Turkish Miles & Smiles is simultaneously one of the most valuable and one of the most frustrating Star Alliance programs. However, when you can find the availability you need, there is no doubt that the sweet spots can be well worth the challenges you may encounter in booking. This complete guide combines what we know about the program into a single resource.
Miles & Smiles is still making me smile…for now.
Things to know about Turkish Miles & Smiles award booking
- Book via email or over the phone if you can’t online: While some itineraries can be booked online, many itineraries don’t show up online, so you’ll need to either email or call to book over the phone with Turkish Miles & Smiles at 1-800-874-8875. Note that for a while, phone bookings were not working, but we received several reports of success from readers who booked over the phone early this year. Email bookings should also still be working, so try the email process if you strike out on the phone. Note that you may need to try more than one ticket office (there is some trial and error there) and that we’ve had reports of some difficulties with the process during the COVID pandemic, so booking may be more challenging in the short term.
- Connecting itineraries are OK: Award pricing is per direction regardless of segments (i.e. EWR-HNL is 7.5K one way in economy class. EWR-ORD-LAX-HNL is also 7.5K one way in economy even though there are 2 stops provided the layovers don’t exceed maximum connection times).
- Award holds: Turkish will give you a hold for 48 hours if booking more than 7 days in advance, so there is no need to transfer before putting an award on hold in most cases.
- Transfers are not instant: Citi ThankYou points generally transfer in 18-30 hours. You can alternatively transfer from Marriott Rewards, but the transfer time is likely to be a week or more.
- No mixed cabin bookings in most cases: You can not combine an itinerary with some legs in business class and others in economy class. An exception from the program rules is that per the terms it is now possible to book a mixed-cabin award in cases where one of your flights does not have a matching class of service (e.g. one leg has business class but the other leg is operated by a small regional plane with no business class cabin). However, YMMV — the online tool does not yet show these itineraries.
- Fuel surcharges are passed on. You’ll want to choose airlines with low/no fuel surcharges.
- United Airlines Saver availability only: If you’re looking to book United flights with Turkish Miles & Smiles, you must find United saver availability. Only United saver availability is bookable with partner miles. You can not book segments operated by Hawaiian with Turkish miles. You can not use Turkish miles to book award seats that are only available to United credit card holders or United elite members — only saver availability that you see when not logged in to a United account will be available to Turkish.
- The cancellation fee is very reasonable: The fee to cancel and redeposit an award is only $25 per passenger. The mileage redeposit is instant. Note that changes theoretically also cost $25, but in my experience it was easier to cancel & re-book.
- Many available routes don’t show up online. It’s not clear why, but many itineraries that are available at United.com do not show up on the Turkish Airlines website.
- Not all routes price correctly online. Most domestic US itineraries now price at 7,500 miles each way in economy class online. Some price at over 11K online for no known reason (the same itineraries can be booked over the phone for 7,500 miles each way).
- The online tool often doesn’t show the most direct routing. Even when direct flights are available, the system sometimes forces a connection (for example, rather than allowing a nonstop round trip award between San Francisco and Honolulu, the options presented required connecting through Los Angeles or vice versa).
- You can not book tickets for others online unless the member booking is also traveling. For example, the online system would not allow me to make a booking for my wife and son (without me) using my miles. However, it is possible to book travel for others over the phone and via email even when the member booking is not traveling.
Turkish Miles & Smiles sweet spots
- The short story: Turkish offers the same pricing on flights to Hawaii as for other domestic US awards, making them an unbelievable value for flights to Hawaii.
- Miles required: 7,500 miles each way in economy class or 12,500 miles each way in business class domestically within the US or domestically within Canada (can include connections for the same price). For North American international flights (e.g. US to Canada or Mexico), 10K each way in economy class or 15K each way in business class.
- How to find awards: Search United.com and look for “Saver Awards”. You can also try searching via the Turkish…
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