Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles Award Chart Sweet Spots

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It was wonderful to meet so many of you in person in London last week at our reader drinks. We had a good turn-out, and a great mix of people with all sorts of different interests, experiences and expertise in award travel.

I asked everyone I met if they had any topics they would like to see me write about, and will be featuring some of these over the next few weeks. The first is one is from Cobi, and I didn’t actually believe it until I researched it myself.

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles

Whenever I hear ‘Miles & Smiles’ I automatically think of Lufthansa Group’s loyalty program, Miles & More. While Turkish Airlines is a Star Alliance partner of Lufthansa, Miles & Smiles is a completely separate program for Turkish Airlines and their customers.

Turkish Airlines hasn’t received a lot of coverage in the frequent flyer world, mainly because of how difficult it has historically been to earn miles in their program without flying (a lot). However Turkish is a transfer partner of CitiThankYou since last year, meaning you can transfer points from cards like the Citi Premier℠ Card at a rate of 1:1, which may make the program a lot more attractive to readers in the US.

The Famous Turkish Airlines Lounge, Istanbul

Turkish uses a region based award chart, which is not at all unusual. You can book one-way awards of up to four segments, or round-trip awards of up to eight.

One of the weirder/frustrating award rules is that you cannot mix carriers on inbound or outbound legs. However, given you can book one-ways, you could book one-way on Asiana and one-way on ANA, for example.

On a round-trip redemption you can choose any one of the following:

  • an open jaw
  • a stopover in Istanbul if flying Turkish Airlines
  • a stopover anywhere if flying a Star Alliance carrier where the award costs at least 60k/90k/135k miles return for economy/business/first, respectively

Unfortunately mixed-cabin awards are not allowed. Miles & Smiles does impose fuel surcharges.

What is unusual is both how low some of the redemption levels are, and how they have zoned some airports.

Here is the Miles & Smiles award chart in round-trip amounts (larger PDF version here):

And now to some sweet spots!

Hawaii to Australia/New Zealand

I’ve told you before about how the US Airways Dividend Miles award chart zoned Guam in ‘South West Pacific,’ which led to me visiting Guam three times in eighteen months for no apparent reason.

Miles & Smiles doesn’t just zone Guam and the surrounding Pacific islands as Oceania — it also lists Hawaii in Oceania.

Miles & Smiles charge just 25,000 miles each way in business class between Hawaii and Australia, for example. Air New Zealand via Auckland is the most logical routing. You could even open-jaw on a round-trip ticket, flying into Sydney and out of Auckland. While you can back-track, you cannot connect twice through the same city on the same itinerary.

You are technically not allowed to transit a more expensive third region (just like AAdvantage), which would rule out taking an Asian carrier that flies to Hawaii, like ANA or Asiana via Asia, but I don’t know how strictly this is enforced.

Given business class availability on Air New Zealand can be difficult to get, you could consider an economy redemption for half the required miles — just 15,000 miles each way — and availability should be easier to come by.

That means something like Perth to Tahiti return would be only 30,000 miles on Air New Zealand, versus $1,200+ for these same flights.

Turkish Airlines 777

Europe to Oceania

At just 52,500 to 55,000 miles each way in business class this has to be one of, if not the cheapest premium redemptions between Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

Turkish splits Europe into two groups in their award chart:

Europe 1 (55,000 each way): Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Ukraine

Europe 2 (52,500 each way): Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

While at first glance it seems like Europe 1 is Eastern and Southern Europe and Europe 2 is Western and Northern Europe, there are some odd choices. Azerbaijan is geographically further east than Turkey, while Slovenia is further west than Poland.

There are loads of Asian Star Alliance airlines flying between these two continents, and availability on Thai Airways especially is excellent.

Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class

North America to Europe

While not quite as astonishing as the Oceania examples, compared with the usual Star Alliance suspects like Aeroplan and LifeMiles charging 55,000 to 63,000 each way in business class, Miles & Smiles only charges 45,000 miles each way to both Europe regions, as well as to Turkey.

