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I’ve been hearing a lot of sweet spot deals with Turkish Airlines such as 7,500 each way to fly to Hawaii, or 45,000 miles one way to Europe in business class. I had an idea which credit card miles and points that transfer to Turkish Airlines, but I just haven’t had the opportunity to book with them.
What I knew prior to booking
I had visited the Turkish Airlines website many times within the last two years. There are sweet spots with Turkish Airlines that got me interested. For instance, using 7,500 miles one way to Hawaii. That’s a steal in my books. Due to my curiosity, I created a Turkish Miles and Smiles account. so when the time comes, I’d be ready to transfer points to Turkish Airlines. So yes, I guess you could say, I had been interested in booking with Turkish Airlines for awhile, and it became a mission to try and do this.
I was warned about Turkish Airlines
I’ve read many challenges that others had faced in dealing with Turkish Airlines. Many had complained about the reps being rude. Others mentioned that the reps were just simply difficult to understand. I would hear sarcastic remarks “Good luck booking with Turkish.” I’ve read of others emailing Turkish Airlines to place their booking requests via email. And I’ve heard of stories where people had to call Turkish Airlines numerous times to book their trip.
But I was determined. I wanted to be THAT guy…THAT guy who will defy all these not-so-positive experiences. I wanted to give Turkish Airlines a chance. Thanks to my one-on-one Facebook and Instagram LIVE interview with one of my supporters, Michael Zirk. He had his recent booking with Turkish Airlines, he did warn me that there were issues along the way, but Mike successfully booked his party of six. And I was, let’s just say, inspired. After the interview with Mike on Saturday morning, I prepared myself. I was determined to book something the following day.
Welcome to my pet project
Yes, this became my pet project. I was asked if I entertained the idea of booking with other airlines. To be honest, I probably checked with Flying Blue and United, but not much else. I was convinced that I wanted to give Turkish Airlines a try. I wanted to be that guy, that guy that who will not have any issues with their booking. Yes, It was a tall order. But I was determined.
The booking process in my mind
In a perfect world, this was my gameplan in booking with Turkish
- Check award availability using Turkish Airlines website, or United Airlines website
- Jot down the flight information (date, flight number, # of points or miles required), include other flights as back-up in case your first choice does not work
- Call Turkish Airlines and inquire if seats are available for the flights I wrote down
- If available, request Turkish Airlines to HOLD the reservations, they should give you a confirmation or reservation # (or letters)
- Once reservations are on hold, transfer the amount of points from your credit card program to your Turkish Airlines account
- Once transferred, book your trip online using TK website
- If that does not work, call Turkish Airlines and speak to a rep and book
- Pay the fees using a credit card
That’s how I envisioned for this process to work. Easy, right?
So now let me tell you exactly what happened.
Getting my ducks in a row
Although this was my very first ever booking with Turkish Airlines, I had already created my own account with them which is Turkish Miles and Smiles account. The thing to remember with that account, when it comes to the password, it was quite specific that it needed to be a six-digit password. Trust me on this. REMEMBER THAT PASSWORD or remember those six digits. You’re going to need them.
You will obviously need to make sure that you know your account number. The Turkish Miles and Smiles Account Number begins with a TK+9 digits. When dealing with them on the phone, you only have to give the 9-digits (excluding the TK). I learned the hard way.
Know your miles and points budget
What do I mean by that? I’ve Google’d and reviewed a few blog entries out there regarding the best ways to book Turkish Airlines to Europe. One of the best deals is a one-way business class seat for 45,000 miles (other days, that goes for 107,500 miles one way) from the US to Europe. So I knew to look for dates with 45,000 miles. I was not looking for economy. But if you are interested in economy flight, it’s 30,000 miles.
Going back to my points budget, my plan was to fly on business class round trip. And the breakdown looks like this:
- Passenger 1: 45,000 miles each way x 2 = 90,000 miles
- Passenger 2: 45,000 miles each way x 2 = 90,000 miles
- Total # of miles needed: 180,000 miles for 2 passengers + fees
Which credit card miles and points transfer to Turkish Airlines
There are three credit card points program that transfer to Turkish Airlines:
- Citi ThankYou Rewards
- Citi Premier
- Citi Rewards+
- Citi Custom Cash
- Capital One Miles
- Marriott Bonvoy Points
- BILT Rewards – BILT is one of the credit cards that came out within the past couple of years. When you ask the typical huge expense, the answer is pretty standard – rent and mortgage. This is where BILT comes in – you can earn points when you pay rent.
