Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Award Sweet Spots

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
  • 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?

Conversations (34)
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  1. Michele M Guest

    Thanks for the tips on how to book over the phone - I'll start off with the segments!! Does anyone know of sweet spots from Asia (BKK, TPE, HGK, SIN or even Austrailia if need be) to LAX (or SFO if need be)? I'm heading home to Europe by way of Asia and only have about 4 days total - so looking for a good reward flight. Even layover in Hawaii is fine. I just have SO much trouble finding award flights on TA.

  2. AYL Guest

    seems the program devalued big time. LAX-IST business class one-way direct on TK metal is showing 105k. hard pass

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ AYL -- That higher pricing is in situations where there's not saver level award availability. The lower pricing in business class is when there's "I" class award availability, which is the same space that would be bookable through partner frequent flyer programs.

  3. Susanne Guest

    The hovering over your name, and then getting to the Alliance partner booking doesnt seem to work anymore.. I hven't figured out a way to actually get to that at all. But otherwise, thanks for that very helpful article!

  4. Michael Guest

    Careful. By now it is not possible to book awards (either with TK itself or *Awads) for others if the account owner is not part of the booking. As a matter of fact it is not possible to book +Awards online: you need to finalize the booking offline in a TK-office.

  5. Mutlu Guest

    Thank you for your write up. I agree booking star alliance flights on TK website is a nightmare. Even if you find the flights you are looking for there is no way to book them because the “continue” button is hidden. I tried to call several times and make miles reservations on the phone with no luck either. It seems TK is great to earn miles but nightmare to use miles!

  6. Paul Emerson Guest

    Oh no! Don’t advertise this program, it’s so easy to earn miles on TK (and get star gold) and so easy to redeem for business transatlantic it’s my go-to for star alliance accrual. I paid 105,000 each for three round trip business class tickets from Atlanta to Athens this summer. I think fees were around $350 a ticket. Bargain.

  7. Sherry Guest

    It is possible to use M&S for award travel on *A partners, but it does takes persistence and patience. I had success booking two one-way class, HEL-CPH-IAD, on SAS in September 2019. The phone agent was able to see the award space but I had to go to TK sales office @ IAD to ticket it. I also was able to ticket one-way VIE-TPE on EVA in December 2019. The entire process was done by...

    It is possible to use M&S for award travel on *A partners, but it does takes persistence and patience. I had success booking two one-way class, HEL-CPH-IAD, on SAS in September 2019. The phone agent was able to see the award space but I had to go to TK sales office @ IAD to ticket it. I also was able to ticket one-way VIE-TPE on EVA in December 2019. The entire process was done by e-mail including providing my credit number. Lastly, I just ticketed one-way TPE-CDG on EVA in October for travel in June 2022. I made the inquiry by email but had to wire TK ~$50 for tax and fee before ticketing. All cost 45K miles for a J ticket. I don’t enjoy the process of making *A award booking with TK but the reward makes it worthwhile.

  8. Dave Guest

    These points are worthless until they fix the website. I have been trying to book a flight for a week. Phone agents say they can't see it and email agents have not responded.

  9. Jeff Guest

    Funny I was just looking at their star alliance booking tool yesterday. For some reason any routes to or from Toronto cannot be shown, including your example Vancouver Toronto. Montreal works. Probably bookable with phone.

  10. Hamid Alghali Guest

    Trying to reach Top Management on Wet Leasing. Hamid

  11. xajn Guest

    What's the deal with booze in the IST lounge(s)? I havent seen any since the old Istanbul airport. Is it another corona excuse or is it more of Erdogan's conservative crackdown?

    1. Paul Emerson Guest

      I was drinking Efes there last time I went through. I love the IST gold lounge

  12. DCS Diamond

    Would be great if one could readily find such award "sweet spots" and then not lose temper dealing with TK representatives trying to book'em...

  13. Luke Guest

    I believe there's no fuel surcharge imposed on United airlines international flights either. I had booked EWR to DEL, India for 55k turkish m&s miles on United business class for just the $5.60 in taxes on any US award seat. Had this award been on Turkish airlines instead of United as in EWR-IST-DEL it would still have been 55k miles but with about $250 in fees/fuel surcharge.