According to their rules, backtracking is allowed provided you don’t go through a more expensive region, and you can book two one-ways, so something like Swiss from Los Angeles to Paris (via Zurich), and back on SAS from Brussels to San Francisco (via Copenhagen) should be allowed.

The catch

Miles & Smiles does impose fuel surcharges, which is not unusual. What is unusual is the booking process, which is complicated. Fortunately, for redemptions on Turkish Airlines metal only, you can book awards online and Turkish Airlines really is one of the best airlines in Europe.

For those awards involving a Star Alliance partner, unfortunately, while you can call to put the award on hold, tickets need to be issued in person at a Turkish Airlines sales office. Their U.S. sales offices are in the following cities:

  • Miami
  • Atlanta
  • Seattle
  • Chicago
  • Boston
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Washington DC

In the UK they have sales offices in:

  • London
  • Birmingham
  • Manchester
  • Edinburgh

Amazingly, even though they don’t fly to Australia, Turkish also has a sales office in Sydney. They have apparently been considering flights to Sydney for years, although with their current fleet it would require a stop in Asia somewhere along the way (unless they flew to Perth), and I don’t think they’ve quite decided which Asian flight to extend onto Sydney (my guess would be Jakarta or Bangkok).

There are some reports on FlyerTalk that the Toronto sales office is willing to ticket by email.

If anyone has or is planning to ticket an award booking at one of these sales offices I would LOVE to know how you get on. I would expect the sales staff to be quite confused at the process as I can’t imagine they do it very often!

Beautiful Istanbul

Bottom line

If you want a Star Alliance program with instant ticketing and online redemptions, then stick with Aeroplan, LifeMiles and so forth.

But if you like a bit of a challenge and the idea of potentially getting a very cheap redemption, then certainly consider the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program. I can’t confess to know just how severe the fuel surcharges will be, because there is very little data on experiences, but you should be able to get a sense from ITA Matrix.

While the ‘in person’ ticketing requirement, fuel surcharges, and no mixed cabins are all negatives, I think this is fairly equally balanced out by the lack of Maximum Permitted Mileage restrictions, and the options for one-ways and stopover/open jaws.

And that is before you even get into the low rates in the award chart.

If you live in a city with a Turkish Airlines office, you could at least pop in to see what they can and can’t do, before deciding to transfer any miles into their program.

I wouldn’t recommend transferring the miles until you’re sure you can book what you want to.

Have you ever used Miles & Smiles for a redemption?

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Comments

  1. I am Gold with TK as a result of their status matching promotion they ran a few years ago, and after that I have been crediting my SK and LH flights to TK. Live in London and had the “pleasure” of visiting LHR T2 to redeem for a TAP flight last September. I made the reservation via phone but had to pay the surcharges and get it ticketed at T2, which was a fairly quick process once I was there.

  2. When Turkish receive their 787-9s, they will have just enough range to go from IST-MEL direct, but not quite IST-SYD. If they launched it, IST-MEL would just be the longest route in the word (just 83km longer than DOH-AKL), which would be exciting. ESB-SYD would be feasible, but I doubt that they’d do that as they’d have virtually no connecting traffic. All those flights would be well within the range of their new A350-900s, though.

  3. @ Morgan – I’m not sure there’s the demand from PER. EY have just pulled out I suspect because they couldn’t fill even a 787.

  4. I should add that their u’g on TK metal chart is also interesting to the extent it permits for upgrading the really cheap fare buckets. I think the miles pricing is generally similar to what they charge for award seats, but u/g availability is superior and involves no increase in YQ. Plus, for people who want to perfect a status match, which ultimately requires some segments on TK, the underlying fare qualifies.

    Another relatively sweet spot lies at 105K in C ex US to India/Central Asia.

  5. Yeah James maybe your right that there is not enough demand between PER – IST direct though Istanbul is popular destination among Perthians and also EY pulled as they are cost cutting and route cutting and with QR A380, QF 787, EK double daily A380 , SQ 787-10 there was no point
    though would be cool if Turkish flew to Perth

  6. Keep in mind that they also do not accept credit cards for partner award ticketing originating at many stations – it has to be paid via cash or bank transfer.

