Recently I’ve made a few bookings with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles, taking advantage of the domestic award sweet spot. Miles & Smiles can be used to fly to Hawaii for as little as 7,500 miles. It’s an incredible deal.¬†However, I ran into an issue after making each booking.

Book With Partner Miles, Receive Partner “Credit”

When you make a booking with a partner airline, you’ll receive a PNR for both the booking airline as well as any operating airlines. You’ll typically need the operating partner PNR to do things like select seats and manage other aspects of the ticket. Getting this can be a chore sometimes, but not with United. United can easily read the Turkish PNR (and others) and import the trip into my frequent flyer account, allowing me to select seats. Easy peasy.

But what I cannot do online is change the frequent flyer number. Since the ticket was booked with Miles & Smiles, my Turkish Airlines frequent flyer number is what shows in this field. There is no way short of calling to change it. If I’d booked a revenue fare, I would also be earning miles with Turkish instead of United. However, this is an award ticket, so the earning aspect does not matter in this case.

Adding My MileagePlus Number to Reservations

Because I am still a United Premier Silver member through the end of the year, I wanted to change the frequent flyer number to my MileagePlus account. I called up United Airlines to make the change for two different bookings. The primary purpose of this is to receive Premier benefits such as priority boarding and Economy Plus seat selection at check-in. I would also receive my first checked bag for free.

It took 11 minutes, including hold time, to have an agent change the frequent flyer number on both reservations to my MileagePlus number. Once that was completed, it showed up instantly in both reservations online. I was able to change seats on both reservations to “preferred seating”, which was nice. Selection of Economy Plus at time of check-in was also nice, especially for the 5-hour flight to Kona.

But I noticed something else odd. My account was now showing “complimentary upgrade requested”. My understanding has been that since I don’t hold the United MileagePlus Explorer card (I downgraded mine to a no-fee version), I would not be eligible for upgrades on an award ticket. I even wrote about this overlooked benefit about a month ago.

I was surprised to be added to the upgrade list for both my flights. I never had a chance as a Silver member, but it did show me that holding the no-fee United card does more than just give me access to additional award space. You just need to be traveling solo for it to kick in.


It is often important to make sure you have the correct frequent flyer number added to your reservations. Not attaching the correct account, especially on partner tickets, can lead to earning far fewer miles (or miles in a program you don’t use). In this case, I added my United MileagePlus number to receive all the same benefits I normally do. It is unfortunate you have to call, but it is an easy process.