Why you shouldn’t transfer your points right away
I happen to have points from all the programs listed above, so it was just a matter of doing the actual transfer that was needed. What I wasn’t sure of was the transfer time. If it was going to take a few days or if it was going to be instant. Although I knew that I needed 180,000 miles, I did NOT transfer right away. Why? Two reasons:
- Once the points are transferred from my credit card to Turkish Airlines, the points will reside with Turkish and if I don’t find flight availability, there’s no undoing. I can’t move my points back from Turkish back to my credit card points program
- I also wanted to give Turkish Airlines a call first, to ensure the flights are available. I also wanted to find out if they could HOLD the reservations for me. I’ve read that they could put your reservations on hold up to three days, thus giving me some time for the points to transfer.
How to search United Airlines website to find Turkish Airlines flights
Why do this? This website gives you a 30-day window view. You will be able to see at-a-glance the days with lowest fares. The key thing about award flights is flexibility. If your dates are set, and you can’t travel outside those dates, that could limit your options. So be flexible. For this example, we are looking for availability on days that show 77K + $10 fees (one way). The idea here is NOT to book with United. You are only using United to search for Turkish Airlines flights.
- Go to United website
- Click Advanced Search
- Select the # in your party
- One Way (I prefer choosing one way segments)
- Flexible Dates (pick the month when you want to travel)
- Cabin: Business
- Show flights from All Star Alliance airlines
- Click Find Flights
- If you have a United Airlines account, DO NOT sign in to your account
When you choose Flexible Dates, you will get a 30-day view similar to the one below. Keep your eyes on the ones with low fares. I noticed that the ones that show 77K + $10 are the ones for Turkish Airlines Business Class.
Select the date that works for you. For this example, I clicked on Sept 19.
- Remember, you need the flight details.
- Click on the DETAILS under the flight times
- The info will be expanded giving you complete details – time, airports, connection time, flight #
- You will also notice under the GREEN circle…it shows Business (I)…that means Business Saver award.
- Once you have the flight info….that’s all you will need from the United Website.
Search available flights via Turkish Airlines website
But for this particular booking I just used the Turkish Airlines website directly. I had specific dates in mind, and I was booking exactly a year out. This is doable BUT you will have to search for available dates one day at a time. Unlike the United Website, it shows you a 30-day window.
To search from Turkish Airlines website (using a desktop computer),
- Check the box “Award ticket – Buy a ticket with miles” (that takes you to a new window)
- Sign in with your Turkish Airlines account
- Enter your airports, dates, and cabin type (for me, I chose One Way)
- Pick the date/s you want to travel (if you found your date from the United site, enter the date here)
- Pick # of travelers (if more than one in your party, just search for 1, clicking 2 or more, I got this message “The first award ticket can only be issued under your name. If you want to have it issued for a loved one, please contact the nearest sales office.”)
- If you’re lucky, you’ll find something like this where it showed lots of flights in business class for 45,000 miles
- Click the flight times that work for you, and jot everything down.
My first option was to fly from Los Angeles to Athens, but I kept checking on my desired dates, and the only flights I found were charging 107,500 one per person. That’s not gonna fly…literally. I wanted business class seats for 45,000 miles per person each way. So I decided to find flights out of EWR (Newark) or IAH (Houston). Luckily, I found lots of availability from IAH-ATH (Houston to Athens) at 45,000 miles one way per person. I noted the dates of the flights, flight times, airports, etc. and the fees. These were the key things I needed when I called Turkish Airlines.
Ok, let’s pause. My home airport is LAX – Los Angeles International Airport. “Jason, isn’t it going to cost you extra to fly out of Houston?” That’s a fair question and an easy assumption. My travel buddy, Chris J. said, “We call it “positioning”. If the flight doesn’t come to you, you go to the flight!”
This move has been done by us, and many who fly to a major airport to catch a better flight deal. That’s exactly what I’m doing. My plan is to book with Southwest Airlines and fly me and my wife from Los Angeles to Houston. I have a Southwest Companion Pass meaning, I will pay for my flights using cash or points + fees of $11.20. My wife will only pay the fees of $11.20 and that’s round trip.
The World Series of phone calls with Turkish Airlines.
Once I had the flight information handy, I began my trek in calling Turkish Airlines on Sunday at 11am. The phone # to call was 800-874-8875. First of all, to my knowledge, Turkish Airlines call center is available 24/7. The easiest part was getting my call transferred to a rep.
This is where the fun began (depending on your perspective). Remember, I’ve been forewarned of the difficulty with booking with Turkish Airlines. Without joking, I must’ve called over 10 times in a span of 5 hours from 11am through 4pm. No, it was not on ONE phone call. It was a series of calls.