    I’m Elite Plus with Miles and Smiles and have earned hundreds of thousands of miles through BIS flying. TK miles are useful for redemption on TK metal, but absolutely useless for anything else.

  7. I’m Elite Plus with Miles and Smiles and believe me, contacting TK sales office in South Korea where I live is a nightmare! I am not based in Seoul where their office is located so tried contacting them on the phone. They do not answer at any time during the day, although I tried both the numbers given on their website and those provided by central TK hotline in Istambul (the numbers were completely different). It seems I need to arrange a trip to Seoul and visit them in person before my miles expire…

  8. Thanks for the article. Last year I’ve done SFO-IST-DEL in business class for 52,500 TK miles which was a great deal. There was a tax of USD 340 but still not too bad. I actually only had about 48,000 miles left, and I thought I needed to purchase extra to redeem the ticket but no I was able to do it without so, and instead had negative miles balance thereafter. So technically, you don’t need to have the full required miles to issue!

    Another sweet spot is Europe to Central Asia in first class – only 43,000 miles required one-way. I was going to get LH F FRA-DEL and confirmed the availability of the seat by an agent in Istanbul, but only to find to out that the non-TK ticket must be visited & booked directly from TK sales office in town which is quite pain as you have mentioned.

  9. @James, what’s the range of YQ would we expect to see flying US-Europe? How doe sit compare to Aeroplan?

  10. Great and long overdue post James!

    I’m sitting on a handful of TK miles due to a generous earning scheme on their own metal. I’m happy that program miles don’t expire for 36 months because that’s pretty much how long it takes to make a Star Alliance redemption. Their Miles & Frowns call-center is a joke, and they purposefully make booking travel on partners PAINFUL.

    —JRL

  11. Anyone have any insight into when Turkish releases business award availability from the US to Europe? There is not a single award seat available for the next several months (at least from IAD).

  12. James, I think that you missed the best sweet-spot. EWR-HNL, for 20k (40k return), in ”First”. And the taxes have been less than 10€, when I’ve inquiered.

  13. This doesn’t feel a complete list. I have about 25k miles expiring end of this year and for life off me can’t figure out what to do with them.

  14. This doesn’t feel a complete list. I have about 25k miles expiring end of this year and for life off me can’t figure out what to do with them.

    Oh and they still use 6 digit pin as their password and when I complained they sent me some BS mail about how they were committed to account integrity and asked me to upload passport copy to correct my DOB.

  15. Europe to Oceania in theory is 105K miles round trip, but in reality it’s 150K miles round trip in Business Class. Why you may ask? Well since you’re passing through Asia which is priced as a higher zone when connecting onwards to Oceania you’ll be charged based on the highest zone. Asia to Oceania is 150K miles hence the price you’ll pay. Had there been a nonstop flight between Europe and Oceania without the need to transit in Asia, the price will be 105K as per the chart. As of now that’s simply not a reality, and one could only hope that one day Turkish Airlines or one of their partners will open a nonstop route between Europe and Oceania.

    Secondly you are allowed to pay with credit card when issuing a Star Alliance award at a ticket office. They will swipe your credit card in one of the terminals, and then enter the paid amount in the ticket.

    As of now the best use of TK miles for me is for flights between Europe and Asia. I’ve booked the following redemptions with Star Alliance.

    BRU-NRT-SIN one-way in Business Class on All Nippon Airways for 45K miles and €106 in taxes.

    FRA-HND one way in First Class on All Nippon Airways for 67,5K miles and €90 in taxes.

    CPH-BKK-SIN-BKK-ARN round trip on Thai Airways in Business Class for 90K miles and €46 in taxes.

    IST-SIN stopover SIN-ICN-SIN-IST on Singapore Airlines in Business Class for 90K miles and €60 in taxes.

