A New Star Alliance Frequent Flyer Program is Now Online, Here’s What You Need to Know.

The new Star Alliance frequent flyer program — CopaAirlines ConnectMiles — is now online.

1000 Free Miles to Start

Enrollment will start in May, and the program will be live in July. If you subscribe now for email updated with the same address you register with later, you’ll get 1000 miles.

Full Mileage Earning!

They advertise one mile earned per one mile flown, and 500 mile minimums, plus class of service bonuses. So far they’ve only posted earning charts for Copa flights and not for Star Alliance partners. But they promise 1 mile = 1 mile “never less.”

With ConnectMiles, you don’t need to worry about receiving less mileage than you traveled. You also have many opportunities to earn more miles based on the type of ticket you purchase. Plus, you always get at least 500 miles for every flight segment that you fly.

They also promise a co-brand credit card and – initially – an earning relationship with Marriott. Miles will expire after 24 months of inactivity.


The program will offer first class awards, even though Copa doesn’t have a first class cabin.

Their historical relationship with United gives them access to United flights at the standard or ‘rulebuster’ price level.

Here’s the one-way business class saver award chart for Copa travel. They haven’t released partner redemption charts at this point. Prices seem reasonable, though it’s possible and perhaps even likely that Star Alliance redemption prices could be higher since the program promises “Better redemption prices, especially within the Copa Airlines flight network.” My guess is that partner prices within these regions could be the same, but travel beyond to other regions may not be as good a value.

(Click to enlarge)

Elite Status

During the first year of the program, since the program is launching mid-year, members will have 18 months to qualify. In other words, travel between July 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016 will count towards 2017 status. Normally you only get to count 12 months’ worth of flying.

Elite levels are:

  • Silver: 25,000 miles or 20 segments (minimum 4 on Copa)
  • Gold: 45,000 miles or 40 segments (minimum 4 on Copa)
  • Platinum: 75,000 miles or 70 segments (minimum 4 on Copa)
  • Presidential Platinum: 95,000 miles or 90 segments (minimum 4 on Copa)

Gold and above is Star Alliance Gold.

Frequent Copa passengers will start out with status.

ConnectMiles will review passengers’ previous Copa flight activity to make an initial PreferMember status determination. We will attempt to maintain and even raise passengers’ status.

Here are elite benefits:

(Click to enlarge.)

It appears that upgrade certificates will be valid on both Copa and United.

How Do My Predictions Compare?

Russ Hinckley was brought on to build this program. He used to run Northwest Worldperks, built the US Bank Flexperks program after that, and was running day to day at Dividend Miles under Fern Fernandez after that. (He didn’t make the move over to AAdvantage.)

When the public announcement was made that COPA would launch its own frequent flyer program back in November, I predicted:

Copa, despite being a Star Alliance member, competes with Avianca. So I think we can look at the LifeMiles program for some clues of what to expect.

We can also look at major South American programs generally, like LATAM’s and Aerolineas Argentinas’.

The number one thing I’d bet on is that Copa will not add fuel surcharges to award tickets. Those aren’t common in the South American market.

That will mean that Copa will be a third program in the Star Alliance, in addition to MileagePlus and LifeMiles, that does not add substantial cash costs onto award tickets. That alone will make them interesting.

LAN’s chart is distance-based. LifeMiles is zone-based. Both are reasonable for many purposes (with premium cabin long haul getting expensive, though not as expensive as United’s). Hinckley has a history of running relatively generous programs as well. And both US Airways and Northwest ran aggressive promotions and acquisition programs.

That combines to suggest to me that this will be a program launch worth watching for North American members.

We know that the program is in many ways similar to United’s in terms of elite status and zone-based award chart.

We do not yet know exact mileage-earning on partner airlines, or the full award chart. And there’s no official word on fuel surcharges, though I’m still betting against.

I’m excited to see the full offering!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The 4 CM segments are required whether qualifying via segments or miles? That’s how I interpret this. So we’re all going to central America then?

  2. I’m looking at a cruise from the Canary Islands to Brazil, schedule later this year. Getting from the USA to the ship isn’t a real big headache. But, I just can’t see spending over a grand to fly out of Brazil to Florida. My one option is traveling to Medellin, Colombia and taking a cheap flight to Orlando.

  3. @AZTravelGuy One roundtrip, say, via Panama City! Of course this isn’t the easiest Star Gold out there, and elite benefits mostly matter if you’re actually flying the airline. I’m looking at this as a (1) possible mileage crediting play for United flights, and (2) hopefully good redemption play.

  4. Gary, this might be a silly question, but given that Copa is a Panamanian airline, when you say they’re promising a co-branded credit card, do you mean a US issued card, or a Panamanian one?

  5. I’m looking at it as an easy Star Gold method though. I’m running out of status match options to exploit. 18 months to qualify the first time, coupled with hopefully fantastic redemption options (and wouldn’t it be great if it becomes a Citi TYP transfer option too? Pipe dream?), makes this rather attractive.

  6. In alirline speak, what does never mean? Until they change our mind? “they promise 1 mile = 1 mile “never less.””. The four segment min for elite status is tough. I’m more likely to easily make that one on Aegean than Copa. This will prevent a lot of UA elite refugees from flocking here.

  7. I was getting rid of Avianca miles for Miami to Puerto Rico. Avianca booked me on COPA in “first class” but through Panama. I neglected to bring my passport (my fault) as I was going from Miami to another USA destination (San Juan) where a passport is not needed, but because of the stop in Panama, I was denied boarding by COPA.
    Avianca would not return my miles.
    I assume that I have a year with COPA to make the trip on this ticket??

  8. Hi Gary….im a krisflyer silver at moment..got downgraded this year…i usually travel mostly to latin america from Asia mostly….sometimes US… Is it smarter to get lifemiles…or im looking at the Turkish airline program it looks attractive…..and after seeing your report…i think copa is also interesting…..what would you suggest…thanks

  9. I previously gave my email to sign up for the 1,000 bonus and when I established my account today, it immediately credited the 1,000 miles. Also, if you fill out more information (such as passport info, favorite destination, etc.) you get an additional 2,000 miles immediately. So, right off the bat, you should have 3,000 miles. Probably not much to do with it, but it never hurts and as you say, maybe someone will discover a sweet spot in the award chart. Maybe Citi with be a transfer partner with them?

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