Travel

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Award Sweet Spots

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Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles frequent flyer program is becoming increasingly useful, and if it’s a program you’re not familiar with, it’s probably worth taking a look.

Why you should care about Turkish Airlines’ loyalty program

Why should you care about the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles program? There are a few reasons:

  • It’s becoming increasingly easy to earn Turkish Airlines miles with transferable points currencies
  • Miles&Smiles award pricing for travel on Turkish Airlines is excellent, and on top of that Turkish Airlines has a phenomenal business class product, and the airline flies to more countries than any other airline in the world
  • Miles&Smiles has some unique award opportunities on Star Alliance partners, including some great award pricing for domestic United Airlines flights (though I’m not quite as enthusiastic about this redemption option as others)
Turkish Airlines business class is excellent

How to earn Turkish Airlines miles

Turkish Airlines now partners with two transferable points currencies, giving those with credit cards easy access to these miles:

Turkish Airlines miles are easy to earn

The best uses of Turkish Airlines miles

I wanted to highlight the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles redemptions that I consider to be particularly lucrative. You can find the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles award chart here, under the “promotional award ticket table” section. While there’s also a separate “standard” level of award pricing, if there’s saver level award availability then the promotional pricing should apply.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Redeeming miles on Turkish Airlines

The value of redeeming Miles&Smiles miles on Turkish Airlines is spectacular, and among the best values of any program. Here are Turkish Airlines’ one-way business class award redemption costs for travel originating in the United States:

  • Fly from the United States to Europe for 45,000 miles
  • Fly from the United States to the Middle East for 47,000 miles
  • Fly from the United States to Central Asia for 52,500 miles
  • Fly from the United States to North Africa for 60,000 miles
  • Fly from the United States to the Far East for 67,500 miles
  • Fly from the United States to Central Africa for 72,500 miles
  • Fly from the United States to South Africa for 85,000 miles

Seriously, the values here are exceptional:

  • Los Angeles to Istanbul to Frankfurt in business class? That’ll cost you 45,000 miles
  • Chicago to Istanbul to Dubai? That’ll cost you 47,000 miles
  • Newark to Istanbul to Bishkek? That’ll cost you 52,500 miles
  • Miami to Istanbul to Cairo? That’ll cost you 60,000 miles
  • San Francisco to Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar? That’ll cost you 67,500 miles

As you’d expect, there are some things to be aware of:

  • One free stopover is allowed in Istanbul on a roundtrip award, but that requires booking by phone
  • Turkish Airlines does pass on fuel surcharges on award tickets, though they’re not too bad compared to other airlines; for all of the above awards you could expect to pay $180-270 one-way in fuel surcharges for business class
  • You can redeem miles for anyone (including non-family members), but you do first have to add the traveler to your Miles&Smiles account
  • While flying from the United States to Europe via Istanbul does involve backtracking in many cases, at least Turkish Airlines has a “proper” business class on many intra-Europe flights, so that may be a preferable option to connecting on another airline
  • Turkish Airlines can be quirky with award availability; in some cases there’s virtually no business class award availability on a flight for weeks at a time, and in other cases there are four award seats per flight almost every day, so do some searches before transferring points
  • You could hold award tickets for three days by phone if you want to lock in awards before transferring points
  • Canceling or changing an award reservation costs just $25, which is one of the more reasonable fees you’ll find from a frequent flyer program
  • At the moment Newark to Istanbul is the route with the most business class award availability, and as luck would have it, it’s also the only route to the United States operated by an Airbus A350 (offering Turkish’s best business class product)
Redemption rates on Turkish Airlines are excellent

Redeeming miles on Star Alliance partners

I’m not quite as excited about this as others. In general I wouldn’t redeem Turkish Airlines miles on Star Alliance partners because:

  • There are fuel surcharges in many regions, and there are other Star Alliance programs through which you can redeem miles without fuel surcharges (some Star Alliance airlines charge $500+ in fuel surcharges one-way across the Atlantic in business class)
  • While Turkish Airlines’ website does have a Star Alliance award search tool, in my experience it’s broken more often than it works, so you may have to book by phone

If you ask me, there is one particular partner award sweet spot. Award flights within a single region cost:

  • 7,500 miles one-way in economy class
  • 12,500 miles one-way in business class

Since Turkish Airlines is in the Star Alliance, you could redeem those number of miles for a United one-way award ticket within the United States, including to & from Alaska and Hawaii. Best of all, there are no fuel surcharges on domestic redemptions on United.