  14. Luke Guest

    The North America region includes Hawaii, which makes it one of the most incredible values to score one way economy tickets from anywhere in the US on United Airlines to Hawaii for just 7500 m&s miles in economy and 12500 m&s miles in business class, no fuel surcharge.

  15. John H Guest

    No mention of the best value award they have which is Europe to Australia for 52,500 in Business class… I usually use United’s availability tool to find seats then call TK to book. Brace yourselves tho, the call centre are absolutely horrible, just not nice people, there’s no concept of customer service, they don’t listen to basic instructions (eg. I recently wanted to book SYD ICN IST BCN on OZ and TK. The agent repeatedly...

    No mention of the best value award they have which is Europe to Australia for 52,500 in Business class… I usually use United’s availability tool to find seats then call TK to book. Brace yourselves tho, the call centre are absolutely horrible, just not nice people, there’s no concept of customer service, they don’t listen to basic instructions (eg. I recently wanted to book SYD ICN IST BCN on OZ and TK. The agent repeatedly searched for SYD BCN and told me there were no seats despite me asking multiple times to search sector by sector. Eventually I told him I don’t want to go to BCN any more I want to go to ICN, miraculously there’s a seat, then told him I wanted to go from ICN to BCN… oh look, there’s a seat… took 45 minutes and if you get impatient / angry with them, they just get angry back, zero customer service) that said, onboard they’re great, never had a problem, just the call centre that’s horrendous

  16. Brodie Guest

    What's the deal with having to book a flight in your own name before adding another passenger in order to "verify your account." I guessing if I go this route I will have two separate record locators?

    1. Jules Guest

      That’s exactly what happened to me when I tried to book a flight for myself and my significant other; ended up with two record locators. Unfortunately, booking a flight for myself first online didn’t allow me to proceed with the second booking online. I had to call reservations and the process took almost an hour.

    2. Brodie Guest

      Thanks Jules for the reply. That aggravation is exactly what I do not want to deal with. Sounds sorta like Lifemiles and I have nearly had enough of their call center experiences. While AA catches a lot of flack, the ability to book/cancel/redeposit all online is a standard I wish more would invest in.

  17. Ksa63 Guest

    The business class product is hit and miss. Still a lot of planes with the old seating. 2-3-2 in the 777 and 2-2-2 in the 330.

    Does anyone know of the Turkish Airlines lounge is open at IST? When I was there in September everyone had to use the Miles and Smiles lounge.

    1. Dominic Guest

      The new product is quite scarce from the US. One certain route is ATL to IST.

    2. Ksa63 Guest

      I’m flying Jakarta to IST on Saturday. I have the old 777. My wife goes two weeks later and has the new interior on a newer plane. Lucky her.

    3. Ron R. Guest

      I used the lounge at IST on November 4 on a ORD-IST-ATH itinerary. Completely open.

    4. Ksa63 Guest

      Thanks. Good to know.

    5. Ryan Guest

      The Miles & Smiles lounge is exactly the same as the business class lounge, just mirrored at the other side. Same food, same design.

    6. Nightliner Guest

      On recent (3 Dec) departure from IST, they seemed to have removed the plastic wrapping from the terrace seats in the biz lounge and some cleaning was going on. It is possible they are preparing to reopen the biz lounge. While both lounges are virtually identical in terms of layout, size and offerings, I'd imagine the business lounge to be potentially much less crowded - since elites on economy flights need to use the m+s...

      On recent (3 Dec) departure from IST, they seemed to have removed the plastic wrapping from the terrace seats in the biz lounge and some cleaning was going on. It is possible they are preparing to reopen the biz lounge. While both lounges are virtually identical in terms of layout, size and offerings, I'd imagine the business lounge to be potentially much less crowded - since elites on economy flights need to use the m+s lounge AFAIK (unsure if TK elite plus may use both though).
      On a side note, personally, I think the new lounges don't compare to the old massive one in terms of spaciousness (although they're still massive if compared to most other lounges).
      Food presentation has changed a bit due covid, with all buffet items packaged and pre portioned and certain items unavailable (i.e. the artisanal butter they used to have with the sesame rings), but that's first world problems. Massage service has completely disappeared sadly (don't know if it was ever a thing at the new ist airport).

