Traveling as a student is common. This could be for studies (to get to and from a university or college location), for overseas work experience, for leisure, or even for a more extensive gap year. Whatever the reasons, students often have different needs from other travelers. Students tend to be less committed or conditioned to using a particular airline and instead will focus on lower fares. They also often appreciate additional luggage allowance or ticket flexibility. Airlines recognize this, and many offer attractive incentives to student flyers.
This short guide will look at the best airlines for students within each of the major alliance groups – focussing on the tangible benefits offered to students. There are many good reasons to join an airline alliance when a student – or simply as early as possible. Not least, you will build up mileage as you travel. Keeping this within the same alliance (especially when earnings are likely to be lower on cheaper tickets) will hopefully see you earning free tickets faster.
Qatar Airways has one of the best airline offers for students. It offers a “Student Club” as part of its standard Qatar Airways Privilege Club.
Qatar Airways has a good, globally available, program for students. Photo: Getty Images.
Any registered student can join the program, which offers:
- Generous discounts. This is 10% initially, with a 15% discount after the first flight and 20% after the second and third flights taken.
- One free date change per ticket (with no fees, but make difference will apply).
- An additional baggage allowance of 10kg.
- Free Super WiFi on relevant aircraft. This does not include standard WiFi on some aircraft.
- Status upgrade with the Qatar Airways Privilege Club as a gift upon student graduation. This is a nice move from Qatar Airways to keep student members loyal to the airline. This will, of course, also be useful when traveling on other alliance airlines.
Qatar Airways Student scheme. Photo: Qatar Airways
Cathay Pacific has a student offering that varies by country. There is no student scheme to join, and fares are advertised on the website (with students needing to show relevant identity when traveling). Cathay Pacific generally offers special fares and conditions on long-haul flights from certain Asian countries (including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan). These fares offer variable discounts and usually an additional luggage allowance.
Cathay Pacific offers student fares for certain markets only. Photo: Getty Images
British Airways has a disappointing student offer in general. This changes each year, and is usually advertised and put in place at the start of each academic year around September. Normally it offers a discount of 10% and additional luggage, but only for flights to the UK from certain Asia areas (often Hong Kong and India). There are no offers for UK or European-based students.
Turkish Airlines offers the best global student offer within the Star Alliance. It has a student scheme where any student can register. This is linked to its frequent flyer schemes, Miles and Smiles.
Turkish Airlines has one of the best global student schemes. Photo: Getty Images
The main benefits include:
- A fixed 20% off Turkish Airlines domestic flights, and up to 10% off international flights.
- Increased baggage allowance of 40kg on international flights.
- One free ticket change for international tickets.
- A welcome mileage bonus in Miles and Smiles.
- For 2022, a bonus 25% mileage on all flights before the end of the year.
Turkish Airlines student offer. Photo: Turkish Airlines
Singapore Airlines has a student program linked to its KrisFlyer frequent flyer scheme. This is open to students from many countries (including the UK, US, and all of Europe), and students will need to have their student status re-verified each year. The program offers the following benefits:
- A 10% discount on economy or premium economy fares.
- An increased luggage allowance of 40kg (or three 23kg bags for North American flights) in economy or premium economy.
- One free date, cabin or even destination change per ticket.
Singapore Airlines student offer. Photo: Singapore Airlines
Air Canada offers good discounts for students studying in Canada. It has two main schemes – but only for students registered at a Canadian academic institution.
It offers discounts through Student Offers for students traveling from several international destinations to Canada. These vary at different times.
The airline also offers an interesting Student Flight Pass. This gives students up to four sectors of travel at a discounted rate within North America. It offers much more flexibility than a standard discount ticket, but you will need to compare prices for the routes you want to travel to decide if it is worth it.
Air Canada has a good offering within US and Canada. Photo: Getty Images
Air India is well known for its discounts for students within India. For domestic travel, it offers 50% discount on economy airfares for students in India. Internationally, the airline does not normally offer discounts, but has a program (known as Maharajah) that offers additional baggage allowance on international routes to / from India and select Asia and European destinations (not on North America routes).
KLM offers good prices and terms for students on any KLM itinerary globally. There is no set scheme to join – eligible students instead, simply select “student” when booking on the KLM website. This offers variable discounts (there are no fixed offers, but reports suggest it can be between 5% and 30%). The student offer focuses more on enhanced terms. Tickets can be changed for free (nor fee, but make difference will apply) or canceled for a KLM travel voucher at any time. There is also additional luggage on all flights of two 23kg bags in economy class.
KLM has the best general offer in the alliance. Photo: Getty Images
Air France, unsurprisingly, has a similar scheme to KLM. It likewise offers variable student discounts on some routes and offers students an additional luggage allowance of two 23kg bags in economy class and free changes.
The best alliance?
As with many things when traveling, the best alliance to choose will depend on your travel expectations. If you can benefit from one of the airlines that offer specific discounts for your study location, this may well be the best option, regardless of alliance membership. If you prefer a flexible option that will allow you to travel globally with student benefits, then the schemes from Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, or possibly Air France / KLM are likely to benefit you the most. These hub-based airlines will offer extensive global connections no matter where you study or travel.
All of these airlines have frequent flyer programs that you should join (in many cases, you will have to). Especially if you fly long-haul regularly throughout your studies, you will find that mileage can add up quickly – leading to the chance for free flights. The mileage bonuses from Turkish Airlines or the status upgrade later from Qatar Airways are worth looking at.
There are many different offers for students with airlines, and these change frequently. This has been a guide to some of the best we currently know about. Feel free to discuss these and bring up others in the comments. Which airline student programs have you used before? What benefits do you find most useful?