Turkish Allows Mixed Partners, Updates Award Chart

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Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles program has made some significant updates that deserve a closer look. On the positive side, one-way tickets are now bookable online with Star Alliance partners, and the rules have been relaxed to allow tickets with travel on more than one partner airline. On the other hand, their new award chart shows modest increases in pricing to multiple regions, including the often discussed 7,500-mile award sweet spot to Hawaii.

Turkish Miles&Smiles Program Updates – Key Takeaways

A number of improvements to the Miles&Smiles online award booking engine include:

  • An expanded list of airports (including EWR!)
  • Booking one-way tickets on star alliance partners
  • Mixing star alliance partners for an award
  • Booking mixed-cabin awards (with limitations)

There are downsides to the Miles&Smiles program update as well:

  • United States domestic award prices increasing
  • Other modest award price increases

Miles&Smiles Program Overview

Turkish Airlines is a member of Star Alliance and is also the national flag carrier of Turkey. Turkish Airlines flies from its global hub in Istanbul to nine different destinations in the United States:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Boston
  3. Chicago
  4. Houston
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Miami
  7. New York City (JFK)
  8. San Francisco
  9. Washington D.C.

On May 25, 2020, Newark will become the tenth U.S. destination. Perhaps this is partially why the award booking engine on Turkish Airlines' website has improved to recognize more airports, like Newark (EWR). Previously, this airport code would not register as valid.

Two points currencies transfer to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles: Citi Thank You Points (1:1) and Marriott Bonvoy points (3:1). Neither of these transfers happens instantly, like with some other programs or point currencies. Instead, expect to wait 24-48 hours on average for confirmation of point transfers between programs.

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Miles&Smiles Award Price Changes…

In the past, Turkish Miles&Smiles offered one of the best value sweet spots for domestic U.S. travel and for business class travel between North America and Europe. After the latest changes to the program, transatlantic business class travel remains the same but domestic U.S. travel appears to have taken a hit. Domestic U.S. awards used to cost just 7,500 miles each way in economy class. Under the terms of the latest published award chart, this figure increased to 10,000 miles. Considering Hawaii and Alaska fall into the “North America” region, 10,000 miles each way for travel to and from either destination still offers amazing redemption opportunities, even if they are not quite as amazing as before.

Other increases within the award chart exist as well, though their impacts to potential travelers may be less severe. For instance, award prices to Southern Africa have increased. Round trip business class travel between North America and Southern Africa used to cost 135,000 miles – that figure has since been upped to 170,000.

…Or Have They?

While award prices for domestic U.S. travel appear to have been increased, awards still price as 7,500 miles for the time being. Below is a screenshot of an award flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a connection in San Francisco, with the old 7,500 miles cost instead of 10,000:

Could this be a delay in updating the online award engine? Perhaps. It could also be that Turkish Miles&Smiles does not intend to change the price of domestic U.S. awards at all, though I think that is wishful thinking. At some point, likely in the near future, this will increase to be 10,000 miles instead of 7,500.

It is worth noting that the Turkish Airlines award chart could use quite a bit of improvement. To get to the actual award chart, use the “Promotional award ticket table,” which displays the round trip mileage requirements between regions. Further down the page the “Award region table” provides a definition for each region as well as a potential source of confusion. According to the chart, North America includes “Antilles Nether,” yet South America includes countries such as Aruba and Curaçao. However, a quick award search proved that these islands are certainly part of the South America region.

How to Book

Booking Turkish Airlines awards presents its own challenge. The program is notoriously difficult for award bookings for yourself, let alone for other travel companions. However, as part of the update Turkish Airlines made to its award program, booking awards online became quite a bit easier. Search for awards in three easy steps:

Step 1: Sign in to your Miles&Smiles account. If you don't have one yet, sign up for free. (Pro tip: Turkish doesn't believe in letters for passwords; if you're having trouble creating a password try using all numbers.)

Step 2: Navigate to “Miles Transactions” from the home page.

Step 3: Click “book now” for Star Alliance award tickets

Booking Considerations

There are two major bugs (or irrational limitations?) you may encounter when booking flights with a Star Alliance partner online. First, if you’re booking for more than one passenger, you’ll likely get a pop-up error message. Unless you want to book by phone, you may need to ticket passengers separately until this issue is worked out. It will likely save you some significant hassle if you can arrange for each traveler to set up their own Miles&Smiles account book each ticket online with the account holder as the traveler.

The second issue is that Turkish doesn’t seem to have access to the same Star Alliance award space as other partner airlines. If you look for flights using United’s (far superior) award search, you may find that Turkish doesn’t have access to the same options.

For instance, travel from New York to Vienna in May of 2020 yields the following results from the Miles&Smiles program:

Not bad – three economy flight options appear, including a nonstop routing as well as a mixed-partner routing. However, the same award search through United yields these same results and more, including economy and business class options with Swiss Airlines:

Just because flights show up through United's award search does not mean that Miles&Smiles will be able to see the same flights. Anecdotally, you can still book awards like the one shown above by emailing a Turkish Airlines U.S. ticket office. Booking awards in this manner might work, though the same anecdotal accounts also mention waiting a long time for responses, or even a lack of a response, to email award booking requests.

Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze?

The Miles&Smiles program might be too flawed to consistently depend on for award travel. Transfers to the program do not happen instantly, nor does award availability match what other Star Alliance partners can see. On top of that, booking travel for others cannot be done online, unless you book separate reservations for each passenger.

