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Out of nowhere last week, Turkish Airlines decided to nuke its ultra-valuable (and criminally underrated) Miles & Smiles program with some brutal award rate hikes. Whether you want to fly Turkish Airlines business class, fly up front with another Star Alliance airline over to Europe, or even book a trip to Hawaii and back, some of this airline’s best sweet spots are going sour. Some are going up by nearly 100%. Gulp.
There’s a window to lock in a trip before those higher prices take hold: New award charts are set to take effect this Thursday, Feb. 15. That gives you a few days to scope out the award availability, transfer your points, and book.
But don’t leave it to the last minute. Turkish’s notoriously buggy website and subpar customer service on the phone mean it’s better to get moving sooner rather than later just in case you run into issues. For deals like these, though, it’s well worth it.
Here’s a quick look at some of the best flights you might want to book via Turkish before they cost you much, much more.
Trips to Turkey in Biz Class
Whether you’re a foodie or a history buff, Istanbul is one of the best cities in the world, period. And flying there in Turkish’s own business class seats is one of the best ways to get there.
Today, you can book that seat from more than a dozen U.S. and Canadian cities to Istanbul (or vice versa) for just 45,000 miles each way – plus about $200 and change in taxes and fees. That’s one of the best ways to get anywhere in Europe in business class and a fraction of what most other airlines charge.
Later this week, those same flights will jump to 65,000 miles each way. Booking soon will save you 20,000 points from your stash of Capital One, Citi, or Bilt Rewards. Economy rates are going up, too – from 30,000 miles to 45,000 miles each way – but the business class hikes are far more painful.
And while you should spend time in Istanbul, you can also connect onward throughout Turkey for the same rate. Want to take a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia? Hit the beaches of Bodrum? Soak in the history of Izmir or eat your way around Gaziantep? You can connect to all four (and many more) still for just 45,000 miles each way total.
Oh, and you can also connect onward throughout pretty much anywhere in Europe for that same, 45,000-mile rate, too. Is it the most straightforward way to get to Italy, London, or the Swiss Alps? Hardly. But it’s a darn comfortable way to get there – especially with a pitstop in Turkish’s excellent business class lounges.
Or Fly Turkish to the Middle East & Beyond
Want to fly Turkish business class to the Middle East? It’s even more important to book ASAP.
Thanks to an underlying change in how Turkish prices award flights – it’ll soon add the cost of two segments together – these longer redemptions with connections will get far more expensive. So while you can currently book this business flight from New York City (JFK) to Dubai (DXB) for just 47,000 miles, that’ll soon jump up to 93,000 miles. Ouch.
The same goes for flying from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Muscat (MCT), Boston (BOS) to Abu Dhabi (AUH), and … well, any flight between North America and the Middle East: Booking today or tomorrow will save you a whopping 46,000 points.
Star Alliance Awards to Europe
With few exceptions, using Turkish miles to book any business class ticket across the Atlantic on a Star Alliance airline – be it United Polaris business class, Air Canada, TAP Air Portugal business class, and many more – is the best way to do it. Just like those nonstop flights to Istanbul, it costs you just 45,000 miles each way, no matter where you go. But not for much longer.
Among the many painful increases Turkish is making, this might just be the worst: Star Alliance business class awards to Western Europe will jump from the current 45,000-mile rate all the way to 90,000 miles.
That’s right: This 45,000-mile redemption from Chicago to London-Heathrow (LHR) will soon cost double the Turkish miles.
There are plenty of options to help you cross the pond in style at these rates: United, Air Canada, TAP Air Portugal, and Scandinavian Airlines all fly between the U.S. and Europe – and they’re all bookable via Turkish. Finding award availability to actually book at these rates is typically fairly easy if you’re flexible. Just use United’s old award search tool to get started.
Just do yourself a favor and avoid booking Lufthansa, Swiss, or Austrian using your Turkish miles. While a ride on those airlines in business class still costs 45,000 miles each way, you get killed on additional taxes and fees … to the tune of $1,000 or more. No, thank you.
Hawaii for 15K … Roundtrip!
It’s one of the best deals in the world of points and miles and easily the cheapest way to get to Hawaii using points, too. How bad will it get with Turkish’s looming changes? We’re not sure yet … but it’s certainly not getting better than this.
While it’s a frustrating redemption to pull off, nothing beats flying United Airlines to the islands and back for just 15,000 miles roundtrip – and not just from the West Coast, but from airports nationwide at that rate. In theory, you can also fly business class on those same routes for just 25,000 Turkish miles roundtrip … but in practice, finding award availability to actually book at those rates is next to impossible.
But it could be much worse when the new system kicks in on Feb. 15. If Turkish uses the same logic for connections as in the previous Middle East example, it would bring the price for those same flights from Newark (EWR) to Honolulu (HNL) to 40,000 miles roundtrip – a 166% increase. Turkish hasn’t responded to several requests for clarification.
Tips for Redeeming Turkish Miles
Sweet spots like these (and many more) can make Turkish miles incredibly valuable. But they make you work for it.
Turkish’s finicky website can make even some straightforward redemptions frustrating, requiring several attempts or even a phone call to get something booked. And while their call center agents are plenty friendly, it might take several tries to find the right one who can help you out.
Today, these unbelievable deals are worth the extra work. Come Thursday, Feb. 15, when higher rates kick in, it might be a different story.
Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind to make sure things go as smoothly as possible:
If you haven’t done so already, follow our step-by-step instructions on how to set up a Turkish account. Save yourself some headaches by using the airline’s app instead of its website to register – and remember, their “password” is actually a six-digit PIN.
Start your search for seats with United.com – and use their old award search tool. Even if you’re aiming to fly Turkish, United’s site makes it far easier to find the flights you want.
You might see higher rates through TurkishAirlines.com. The lowest rates you really want are Turkish’s “Promotion Award tickets.” If those aren’t available, you’ll see higher-priced award seats instead.
Transfer your Capital One, Citi, or Bilt points to Turkish once you’ve confirmed you can book the flights you want – and only after you’ve checked. These transfers are a one-way street: You don’t want a bunch of miles stranded with Turkish just when they’re about to get less valuable.
Can’t book online? Call Turkish Airlines at 1-800-874-8875 and prepare to feed them flight numbers, dates, passenger information, and everything else you need to book. There’s also a way to email Turkish to book, but that could take too long.
The clock is ticking on some of the best ways to redeem Turkish miles … and on some of the best ways to redeem miles, period.
Come Feb. 15, Turkish Airlines award rates are going up – in some cases, by a ton. Book your trip to Istanbul, Europe, the Middle East, or even Hawaii before that happens, and save a boatload of miles.
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