Turkish Airlines’ Miles and Smiles is an underrated airline mileage program thanks to some amazing sweet spots like flights to Hawaii for 15,000 miles roundtrip or flying business class to almost anywhere in Europe for 45,000 miles each way. But a finicky website can make it difficult to actually book … and it’s gotten even harder lately.
Finding flights via Turkish’s website on partner airlines like United, All Nippon Airways (ANA), and countless others has always been wonky. But for the last few months, searching for partner award redemptions using Turkish’s Star Alliance award search tool has produced zero results online. And even calling or emailing Turkish to book those flights is not a sure thing anymore, either – though it’s still possible if you’re extra patient.
For example, this United flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) is available at the lowest-priced “saver” award in economy. You can tell because it’s stamped with both “Saver Award” designation as well as the “X” fare class in parentheses.
This means that this flight should be bookable with partner airline miles. As you can see, there’s no problem finding this flight when searching on Air Canada’s site using Aeroplan points.
But if you follow the steps to search Turkish Airlines’ Star Award Ticket search tool, you’ll simply get a message that states “Sorry, no suitable flights can be found.”
Pulling up these partner flights directly at turkishairlines.com has always been spotty at best. Many nonstop flights you could find through other sites like United or Air Canada may not have shown up, but at least it would display something. Now, you won’t find anything searching through Turkish … whether you search for business class awards or economy on any partner airline.
It’s unclear whether this is some kind of temporary glitch or the result of a permanent change made by Turkish (or its partner airlines). The airline’s public relations department did not respond to a request for comment. But at this point, the issue has been dragging on for months – it started cropping up on Flyertalk and Reddit way back in late June.
The one exception is that the Star Award Ticket search tool will still pull up itineraries involving a Turkish flight along with a partner airline. But you won’t get results with flights solely on partner airlines. For example, you may find “saver award” availability flying Egyptair nonstop from New York City (JFK) to Cairo (CAI) using United’s award search (indicated by the “I” fare class in parentheses).
But search this route on Turkish’s website and you’ll only be given the option to fly a combination of Turkish Airlines and Egyptair flying through Turkish’s hub in Istanbul (IST).
All this means that, despite the low mileage rates, it’s practically impossible to book partner award flights online with Turkish miles.
For the vast majority of flyers, this also means that Turkish miles may only be worth earning to fly Turkish Airlines itself. Don’t get me wrong: That’s still a valuable way to use Turkish miles, which is a transfer partner of Bilt Rewards, Capital One, and Citi. This means the points you earn on cards like the *venture x* can be transferred to Turkish miles.
Plus, it’s still relatively easy to book Turkish Airlines flights online using Turkish miles. For example, you can easily book Turkish Airlines business class nonstop from Atlanta (ATL) to Istanbul (IST) for just 45,000 miles and roughly $200 in taxes and fees one-way.
Or you can tack on a connection and head to the Middle East for just 2,000 more miles, like this example from Atlanta to Amman (AMM) for 47,000 miles one-way in business class.
If you do plan on using your Turkish miles to fly business class on Turkish Airlines, you’ll do yourself a solid by routing on flights where Turkish is flying its Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A350 aircraft. These planes have Turkish’s best seats: all with direct aisle access, which is not the case if you were to fly on the airline’s older 777s.
Read our full review of Turkish Airlines business class flying the 787 Dreamliner!
Partner Airlines Are Bookable by Email (… if You’re Patient)
Contacting a Turkish agent has long been one of the best ways to book a flight on partner airlines like United. Now, it seems like it’s the only way.
And you’ll need to be pretty savvy in order to do it, as it’s not even as simple as making a phone call. I’ve tried calling the Turkish Airlines call center (at 1-800-874-8875) several times to see if they can book United flights where I’ve found “saver” award availability on United’s website. In every case, the agent has responded they cannot find those flights. They’ve even tried to put me on absurd connections flying Turkish Airlines instead, like flying from Houston (IAH) to Cancún (CUN) with a connection in Istanbul (IST). No thanks!
It may be a matter of finding an agent who knows how to search for and book these tickets … but that’s clearly a tall task. Instead, I’d highly recommend emailing several ticket offices, giving the exact details of the flights you’re looking to book.
I recently tested this out by emailing all 11 city offices in the U.S. found in the “Our offices” section of the Turkish “Contact Us” page. I requested different flights for my brother and myself in each email just to test this out. Here’s an example of the email I sent.
Several offices didn’t respond at all while most simply told me to call the call center. However, I did get lucky and got positive responses from both the Boston and Los Angeles offices. I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same luck but those were the only two offices that replied to me with actual assistance.
Remember the Los Angeles to Honolulu flight I searched for earlier but came up empty handed? An agent from the LAX office replied to my email promptly and actually put a reservation on hold for 72 hours.
With a confirmation number in hand, I went to the Turkish website to see if it showed up there. Sure enough, it looked like I had a reservation.
The next step would be to call Turkish Airlines and give them the confirmation number from the start in order to pay the taxes and fees and ticket the award. Unfortunately, this final step can’t be done online or via email.
For another recent firsthand experience, you may want to read a recent post from Frequent Miler’s Nick Reyes, detailing what he went through in order to book a United flight with Turkish miles. Long story short: It can be done … but it’s not easy.
So while it’s safe to say that these sweet spots for using Turkish miles aren’t completely dead, it will take even more leg work to get these kinds of tickets booked.
Want to use Turkish miles to book flights on Turkish Airlines? Fine. Want to book a flight on a partner carrier like United? Prepare to work for it.
It appears that Turkish has completely removed the ability to book partner awards online. These partner award tickets are still bookable via email, but it’ll require a lot of luck and even more patience.
Redeeming Turkish miles has always taken some extra effort. For some, it’s now simply more trouble than it’s worth.