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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:
- Los Angeles
- New York City (JFK)
- San Francisco
- 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.
- 60,000 point signup bonus worth $750 towards airfare through the ThankYou Travel Center, or potentially much more when transferred to airline partners
- 3X points per $1 on travel, including gas stations, plus 2X points at restaurants and on entertainment
- No foreign transaction fees
- $95 annual fee
- 3X points per $1 spent on on travel including gas stations, as well as airfare, hotels, car rental agencies, public transportation, tolls, and parking
- 2X points per $1 spent on dining at restaurants, including many cafes, bars and lounges
- 2X points per $1 spent on entertainment, including sporting events, movie theaters, concerts and more
- 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases
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
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.
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