on connecting itineraries.
Currently Thai Smile doesn’t provide benefits to Star Alliance Gold members at all, as it’s being treated solely as a low cost carrier even though some flights are sold under TG (Thai Airways) flight number.
In the beginning, Star Alliance Gold customers who were booked under a Thai Airways flight number (codeshare) were able to receive the benefits when traveling on Thai Smile, however that perk has been eliminated not too long after it had been introduced.
Star Alliance (access here) published the news today, following a meeting in Seoul alongside the IATA Conference.
Star Alliance today announced the plans for THAI Smile Airways to become the next Connecting Partner in its global network.
The Chief Executive Board of Star Alliance, meeting on the sides of the 75th IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul, approved the application of THAI Smile Airways to become a part the Alliance’s Connecting Partner model.
The Connecting Partner model was established by Star Alliance in June 2016 to complement its membership model.
In contrast to full membership in the Alliance, requiring building of commercial ties with all full members, the more regional Connecting Partner scope calls for commercial relationships with a minimum of three carriers only.
Customers travelling on an itinerary which includes a transfer between a Star Alliance member airline and a Connecting Partner will be offered standard Alliance benefits such as passenger and baggage through check-in. In addition, customers who have achieved Star Alliance Gold Status in their frequent flyer programme will enjoy premium customer benefits.
Once all entry requirements are fulfilled, which is expected by the end of the year, THAI Smile Airways will become the second Connecting Partner, joining Juneyao Airlines that entered in 2017.
Connecting Partners allow Star Alliance to close network gaps that may exist of a regional basis. THAI Smile Airways will add 11 new destinations to the Star Alliance network, which already comprises over 1,300 airports in 194 countries. …
The Bangkok based airline has begun to implement the necessary technology and commercial links which will allow THAI Smile to begin serving Star Alliance connecting passengers in 2020. As of then, the airline will be offering the privileges to qualifying Star Alliance Gold Status passengers travelling on connecting itineraries, including Priority Check-in, Thai Smile Lounge Access, and Priority Baggage Delivery.
There is still a lot of legwork required to get Thai Smile on the way, but it’s really a step that should have been taken a long time ago or respectively Thai Airways should have never thrown this carrier into the mix with their regular itineraries and code shares.
Here is an example of a Thai as well as a Thai Smile flight as sold on the TG website:
Over the years there have been massive complaints of passengers who fly Thai Airways on long haul and then suddenly get told they can’t access the lounge or enjoy other benefits because their connection flight is on Thai Smile. So far, only Thai Royal Orchid Plus members with status can enjoy specific elite benefits on Thai Smile.
This annoying situation with Thai Smile won’t change much in the future as ‘Connecting Partner’ means that in order to be eligible for elite benefits the flights have to be on the same itinerary connecting to another Star Alliance flight.
Standalone flights on Thai Smile will not receive Star Alliance Gold benefits even after the airline has been promoted to Connecting Partner. The same goes for flights on the same reservation but with a stopover in between, not connecting directly. The best for status customers is to avoid Thai Smile and book a real TG flight instead. Other than that, I actually like Thai Smile on board service much better than the “real” Thai Airways flights.