The first two times I called, the first rep kept asking for my booking or reservation number when I had none, she put me on hold, and then it was dead air, no click….next thing you know, I just heard a dial tone.
The second call, the rep understood what I needed, advised me that he could reserve the tickets for me and placed my reservation on hold for me. He began gathering my info, placed me on hold….dead silent again…..dial tone. This must’ve gone on 4-6 other times. Mind you, these reps were all very helpful (except one rep who was quite dismissive). These reps understood what I needed, but for some odd reason, every time I was placed on hold, the system just dropped the calls. These reps spoke English that I was able to understand clearly. The issue had nothing to do with language barrier. But it was their phone system that failed.
Putting our tickets on hold
I finally reached another rep, her name was Betum. Before putting our tickets on hold, Betum stated that the system could give me a few hours of hold time, or up to three days. She wouldn’t know the length of my ticket hold until she actually submitted the request. We agreed to move forward. In this case, I was given 3 days of hold time. I called on October 23 around 12 noon, and I was given until 12 noon on October 26 to finalize my reservation. Great.
Finally, I was able to reserve or put our tickets on hold for our business class flights. Here’s the breakdown:
IAH-ATH = 45,000 miles + $212 USD
ATH- IAH = 45,000 miles + $256 USD
Total per person = 90,000 miles + $468 USD taxes/fees
Total for two passengers = 180,000 miles + $936
Value of the two round business class tickets = $23,394
Remember, at this stage, I had not finalized the booking yet. This was just putting my reservation on hold. I still had work to do.
How to transfer points to Turkish Airlines
One of the reps advised me to transfer the points to my Turkish Miles and Smiles account and then I could book my ticket and my wife’s ticket. This is where it was important to know your Turkish Miles and Smiles account number. Let’s say that your account # is:
TK123456789 (this is just an example)
Citi ThankYou Points Transfer
I needed a total of 180,000 points to transfer to my Turkish Miles & Smiles account. I went to my Citi account, and transferred 110,000 points. Once signed in to your Citi account:
- Click on Rewards & Offers
- Click Citi ThankYou Rewards
- Click on Travel
- Click Points Transfer
- Scroll down until you see Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles, click Continue
- Enter the amount you want to transfer in increments of 1,000
- Enter your Turkish Miles & Smiles account #….with Citi you need the whole account # including TK (i.e. TK123456789)
- You will be asked to review and confirm, and once ready…submit
I checked my Turkish account immediately, and guess what? The points were transferred INSTANTLY.
Capital One Miles Transfer
Again, I needed a total of 180,000 points to book our trip. I had successfully transferred 110,000 points from Citi. I still needed another 70,000 points. Not to worry. I have more points with Capital One. Once signed in to your Capital One account:
- Click on Rewards Miles
- Click Discover Travel
- Click Convert Rewards
- Scroll down until you see Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles, click Transfer Miles
- You will see a pop-up window where you need to enter your Turkish Miles and Smiles Account #
At first I entered my full account number (something like this TK123456789). It kept on giving me an error message. Then I realized, what if I excluded TK, and just entered the digits. It worked. So with Capital One, no need to enter the full account number with the leading TK….just the 9-digit account number.
Shortly after, I checked my Turkish account. Boom. The transfer from Capital One was also INSTANT. I now have 180,000 miles in my Turkish Airlines account.
The struggles with finalizing my booking
Website prevented me from going to the payment screen
Once my points were transferred to Turkish, I saw an option to manage my booking. I specifically booked two one-way bookings for this trip. The website was doing fine, I was able to choose my seats, but I couldn’t get to the payment screen. I tried 3-4 times to do this online and failed.
My PIN code was not recognized by their phone system
The comedy of errors continued. I spoke with a rep who was very helpful, and once I gave my account number, we reviewed the itinerary, and everything looked good. We got to the payment process. It was a two-part process. First, I had to pay the taxes and fees. Next I had to pay for the trip using my miles. I had to be transferred to a secured extension to process the payment. It was not a payment that was taken by a live rep. It was via an automated system. The credit card payment process was straightforward. It asked for the card number, expiration date, and 3 digit code. Done. No issues.
Once the fees were paid, the rep came back on the phone, and then transferred me to another automated system for the points transfer. I was asked to enter my PIN. So I entered my PIN. The system did not recognize my six-digit PIN. We tried 3 times and failed, and I was sent back to the live rep. The rep advised that we try it again….so I did. And again, it failed. The rep then noticed that there was another name on my account, and he knew the name was not part of my travel party. So I was placed on hold……dead silent…..got disconnected…AGAIN. Ugghhh!!!
