It’s hard to believe it’s been over 3 years since the Turkish Airlines sweet spot first came out, where you can use 7500 Turkish miles to fly one way between anywhere in the US, including Hawaii. We had a family trip planned to Hawaii back in March 2020 so…. yeah…. I’ll let you figure out how that ended up
(SEE ALSO: Canceling my trips due to coronavirus)
But with things (mostly?) back to normal, it was time to get that trip back on the calendar. Plus, my 105,000 Turkish Airlines miles that I originally transferred back in 2019 were set to expire in December 2022, with no reasonable way to extend their expiration.
What is the Turkish Airlines sweet spot
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles has an award chart where it costs 7,500 miles one way for any domestic flights within the United States. This includes trips to Hawaii, which is the most lucrative use of the Turkish Airlines sweet spot, since it’s 1/3 (7500 vs. 22500) of the cost of using United MileagePlus miles to book the exact same United flights.
I did a 1 month trial of AwardLogic for $19.99 to look for flights. I’m not sure if it was worth it just for this trip, since United’s search is pretty good as well, but I was also using it to help find award availability for a couple of other trips as well. If you find Hawaii flights on United.com that say 22,500 miles + $5.60, then that should be available to book with Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles miles (or any Star Alliance or United partner)
We searched a bit (it’s a lot harder to find availability for 7!) and was able to find decent flights that gave us the right amount of time in Hawaii. We are flying economy, though the same process would work for finding business class availability (but it’s probably harder to find dates)
Trying to book online
In theory, you can book these flights online on the Turkish Airlines website. Login to your account, choose “Miles Transactions” and then “Star Alliance Award Ticket”. In practice, I never got anything to show up. Even on dates where United had availability, I would always get the following error:
I tried searching for shorter tickets, nonstops, whatever. I occasionally got flights to show up, but nothing that gave me any sort of rhyme or reason why it would work.
Emailing Turkish Airlines
So the next step was emailing the Turkish Airlines sales offices with my booking request to put it on hold. I emailed a few of them and then after I got no response, I literally emailed every single one. I got mostly no responses, a few people said “call the call center” but I did eventually get one response where the agent put my reservation on hold. I am not sharing which one because I think it’s random who chooses to respond and I don’t want this office to get flooded with responses.
Based on my experience actually trying to pay for the reservation (see below) it may make sense to just call the call center to do it, though that might require preemptively transferring your points over to Turkish (this wasn’t an issue for me because I already had 105,000 Miles&Smiles miles in my account)
Call 1 – 37 minutes
With that information all set, I called the Turkish Airlines call center. There was definitely a language barrier with the agent I got on the phone. I try not to be too frustrated about this, since clearly English is not their first language and I should probably be glad I don’t have to learn Turkish to book this flight. Though, to be fair, IMO I do speak a second language better than this lady’s English :-). A few snippets
- Her: Can I get the month for the birth date?
- Me: April
- Her: No, I need the month, like February, March…
- Me: April.
There were a few instances like this. She got all of our birthdates, then sent me to the weird automated credit card payment system. I put in my card information to pay the $39.20. Then she sent me to the automated place to pay with miles. It asked me for my PIN and at first I didn’t know what it was, but then I finally got it correct.
But she said there was still a problem. She tried for a few times and then said (I think?) that there was a problem with the birthdates for the last 3 passengers, I would have to call the sales office, and that she didn’t have a phone number for them.
Sigh….. The only thing I could think of was that the last 3 passengers were kids, so maybe they needed to be booked as Children tickets instead of Adult tickets (not that anyone will check that but maybe?) So I emailed the sales office again and she was able to adjust those as Children tickets.
Call 2 – 41 minutes
So the next day it was time to try again. Thankfully this person had much better English. We were zooming through the birthdates, I paid my $39.20 in taxes (again) and then put in my Turkish Airlines PIN for the miles but there was a problem. She said there was missing information, so she requested everyone’s passport information. I thought that was silly since it was a domestic flight, and I can’t imagine that you would need to have them but whatever, I just gave her the information. Then she asked for email address and phone number. I gave her that and we tried again. I ended up putting in my PIN like 7 or 8 times but finally it just decided to work. I got 14 emails and a ton of text messages all at once – my phone was blowing up.
So with one half booked, I got cocky and tried to book the other half of the trip. I’m not sure why I didn’t book it all as one reservation – call it a rookie mistake. I gave her all the birthdates and passport numbers again, but there kept being a problem with “missing information” that was causing the tickets not to book.
She ended the call with saying there was missing information and something was wrong and to call back in 5 minutes. That sounded suspiciously like “please call back later and hopefully someone else will pick up the phone”. But I had no choice, so I hung up
Calls 3 through 7 – now it’s just getting ridiculous
Now it just started getting ridiculous. As you can see above, I made a LOT of $39.20 purchases on my Venture X card. I’m actually surprised I never had any rejected as fraudulent. Thankfully it does look like I am correctly getting rebated for the purchases that never made it.
Here’s a readout of my call log
- Saturday 10/22 – 28 minute call
- Monday 10/24 – 14 minute call
- Monday 10/24 – 31 minute call
- Tuesday 10/25 – 9 minute call – at this point my initial reservation had expired (I think they’re good for 72 hours), so I emailed the sales office again and it took a few days before they responded and gave me a new PNR.
- Friday 10/28 = 25 minute call
Call 8 – 23 minute call (for the win!)
After failure on Friday night, the agent (again) said that there was a problem with the account information. He said that he would check this with his supervisor but his shift was ending (it was about 5pm so 1am Turkey time). I asked if we could just book a brand new reservation (there was still award space showing on United) but he said he couldn’t do it before his shift ended. He said he would call me the next day when his shift started at 3:30pm (7:30am US time)
Did he call me Saturday morning? No, dear reader, he did not.
I mean I wasn’t actually EXPECTING him to call me, but anyways Saturday morning I picked up the phone to once more go into the breach. I tried to explain to the agent that there was a problem with my trying to book the reservation but he didn’t seem to understand and insisted on just taking me through the regular process. I dutifully entered my credit card information and then award account PIN. It didn’t work.
He then suggested that he was going to work on changing my PIN. I tried to tell him there was nothing wrong with my PIN and that the previous agent had said there was something wrong with the account. The agent looked and said that the passport information was missing. He also kept saying “I am taking control of the reservation”. I assume that was some sort of Turkish phrase that does not transfer directly to English, so I wonder what it was that he kept trying to say :-).
I was suggesting we try to book a new reservation but he said there was nothing wrong with the reservation. I gave him all of our passports (again) and he sent me back to the miles PIN payment IVR.
And then…. it just worked?!?!? I really have no idea why it worked this time as it was literally the same thing I did on every other call. The only thoughts I have as POSSIBILITIES are that I have one kid who is under 12 (a “child” ticket). While there is no change in price, that was one thing that was sort of mentioned on some of the calls. The other thought was that one of my kids has a passport that starts with a letter (rather than all numbers). So maybe that was causing a problem depending on how they entered it in? I’m not sure since obviously the passport information is not checked anywhere, and as expected, did not transfer over to the United bookings.
Was it worth it?
Was all of this hassle worth it to book flights for 1/3 of the cost (7500 vs 22500 miles) of using United miles? Maybe? Probably? But was it worth it to use up my 105,000 expiring Turkish Miles&Smiles miles? Definitely!
Have you booked the Turkish Airlines sweet spot in 2022 or recently? Leave your experience in the comments
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