  18. Quo Vadis Guest

    With the Venture X card, glad to know about this option for redeeming Capital One miles. Valuable post, thanks Lucky.

  19. Nightliner Guest

    Hey Ben,

    Just a small correction here: Star Alliance awards are bookable on the website. After logging in, you need to click on your name in the top-right corner, then click the top-right corner again and choose "miles transactions". This opens a new page where you can then select "star alliance award flights". Using the website is a bit of a hit-or-miss experience, as sometimes not all available flights are shown. Seems to work semi-well...

    Hey Ben,

    Just a small correction here: Star Alliance awards are bookable on the website. After logging in, you need to click on your name in the top-right corner, then click the top-right corner again and choose "miles transactions". This opens a new page where you can then select "star alliance award flights". Using the website is a bit of a hit-or-miss experience, as sometimes not all available flights are shown. Seems to work semi-well for UA, and quite well for LH group flights. Also combinations of *A airlines price out. Generally, for the same number of miles, you could book with TK as well on intra-Europe awards, saving on taxes AND possibly building a short (<24h) layover in IST.

    Phone booking can be excruciatingly annoying with TK, as their IT systems are somewhat glitchy, especially when using TKs systemwide upgrades. Best option for me is emailing a local sales office, as they are usually quite helpful and know whom to negotiate with in Istanbul to get things moving.

    1. Jaime Guest

      It is my understanding that the TK website has disabled the ability to proceed past the "pay" screen. There is simply no "next", "submit" or "pay" button. There is a FT post that talks about methods for getting the reservation code so you can continue paying over the phone, but it does not seem you can presently book through the Star Alliance reward reservation link.

    2. Buzz Guest

      You are correct. The pay button has been missing for several months. I’ve booked quite a few United flights. I’m lifetime Gold on United so after I book, I call United and they add my FF number so I can select Economy Plus seats. It’s a process but 7500 miles is really a sweet spot.

    3. Dave H Guest

      How do you get the code please?

    4. Mutlu Guest

      Can you post the FT article about how to get the code?

  20. Dominic Guest

    This is my go-to way to get to and from Europe these days. I fly out of ATL (which always has their latest business product on their 787s) and have been very pleased each and every time. The flight leaves around 10:30pm, and I'm usually asleep by 1:00am and waking up to breakfast about five or six hours later. The fact that Turkish pretty flies literally EVERYWHERE (LOL) just seals the deal, and if you...

    This is my go-to way to get to and from Europe these days. I fly out of ATL (which always has their latest business product on their 787s) and have been very pleased each and every time. The flight leaves around 10:30pm, and I'm usually asleep by 1:00am and waking up to breakfast about five or six hours later. The fact that Turkish pretty flies literally EVERYWHERE (LOL) just seals the deal, and if you happen to have a longer layover in IST, well there are worse things than the Turkish lounge. ;)

    Finally, the bubble pop game on the IFE is completely and ridiculously addictive.

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Dominic Guest

The new product is quite scarce from the US. One certain route is ATL to IST.

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Brodie Guest

Thanks Jules for the reply. That aggravation is exactly what I do not want to deal with. Sounds sorta like Lifemiles and I have nearly had enough of their call center experiences. While AA catches a lot of flack, the ability to book/cancel/redeposit all online is a standard I wish more would invest in.

1
John H Guest

No mention of the best value award they have which is Europe to Australia for 52,500 in Business class… I usually use United’s availability tool to find seats then call TK to book. Brace yourselves tho, the call centre are absolutely horrible, just not nice people, there’s no concept of customer service, they don’t listen to basic instructions (eg. I recently wanted to book SYD ICN IST BCN on OZ and TK. The agent repeatedly searched for SYD BCN and told me there were no seats despite me asking multiple times to search sector by sector. Eventually I told him I don’t want to go to BCN any more I want to go to ICN, miraculously there’s a seat, then told him I wanted to go from ICN to BCN… oh look, there’s a seat… took 45 minutes and if you get impatient / angry with them, they just get angry back, zero customer service) that said, onboard they’re great, never had a problem, just the call centre that’s horrendous

1
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