    I’ve also booked a one-way ticket with Turkish Airlines in Business Class ARN-IST-JFK back in 2014 when the old award chart was still in place. Only 35000 miles in Business Class. An absolute steal!

    Overall it’s not an easy program for redemptions, but if you’re persistent and patient enough some good deals can be had. Also the Elite Plus upgrade vouchers are a great benefit, let alone worth keeping the card for.

  16. Not true. I have redeemed multiple awards and only once visited TK office. All other times I booked through their US call center,sent a TK redemption form and copy of ID to their office and then sent someone to pay or gave TK office my credit card details.

  17. @karl do you have any online source for this redemption? As HNL is in the oceanic region and not US region on their website

  18. Basically, non-TK awards can only be booked if you have a TK ticket office which is literate in the process (which is not straight forward even for them …). I appreciate that some have been successful at various offices. However, their ZRH office so far always failed, three or four times. They tried hard and were extremely apologetic, but definitely not successful.

  19. I recently flew CPH-DOH-AKL using 77K AA points, and loved my experience.

    1. Reverse herringbone is great, but over-rated – especially when talked about on this blog

    2. 12 hours in Doha was too long. I spent 4 hours sightseeing and had enough, and spent the rest of the time in the lounge.

    3. The ‘old’ business class on the 777-200LR was the perfect seat for the long flight. I preferred it over reverse herringbone since its a long bed and you’re feet aren’t confined into a cubby. I haven’t tried the new Qsuite, but was feeling amazingly well and refreshed once I got to Auckland. My jet-lag was minimal, and I can attribute this to flying business class and getting rest on the way.

    4. I could NEVER do the flight in economy. I don’t know how people manage. It felt long, even in business.

    Lastly, I didn’t have enough points to return to Europe in business, so I booked a one way flight on ANZ from Auckland to LA. They will do absolutely nothing with partner airline miles, so I flew economy, arriving in LA at 9AM, feeling absolutely terrible. 100 times worse than when I landed in Auckland on Qatar.

    I’m curious how the airlines are doing with these ultra long haul flights. My flight DOH-AKL was not full — not in economy nor business. I can’t imagine a huge demand for people booking these flights in economy.

  20. Such a dilemma for Republicans! Should one put money in the pocket of yet another authoritarian strongman that Rump likes? Or refuse to put money in the pocket of a Muslim man whose goal is to be leader of the Muslim world?

    Ah, who am I kidding? Dilemmas are for the weak who don’t worship money as their god. When you’re a Republican you spend first and decide whatever hypocritical excuse you need later. Appetite Über Alles!

  21. Once I was transiting in FRA for a few hours..I thought I can try to ticket my redemption flights(all were *alliance flights on Smiles&Miles mileages) at the TK ticketing counter in Hall B. There were two very friendly and efficient staffs who ticketed, printed and I paid the charges in no time(cash or credit cards are both accepted)…I had no luck contacting my TK office in my city..either always busy or you have to come personally..it is time TK improve this issue and make it easier.

  22. This is a great informative post – I do love flying with Turkish Airlines and using points is just a great way to save some money!! Thanks for sharing!

  23. @Jonas, thought SQ dont release award space in premium cabins to other star alliance airlines or partners? do you remember what type of SQ aircraft you flew?

  24. It doesn’t actually say Hawaii is in Oceania, it says “Honolulu” which is odd (and then in the ‘upgrades’ redemption chart Hawaii is a category of its own). Then it lists the United States as in North America with no asterisk. People have previously reported that EWR-HNL is a domestic redemption within North America but I don’t have experience with it personally.

  25. Canadian TK*G here, with multiple redemptions under my belt.

    A few additional observations:

    – One of the best redemptions James does not describe is getting any direct domestic flight for 7500 miles in economy. That can be really useful to fly long distances within single large countries well served by *A airlines like Canada, USA, Brazil or India. You can go Vancouver-Montreal (AC), San Francisco-Miami (UA), Sao Paulo to Fortaleza (06), or even Sapporo to Okinawa (NH), etc. for comparatively few miles. It can also be useful for redeeming from a large city to a small outstation on what is usually a pricey flight, something like YUL-YGR. Only restriction for all of the above is that you need to find award space on a direct flight.

