Why Every Award Traveler Should Use Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles

Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class

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Turkish Airlines has recently become one of my go to airlines for award tickets.

Not only is the Turkish Airlines experience starting to come back from the pandemic but it has the largest network of flights and consistently ranks among the best airline food in the skies.

I’ve got to fly Turkish a few times on a long haul from Newark to Istanbul in Business as well as short haul from Istanbul to Kayseri in Economy. Both experiences left me really liking the airline offering, even though some Turkish Lounge food can definitely use some improvement.

One of the biggest reasons I continue to use Turkish Airlines for award bookings is price. With rates as low as 45,000 miles each way from the US to Turkish, I often find that routes via Turkish are a fraction of the price compared to other airlines. Even with paying fuel surcharges it still is a huge plus in my opinion.

Now Turkish Airlines does come with some tech frustrations. Even something as simple as creating a password on Miles & Smiles.

Non the less Turkish is still one of the most competitive airlines for award tickets and we will tell you how to maximize your award value.

Earning Turkish Airline Miles

Earning Turkish Airlines miles can be done via flying on their carrier or partner carriers. Here is what you can expect to earn.

Aside from flying Turkish Airlines or another Star Alliance carrier, the easiest way to earn miles is through credit card points. The primary transfer partners of Turkish Airlines is Citi Bank, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy, with all companies offering cards with generous welcome bonuses.

Here are the best cards in our opinion to easily rack up a lot of Turkish Airlines miles.

Turkish Airlines Route Network

Turkish Airlines has one of the largest route networks in the world serving 50 domestic and 254 international destinations in 124 countries. Combined with it’s partner Star Alliance Airlines, there is almost no major destination you can’t reach via Turkish Airlines.

Istanbul serves as the airlines primary hub and is centrally located to get you anywhere in the globe. If you are originating in the United States, Turkish Airlines is the best airline to fly to Istanbul and beyond to destinations in both Europe and Asia.

You can find a full list of Turkish Airlines Destinations here.

Turkish Airlines Award Pricing

The key reason that Turkish Airlines awards are so attractive are the prices. Time and time again when searching awards, Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is consistently the cheapest option I’ve been able to find out of any partner.

I’ve consistently found availability from New York to Istanbul in Business Class for 45,000 miles.

New York to Istanbul Business Class Award Tickets

Now this comes with taxes of ~$160 but even at that level it is well under the next closest on United at around 77,000 miles for the same flight. We think the added fuel charge is enough to justify saving your miles and will allow you to ultimately take more flights.

New York to Tokyo Business Class Award Tickets

We even found great rates to Asia and even as far as New York to Tokyo via Istanbul for 67,500 miles. Fuel surcharges are greater on this route based on the distance you fly so expect to pay about ~$322 additional.

The above are all considered saver award rates (Business Class I) and won’t always be available. If you do not find award space at this level the typical rate would be 105,000 miles from New York to Istanbul and 180,000 miles from New York to Tokyo. At this level Turkish Airlines is far less attractive but the good news is we found plenty of award space open at the saver level throughout the year.

Turkish Airlines Partner Awards

A big advantage to Turkish Airlines Award tickets are the route network with Star Alliance Partners. Turkish Airlines offers the same saver rates of 45,000 from the US to Europe and 67,000 miles from the US to Asia.

Turkish Airlines Partner Award Swiss Airlines

This is a pretty good deal given the same flight via Swiss Airlines or United Airlines would be in the range of 77,000 miles.

Here is a list of all Turkish Airlines Star Alliance Partners.

The Star Alliance network is vast making it possible to go to almost any destination in the world. Note that when booking via Turkish Airlines there is less award availability than if you booked with a partner directly. However, the rate Turkish Airlines offers is hard to beat making it worth while to check all their partners.

Booking An Award Ticket On Turkish Airlines

There are a few ways to book award tickets on Turkish Airlines and we will cover all the ways since there are some nuances to doing so.

You’ll first want to head over to Turkish Airlines website and sign up for an account. If you have issues with creating a password, as many do, see our solution here.

Another tip is to use their mobile app if you have trouble with their website. Turkish Airlines has a different technology company that built there mobile app and many travelers have found success in using that when the website does not work.

Once you are logged in you’ll want to click the Award Ticket right above the Search flights button.

This will bring you to Turkish Airlines Award Search. In here you can find all the destinations of Turkish Airlines but not this does not include partner rewards (located in another section).

Enter your departure, destination, dates, and cabin.

You might notice another issue with Turkish Airlines and that is searching for more than one passenger. If you are a new account holder you will see the message in the box below. This is a frustrating issue that we have not found a solution for, even after booking our first ticket and flying the airline. If you would like to see more about our experience that will be updated when we find a solution.

Once you enter a valid search it will bring you to the flights page. Note that Turkish Airlines award availability changes frequently so keep checking over a period of a few weeks if your flight is not open. They also give you the option to change award tickets at either no cost or for $25, making it safer to book in advance and change later.

Once you have found your flight you will be brought to the checkout page. Note Turkish Airlines has fuel charges that are about $170 from the US to Istanbul. This depends on the route you are taking and even with this fee the program provides a lot of value.

After you select your seats and pay you are all set.

Now booking a Star Alliance Partner reward via Turkish Airlines is a bit different. From the homepage you’ll want to navigate to your Account > Miles Transactions. You’ll see a box for Star Alliance Rewards on the right side.

When you click book it will bring you to a dedicated search page for only Star Alliance Awards.

You follow the same steps and can find partner awards across all of Turkish Airlines Star Alliance partners. The cost is the same in miles for saver awards at 30,000 for economy and 45,000 for business.

The major thing to lookout for is the fuel surcharge coming in at a whopping $945 for a flight to Istanbul. Compared to a flight on Turkish Airlines at $170 this is a huge difference making it less attractive to book partner awards.

Another thing to note is Turkish Airlines only provides saver availability on Star Alliance partners. This means there are much less options when booking so you will need to be flexible with your dates.

Lastly, if you need to book for more than one passenger you will need to call Turkish Airlines and book over the phone. We’ve found this process to be reasonably easy depending on the agent you receive.

The number for Turkish Airlines phone booking is: 1 (800) 874-8875

If you have trouble getting through just hang up and dial again. We’ve tried a number of times before getting through in the past.

Summary & Takeaways

Turkish Airlines has come a long way in award booking having just a few short years ago requiring you to book only in person. That process would be unheard of today and the company has invested in finally allowing bookings via their website and app.

While there are definitely kinks in the system that can make you feel frustrated, the incredible value you get out of Turkish Airlines miles is worth it. Just remember to find the right credit cards that allow transfer to Turkish and you will be racking up miles for redemptions in no time.

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1 year ago

Agree on comfort and food. Hard disagree on value for Miles. It costs much more in miles these days than in the past. 30000 for most short haul flights; 75000 for long haul one ways. After many years pleasant and economical flying, I will be changing preferred airline in 2023.