This is absolutely an incredible redemption value. The major challenge is that actually finding saver level award availability on United can be extremely challenging, especially in domestic first class (which is priced as business class). So if you want to pursue this option, you’ll probably want to start your search on United’s website using the calendar feature, before moving over to Turkish Airlines’ website. And then there’s the whole issue of Turkish Airlines’ website not being great for booking partner awards.

Redeem miles for United first class

There are similarly good opportunities in other regions. For example, you could redeem just 12,500 miles for one-way Air Canada business class in a flat bed between Toronto and Vancouver, just to give a further example. There would be some fuel surcharges there, though.

Redeem miles for Air Canada business class

How to book Turkish Airlines awards

How do you actually go about redeeming Turkish miles? First of all, you’ll need to open a Miles&Smiles account to search availability on Turkish’s website, but this is instant and free, and you don’t need any miles in your account to conduct a search.

Once you have an account, the process of searching for award flights on Turkish Airlines metal is easy. Just log into your account, and then on the home page check the box next to the text that says “Award ticket – Buy a ticket with Miles” at the top right of the flight search tool.

That will take you to a different page, where you’ll easily be able to conduct an award search. There you’ll just want to enter your origin, destination, dates, number of passengers, and class of service.

The next page will display award flight options, and the process from there is pretty straightforward.

The process for searching Star Alliance award flights is a bit more complicated, as the airline seems to hide this option for whatever reason. Then there’s the whole issue of award space often not showing up, to the point that I find this to be pretty useless.

I’ve warned you, but if you still want to search award availability, you’ll first need to log into your Miles&Smiles account. Then at the top right you’ll want to hover over your name, and then click on the “Miles Transactions” button.

On the right side of the next page you should see a section that reads “Star Alliance award ticket,” and you’ll want to click that, which will bring you to the Star Alliance search page. Alternatively, you can just follow this link.

The Star Alliance search page is pretty easy to use, though award availability won’t always match what you see through other programs. Quite to the contrary, I often find that it doesn’t work at all.

Personally I often don’t have much luck getting award seats to show up even when there is saver level award availability. This space should generally be bookable by phone, but I do everything I can to avoid booking awards like this by phone, especially since Turkish Airlines’ call center can be… complicated. For me this is a major deterrent of booking Star Alliance partner awards through the Miles&Smiles program.

Bottom line

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is a fantastic niche frequent flyer program that is transfer partners with both Citi ThankYou and Capital One. I wouldn’t want to book most of my awards through the program, given that Turkish imposes fuel surcharges on many awards, Turkish’s website isn’t great, and booking partner awards online can be complicated.

However, for flights in Turkish Airlines business class, it’s tough to beat the Miles&Smiles program. Redemption rates are extremely low, and while there are fuel surcharges, they’re relatively mild. Turkish flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, and has a great product to boot.

As far as Star Alliance partner redemptions go, what makes Miles&Smiles special is the ability to redeem miles for travel within a region. You’ll pay 7,500 miles for a one-way economy ticket, and 12,500 miles for a one-way business class ticket. That’s an awesome deal, assuming you can find award availability and are willing to go through the hassle of the booking process.

To be honest, I’ve never booked an award through Turkish Miles&Smiles for my own travels, though that’ll hopefully be changing soon, as several places on my bucket list are best served by Turkish Airlines.

This program is at least worth keeping on your radar if you’re picking up a card like the Citi Premier or Capital One Venture X.

If you’ve redeemed miles through Turkish Miles&Smiles, what was your experience like?

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