    – Toronto office has never given me problems submitting/processing things online, so long as I included a copy of my ID and my credit card alongside the official redemption request form. I’ve also always been a passenger on the reservation; I don’t have any experience booking tickets for others when I’m not part of the traveling party. The Toronto TK has also ignored the “one carrier only” rule for me, no questions asked; I requested and was granted a domestic LH flight from FRA after a long-haul in on a different *A carrier. No additional miles charged. YMMV.

    – But my experience is that the TK office is efficient and does as you ask only if you know exactly what to ask for on the exact form they need. Basically, if you make it that all they need to do is process the request, rather than going back-and-forth with you via email, no problems. Definitely not for beginners, but advanced users who know exactly how to read “22 Apr 2019 NH 223 HND-FRA, X Class” and could write similar phrases may find success.

  26. Thanks James, solid article and very useful as TK’s scheme doesn’t seem to get much coverage anywhere.

  27. @GDL May I check, did you call the hotline to make a reservation before getting in touch with Toronto office? Or would Toronto office able to reservation and ticket at one go?

  28. @CS I don’t even call. There’s a form (saved as MILESSMILES_ODUL_BILET_VE_UPGRADE_FORM_RZV_1.RTF to my computer) that I fill out with the particulars of what I’m wanting to book, and I just email that. No phones involved. They’ll typically put in the reservation, send me back their Credit Card authorization form via email within a few hours or the next day, which I’ll e-sign/authenticate and send back, and then everything will ticket shortly after.

  29. @GDL. Yes, thank you. Great info. Out of curiousity, are you Canadian? American? I am wondering if Americans can use the Toronto office via email as well.

  30. @Matt. The EWR-HNL is an exception in the award chart. Domestic direct flights are 40k return, in first. Scroll down on the award chart page and you’ll see it. Confirmed, that HNL is considered domestic US with my local TK office.

  31. @CS – I don’t remember where I got it. Either downloaded it from the old Turkish website back in the day, or had it emailed to me when I first inquired for my first redemption.

    @Paul5795 – Canadian, living in Canada. Don’t know how they treat Americans. Sorry.

    @Karl – Great find! Thanks!

  32. @CS, 7:41pm — yes, looks like that, albeit I have an older, .RTF version. But largely the same. I input the itinerary details in the “ROUTE/DATE” field near the top. Easier in the RTF version where you can create extra lines as required, admittedly.

  33. Thanks for this post! I’ll have lots of Turkish miles after an upcoming trip this summer, so these sweet spots are a great help. Too bad ticketing is so hard.

    As a side note, another way to earn Turkish miles is by writing hotel reviews on Gezi. If you’re going to review a hotel anyway, might as well post the review there. I’ve gotten a few thousand miles that way.

  34. I’m TK Gold due to status match from a few years ago. I made a Star Alliance redemption, ORD_MUC on SAS via CPH in business class through their Tokyo office while I was living in Japan. They did everything by phone/email, but the payment had to be made by archaic bank transfer from a Japanese bank account. The process was relatively painless and the Turkish office in Tokyo was very responsive and helpful.

  35. I must be missing something. I opened an account and checked business class from SFO to several cities in Europe 8-11 months out. All I found was 105K miles one way or 210K round trip (plus $500 in fees). Am I doing something wrong or did something change?

  36. @GDL,

    What were the taxes / surcharges on your intra-Canada domestic flight on Air Canada?

    Aeroplan charges 25K + ~CAD$170 for a YYZ-YVR round trip.

    I would hope that the Turkish Airlines award would be 15K + ~CAD$170 for the same.

    Assuming I value Turkish Miles and Aeroplan miles the same (about CAD $0.0125 each) then I dont want to end up paying notably higher taxes to save some miles.

    Thanks.

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