It’s no secret that Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is one of my favorite airline loyalty programs. With phenomenal pricing for domestic tickets (including Hawaii and Alaska), I’ve made a good number of bookings over the past year. The value has always been fantastic, especially for last-minute United transcontinental business class. Amazingly, all of my tickets until now have panned out, and yesterday was my first time canceling a Miles and Smiles award.
Yet things haven’t been a cakewalk with Turkish. This is both a blessing and a curse. It means putting in some legwork to get your awards ticketed, but the difficulty serves as a barrier of entry for the lazies.
Turkish Airlines Award Booking Issues: A Brief History
You originally had to book Turkish awards by emailing a ticket office. Then you were able to book over the phone, followed by some limited options online. Everything has been hit or miss this whole time. Phone bookings worked seamlessly for me the first few times. There were a couple small issues, like specific United segments not showing as available on their end. But it was manageable. I got nearly everything ticketed via a 15-minute phone call. I’ll happily take that to save 5,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on the route.
But then phone bookings died, at least for a while. I was directed to book via a ticket office.
It took some trial and error to find a ticket office in the U.S. that was responsive to my emails, but they were my go-to once I did. Until COVID-19 hit. Since late June, the office hasn’t responded to my two inquiries about award tickets. Maybe they’ve closed up shop. Or maybe I’ve annoyed them sufficiently that they just don’t want to deal with me.
In any case, booking by email saves only part of the time. You still have to pay by phone, which is tedious, and sometimes the Turkish system throws errors. I’ve experienced the “please call us back in a few hours” more than once. I wonder if it is the standard script.
Currently, you can book tickets over the phone and online, although I find that nothing I ever need shows up online, or the website throws an error in the process. Calling Turkish Airlines at 1 (800) 874-8875 is still my MO.
Only thing is…canceling a phone-booked award is something I hadn’t had to do. I had a ticket that I needed to cancel for weeks, and delayed as long as possible. But yesterday I finally called them up.
My Experience Canceling a Miles and Smiles Award
Months ago I booked an award for the Miles to Memories Diamond Group meetup in Detroit in September. It was an ideal one-stop ticket: ACV-DEN-DTW.
But two things happened. One, United axed the ACV-DEN flight for the time being. I was then routed via San Francisco and Denver, with a much earlier departure. Then the Detroit meetup was axed entirely due to COVID-19. Gotta cancel that ticket.
After reading about various difficulties with booking, chancing, or canceling Turkish awards, I had some apprehension about needing to cancel. My flight was substantially changed, with an additional segment inserted into the itinerary. My expectation was that I’d get all my miles and money back without a fee. Even if Turkish did require a fee, it is only $25.
Calling up Turkish, I got an excellent agent. I explained the situation after feeding her the confirmation number. I explained that I either wanted to a) change my flight to a completely new date, origin, and destination, or b) cancel this itinerary and book a new one. It was clear which would be easier: canceling and rebooking a new ticket.
The cancellation was surprisingly quick and painless. I had to confirm my name, the origin and destination, date of travel, and first four plus last four of my card number. Luckily, I knew which card I’d used to book. The miles were instantly back in my account, and the refund will hit my card within a week.
Rebooking Isn’t Quite as Easy
After the easy cancellation, I had the agent start a new booking. This was for a single segment from SFO-ACV, and I had the exact flight pulled up at united.com. There was X-class space available, so the economy award should show in their system. After a minute of inputting info, she had no trouble finding the seat.
Turkish awards can be a pain to finalize. They are tedious, at a minimum. I had to provide things like passport number, which makes no sense, given that this is an entirely domestic flight. But…much of the airline’s business is international, and they’ll likely end up with an error trying to book if you don’t include this.
After confirming name, date, origin, destination, passport number, home address, phone number, and other info, the agent was able to create the reservation. Then it was on to the payment system.
This is where we had issues. She and I tried the credit card input twice, but the itinerary wouldn’t ticket. I got the “call us back in a few hours” response. Needing to go through security, I didn’t fight it and just thanked her and jumped off the call.
I called Turkish the next day and was connected within 5 minutes. The second call took 25 minutes and two tries with the payment system, but I was able to get the itinerary ticketed.
Was it worth the trouble for this award? Probably not. I thought about leaving the miles in my account for another use. But it was easy enough to remain on the line after the cancellation to make another booking. The alternative is 6,500 LifeMiles and $30.60 for the trip. The $25 sounded like a better savings than 1,000 miles.
But I don’t think it was worth a cumulative 40 minutes of my life. I’ll happily invest time for miles savings, but there isn’t any real savings here.
I penned this to be transparent about my experiences with Turkish. Overall, I still really like the program. It has provided amazing value for me. But there are definitely issues, and it can be a hassle at times. They haven’t burned me yet like LifeMiles, and I’m hoping to keep it that way.
How about you…do you have any interesting experiences canceling a Miles and Smiles award?