Typo on my Turkish account number
I called again, spoke with another helpful rep. I explained the situation. She understood and apologized profusely. She did see the “other” name on my reservation (a Turkish name), and she said she needed to correct it and remove it…..I was placed on hold….dead silent again……disconnected…..I kid you not. Ready to give up. No. Not me. I was heavily invested already I was not about to give up.
Error in entering my wife’s gender
I called again….explained everything again…..this rep did not see the third unknown name anymore which was good. BUT…..she noticed that the rep who entered my wife’s info made an error on her gender. They had her down as a Mister. So that needed to be changed….placed me on hold. Shocker. I was not disconnected. But I had been scarred so many times when the reps would place me on hold. Every time there was silence, I had to keep asking the rep if she was still on.
Resetting my PIN
She then learned that I had trouble with my PIN. So she sent me an email to reset my PIN. I got the email and I was able to reset my PIN. However, she said, because I now have a new PIN, that she would need to call me back, and promised me that she would do so within 5 minutes. We hung up….and guess what….she never called. Ugghhhhhhhhhh I called back again.
Turkish Airlines could not process my points redemption
This must be over 10 calls by now. I started at 11am, it was 2:30pm when I got another rep, Amina. She carefully worked with me. She noticed that my fees were already paid. The issue now, while Turkish Airlines could see that I had transferred 180,000 miles that were sitting in my account, their system could not extract the points to be used for my award redemption. Amina offered to check with IT and that she would try again “later” during her shift if she could process my booking. I told her that I would prefer if we got this fixed during my phone call with her. She placed me on hold. I was not disconnected, and when she came back, whatever she did….it worked. Turkish Airlines was able to finally redeem my points.
Amina reviewed my entire booking, and I confirmed everything. While I was still on the phone with her, she sent me my Electronic Tickets (my e-Ticket). Yes, we were ticketed. Finally!
What I learned during my 5-hours of dealing with Turkish Airlines
Best to have all your ducks in a row
It was so much easier to have the following information handy and readily available:
- Turkish Miles and Smiles Account Number
- PIN code
- Booking Reference Code or PNR
- Details of the flight information (time, dates, flight number, destinations)
- Back-up flight choices
- Spelling your name phonetically (A as in Alpha, B as in Bravo, C as in Charlie, etc)
- Credit card information
- A computer in front of you, or a smartphone (but for me, I had my laptop)
- A cordless phone or cell phone, fully charged or connected to a charging cable
Book your trip when you have the “time”
When I decided to start the process at 11am, I had no idea that it would take 5 hours to go through what I just went through. I suggest doing then when you have no distractions. Otherwise, when you’re distracted, you could easily just put it off and start all over again. This is NOT something I would advise to call Turkish Airlines while you’re on the road.
The phone representatives never gave me an issue
I can honestly say that while my booking took 5 hours of nonstop comedic actions, many of the issues that took place were caused by their phone system. The reps I worked with were very pleasant, helpful, apologetic, and had the sense of urgency. It was just unfortunate that their phone system failed me, and I had to jump through hoops to book my tickets.
Get the representative to understand the issues you’ve had
I have a feeling the reps are aware that their airline does not have the best reputation when folks deal with their customer service. To gain their trust, once a rep picked up my call, I asked him or her to please spell their names for me, this was I could also address them with their first name. Without hesitation, most of my calls started with me stating, “I really hope you can help me. This is my X # of times calling Turkish Airlines and I kept getting disconnected. I hope you could help me complete my booking.” At that point, not that I was looking for special treatment, but I wanted the rep to know how much I wanted to get this done, and they were then determined to try their best to help me through my booking.
Manage your expectations
I did not have very high expectations. I expected to get rude customer service. I anticipated struggling with reps with heavy foreign accent. I expected to be extremely disappointed, It was a good thing that I had no high expectations because everything that was thrown at me, I was able to dodge and overcame those obstacles.
What happened to me may not happen to you
Yes, while I shared with you all the obstacles, my goal is to prepare you for the unexpected. If you get disconnected, call back. If you have to reset your PIN, make sure to have your computer or smartphone in front of you. If you get a rude rep, don’t waste your time. Move on. If you have to, HUCA, hang up and call again. If you can’t understand the rep, just be patient. English is not their first language. You are trying to understand them just as much as they’re trying to understand you.
That’s all folks
I hope I’ve been able to shed light on how to book your business class flights with Turkish Airlines. If you come across any hurdles, or have a great success story, please share them with me and my Facebook group page – Daddy Travels Miles & Points.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.