However, if the stars align and you can find your desired flights through the online booking engine, or you happen to find a responsive Turkish Airlines U.S. ticket office, terrific redemptions exist through this program. Domestic one-way flights, including to Alaska and Hawaii, for just 7,500 miles (at least for now) can't be beaten, and 45,000 miles for transatlantic business class bests most other programs as well. Everyone likes to use as few points as possible for award flights, but at some point, it is worth considering how much time, effort, and careful coordination would be needed to book the same award that you could book in just a few clicks through another airline program.

Have you successfully booked a trip with Turkish Miles&Smiles? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

Turkish Allows Mixed Partners, Updates Award Chart
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Comments

  • Thank you for the clear information

  • The Turkish program is without a doubt one of the more complicated programs out there and I agree with the post that it is too inconsistent to depend upon.

  • Michael Skelly says:

    Thanks for keeping us up to date!

  • Can you put the award ticket on hold and then transfer the miles into your Miles&Smiles account?

    • I’ve seen multiple sources say you can hold awards by calling, but I don’t have personal experience. Some reports say you may need miles in the account to hold, but others contradict that. Please share your experience if you give it a try.

    • Yes, you can hold awards. You used to be able to do so over the phone, but you currently need to email a reservations office, have them create the booking and provide a record locator, and then you can call to pay and have it ticketed. Holds are typically for 48 hours and transfers typically take 24 hours.

  • Straight to the point and nice read. The other factor that might someone put their travel miles in the Turkish program is that it’s much easier to get and maintain status. But considering the inconsistencies in using the miles, it might still not be worth it.

  • It seems very challenging to use this program.

  • Congrats for a balanced and fair look at Miles & Smiles…

  • It has a very good miles redemption program.
    I have never traveled on Turkish Airlines yet, we hope to travel soon.
    Thank you very much for the information

  • I have relatives that have flown Turkish AIrlines and they enjoyed the experience. i haven’t heard many good things about the ease of use of this program but for those with the time to spend on working within their system, they seem to have great deals.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    This sounds attractive, and I am scheduled to travel to turkey in 2021, but travellers should be aware of visa requirements and the added expense that entails.

  • Turkish have one of the better business class seats out there, well worth using the miles on routes with J class.

  • I think the 7,500 sweet spot garnered too much attention. It’s only a matter of time before it goes away.

  • The Hawaii award is attractive.

  • 7,500 to 10,000 for a domestic sure sounds good. I may have to look into Turkish when I next need a domestic ticket. Thanks for the review.

  • Good to know that there are still sweet spots on Turkish Airlines mileage program. I just hope that in this day and age that airlines allow online booking without the hassle. They should make the interface easier. It costs a lot less than having to talk to a live person. Or is it because they dont want you to book the flight at alll.

  • I do love flying with Turkish Airlines. I just came back from Bali – and the Bali-Istanbul flight experience was great, even though the flight was so long. I actually appreciate, that we can spend our miles on more routes and adding Newark will be great!

  • Partnerships with other airlines make each airline more relevant and competitive to a broader customer base. This is a great idea for Turkish Airlines.

  • I’ve been waiting for EWR for a long time…so happy to hear it’s finally bookable with TK miles, haha.

  • I am still not sold by the TK program.

  • Even though some redemptions require more miles there are still some sweet spots.
    As other already mentioned the biggest issue is the booking process.

  • Does TK charge fuel surcharges on partner award tickets? Outside North America, the award chart looks terrible, or is it just me?

  • There are some programs that I just don’t want to deal with. It’s seems complicated and I will leave Turkish to someone who wants to do all the legwork. Yep I’m a lazy mileage redeemer. I know sometimes that means that I will pay more but not always. Also, I know that I have an amazing team helping me keep track of everything in AwardWallet but if I have all these mileage numbers it’s too much even with the help.

  • Selfishly, the addition of Newark is the improvement I’m most interested in.

  • Juan Ignacio says:

    The resume to EWR is a great new, because it will show more disponibility on awards tickets and an other option to connect with UA.

    I’m wondered if the award tickets with TK connecting in Istanbul with more than 8hs has the free tour and hotel accomodation in Istanbul.

  • Rosemary Pryor says:

    So glad that Turkish are flying Airbus metal (so much quieter than anything Boeing) but I’m maybe not super keen to fly with them at present due to what’s happening to the Kurdish people …

  • Booking on Turkish metal is so simple though – and there’s a plethora of good options to North Africa especially. Not sure why nobody ever mentions these when discussing the program?

  • At least we are talking about improvements rather than something negative!

  • Turkish Airlines awards do sound complicated but may be worth the effort in the right circumstances. I’m surprised their program only require 7,500 or 10,000 miles for domestic flights.

  • Yes, Turkish Airlines have made certain changes to their program recently and compared to what it used to be like its functionality has improved significantly. Yet, the high fuel surcharges make it rather useless in my eyes.

  • thanks for the update….Turkish, though the website is very hard to navigate – is really offering great opportunities.

  • Thank You! I have 7458 miles jajja

  • Thank you for this update with the disappointing news about requiring 10k miles to Hawaii. I just completed the $4000 spend for the bonus with Citi Premier credit card. I’m waiting for the miles to be deposited so I can transfer them to my Miles and Smiles account. I understand that I will need to find Saver flights that are available at United.com and then email or call Miles and Smiles at a US office. Does that sound like the best strategy?
    Will you alert us when it is confirmed that domestic flights to Hawaii are no longer costing 7,500 miles?

  • There are some quite interesting redemptions mentioned in this article. I particularly like the sound of Hawaii.

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