I’ve gotten excellent value out of the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program over the past few years. Ever since learning about their U.S. domestic award sweet spot, I’ve ticketed several trips on United Airlines for just 7,500 miles. It is a fantastic deal. Along with using LifeMiles, booking United tickets using Miles and Smiles is a top option.
But it is also one that is difficult to ticket to pull off these days. There are multiple idiosyncrasies to be aware of, both when calling Turkish Airlines to book awards and when booking a ticket through the website. I thought I’d provide a condensed list of pointers after recent problematic ticketing experiences with Turkish.
Booking United Tickets Using Miles And Smiles
My main pointers for booking United tickets using Miles and Smiles:
- Search segment by segment. This is how I operate with Turkish these days. Sometimes I’ll give a connecting itinerary a whirl at first, but especially if I’m looking for a long intercontinental business class leg, I just try to figure out if they show award space. A segment at a time is easiest.
- Available award space may be less than what the United website shows. When searching initially, I actually use the United website first. It’s quicker and better. But do not log in. You need to find either “X” (economy) or “I” (business” class award space. However, sometimes even when United shows X-class space, Turkish can’t see it.
- Ticket using the website as a first try. This often isn’t possible, but give it a try. Calling Turkish Airlines isn’t for the faint of heart. The minimum call time, even if things go smoothly from start to finish, is 20 minutes. Since I always am booking a connection to or from my tiny home airport, I’ve yet to book an itinerary online. Most searches won’t pull up connecting itineraries. [UPDATE: I’ve since booked a nonstop ACV-DEN flight seamlessly through the Turkish Airlines website].
- Provide each individual flight you want to ticket to the phone agent segment by segment by carrier and flight number. This is the only way I have been able to ticket itineraries that don’t show up on the website. Sometimes, when providing just origin and destination, the agent will tell me that it isn’t available. Hint: if you can pull up each segment on the Turkish website individually, they should be able to build it into a single itinerary.
- Make sure your ticket name matches exactly to your account. I’ve managed to pull off ticketing itineraries with Miles & Smiles from a different account, but this is quite difficult. You have to be extremely specific with the agents. If the ticket name does not match your full name on your Miles & Smiles account, you will not be able to debit the needed Miles and Smiles, and it won’t be ticketed. The whole system is automated, which means the Turkish rep can’t help you. He or she will then be confused as to why things aren’t working. Be prepared to be told to HUCA later. But it won’t work the second time, either. You’ll have to recreate the whole reservation, which is a major pain.
- Speak slowly and clearly. None of the agents speak English as their first language (at least none I’ve gotten). I find slowing down helps tremendously. They do know the airline phonetic alphabet, which I always use when relaying the record locator.
- Be patient. The agents are real people. Some are super helpful and seems to have a decent knowledge about how their system works. Others are clearly clueless and/or have zero passion for their job. Sometimes it’s been worth a HUCA to get a better agent.
This is still a sweet spot I love to exploit, though. For a trip in December, I’m getting 3.0 cents per mile for an economy flight. This is downright amazing. Booking United tickets using Miles and Smiles also lets me save my Ultimate Rewards points for other uses.
Booking with United MileagePlus is easy. But if you’re not swimming in points and willing to do some legwork, it’s well worth it. Even more so if you can ticket business class itineraries for just 12,500 domestically.