Book Turkish Miles & Smiles Star Alliance Awards Online
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles have quickly become one of my favorite loyalty programs for booking award travel. The Citi ThankYou transfer partner has been the *only* way I’ve redeemed my ThankYou points over the past several months, and I’ve literally used a single welcome offer to book $1,000s in value of travel.
But there has been more than one bump in the road along the way.
Miles & Smiles Star Alliance Awards: The Saga
Back in September I discovered that you could book Turkish Airlines Star Alliance awards online. The interface and search was a bit buggy, but a good number of awards could be searched. You couldn’t pull up one-way awards, and some routing options weren’t presented, and you couldn’t do things such as book for another passenger. But it provided an interface for people to use their miles.
Since most of my awards were one-way tickets, I called Turkish Airlines multiple times to book these. The process was a little painstaking, but it worked well on all but one occasion. I managed to book a round-trip ticket in United transcontinental lie-flat seats for just 25,000 miles round-trip.
But then all of a sudden the phone agents started saying they couldn’t book Star Alliance awards. The first one I spoke with said to call back after a day or two. But after calling three times over a couple weeks, I gave up. The online search engine returned zero results as well, no matter what you searched.
I didn’t have any tickets that I really needed to book, so I put the Turkish problems on the back burner. Until a few days ago when I randomly decided to check, and I’m so glad I did.
Miles & Smiles Star Alliance Awards – Book Online Once Again
I logged into my Turkish Miles & Smiles account, just for kicks. I panicked at first, since the “Miles Transactions” page of the online profile didn’t show the Star Alliance Award button. But after adding in some additional information until my profile was “complete”, it once again appeared.
Clicking it took me to the same award search. I keyed in an origin of SFO and destination of LAX, a United route that should have award space almost every day, and clicked on some random days in January to test. My jaw dropped when the award search returned several options! The online search is back!
My next step was to key in the one flight I needed, a nonstop short hop from Arcata to Los Angeles in February. Previously, one-way awards didn’t work, so I didn’t expect this one to work. But it did! Looks like one-way awards are now possible.
I selected a flight, just to see what the next step would be. With 0 miles in the account, I couldn’t get too far. It does look like it’s time to transfer some Citi ThankYou points over, though. Turkish informed me that I didn’t have enough miles, but then presented a popup with a “Buy Miles” option. Looks like they are willing to sell them to me. I’m just not willing to pay $225 for the flight.
Since I was in the mood for continuing to test Turkish, I decided to transfer just 7,000 Citi ThankYou points to Miles & Smiles. Since Turkish was offering to sell me the full 7,500 miles, I bet they’d be willing to sell me 500 miles to top off the account for the award for $15.
But no. This time, I didn’t get the same popup. When I clicked to continue, this time I simply got an error popup. The same popup appeared when I went to buy miles through another part of the website. So confused. Before I could buy miles, now I can’t.
Finally Getting Things Booked
I figured I’d bite the bullet and transfer another 8,000 Citi ThankYou points, which would be enough for this award and one more domestic award. I don’t have another award to book, but I’m sure I’ll use them within the next 3 years before they expire.
Once I had the 15,000 miles (a fact I was conveniently alerted to by Award Wallet balance watch), I moved ahead to book. There was just one problem: I was trying to use miles from my wife’s account, and the option to book for another passenger, even one you have added, is grayed out.
Even when you search for two tickets, with enough miles, the additional passenger shows as grayed out. This is even more perplexing. You cannot select an “Adult 2”.
Luckily, none of this is an issue over the phone. I finally got my award ticketed over the phone, the same standard way I’ve had to since I first started booking award with Turkish in August.
Some Further Investigation
I performed a good number of additional test searches. Most, if not all, of what appeared previously seems to still show up, including flights with a nearly every Star Alliance partner besides United. I quickly found this business class award ticket on Lufthansa from Detroit to Frankfurt, although you’ll pay a fortune in fuel surcharges.
Now for the two kickers: first, awards to Hawaii are just as tough as they were before. I tried and tried to pull up a nonstop seat from SFO or LAX to HNL, but I couldn’t ever get one to show. Even on days where there was space showing at United.com, this wasn’t available. I was restricted, as before, to SFO-LAX-HNL and LAX-SFO-HNL itineraries from the West Coast.
The one upside is that one-way awards are now possible to Hawaii. This would have saved me a phone call when I booked my award to Hawaii for 7.5k in August.
The second kicker: I had a significant amount of trouble trying to book an award via phone. This worked seamlessly in August. Now the two agents I spoke with said they could see the flights, but “could not select a fare”. The first was entirely unhelpful, while the latter was provided a whole lot more information and instructed me to email the San Francisco Turkish Airlines office (the closest one to me). Looks like I’m stuck with the ol’ email method.
In summary, here’s what appears to be possible with booking Turkish Miles & Smiles Star Alliance awards online:
- Both one-way and round-trip awards are possible.
- Nearly all Star Alliance partners appear in award searches, which is what I saw before, but it seems like there are even more options now.
- You can now search awards to Newark (previously not possible, although connections would show up) and the rest of the New York area airports.
- You still cannot book for other people. The option to use my wife’s miles to book a ticket online is still grayed out.
- If you cannot ticket online, you may be out of luck still by phone.
- There are still some oddities to the way Turkish routes awards, including awards to Hawaii. I couldn’t find a single nonstop seat between the mainland and Honolulu, although I found some connecting itineraries.
You Might Want to Act Now!
But there is a potential downside in the works! I had this post 90% drafted and ready to go when I saw Nick’s post run over at Frequent Miler about a potential devaluation coming to Miles and Smiles! I would consider booking Turkish domestic awards sooner rather than later, if you’ve been eyeing this sweet spot!
If the damage is just taking domestic U.S. awards from 7,500 miles to 10,000 miles one-way, I won’t cry too much. This is still an excellent deal to Hawaii. If Hawaii is reclassified into a different zone, then I’ll break out the tissue.
With the ability to once again book Turkish Miles & Smiles Star Alliance awards online (not to mention the improvements), they are that much more accessible to folks who want to get excellent value out of their Citi ThankYou points. The ability to use Miles & Smiles is the only reason I value Citi ThankYou points so highly.
If you manage to book a Turkish Miles & Smiles Star Alliance awards online, I’d love to hear about how well things worked for you!