Booking a Turkish Miles & Smiles award for a friend

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I’ve long found the Turkish Miles & Smiles program to be highly intriguing, ever since the day several years ago when we first broke the news that it’s possible to fly all the way to Hawaii for 7,500 miles. But as exciting as Turkish Miles & Smiles can be for some of its sweet spots, it can be equally if not more so frustrating. One specific frustration people have come across is in trying to book tickets for others online. I was recently successful booking a ticket for a friend on a Turkish Airlines itinerary and thought it was worth sharing some notes.

a man wearing a hat and glasses

Booking an award ticket for others is easy with most airline programs

For those who are less familiar with award programs, it is worth mentioning that it is with most airline loyalty programs, it is very simple to use your airline miles book an award ticket for someone else, whether or not you’ll be traveling with them. With few exceptions, you can book a ticket for anyone to fly anywhere with or without you, whether you’re booking online or on the phone.

A couple of programs require that you only book for family members or people whom you specifically identify in advance, but those instances are the exceptions rather than the norm and even in those cases it is still possible for you to book online for someone else who is not traveling with you (you just may be restricted as to which people you can choose).

Adding a Turkish Miles & Smiles companion online

Turkish Miles & Smiles is an exception to the exceptions when it comes to booking a ticket for someone with whom you are not traveling. Whereas I could use my American Airlines miles or Avianca LifeMiles to book a ticket for almost anyone, needing only to enter passenger information during the checkout process, Turkish Miles & Smiles does not let you enter passenger information for another person without first registering them as a “companion”.

While Singapore Airlines also requires you to register “nominees” for whom you will book award tickets, I’m not immediately aware of many other major programs that require this and I don’t recall it being particularly difficult to figure out how to do that with Singapore. By contrast, you have to hunt a bit to figure out how to do it with Turkish.

To register a potential “companion” (i.e. someone for whom you would like to book an award), you must log in to your Miles & Smiles account. Then, hover over your name in the top right corner and select “My personal details”.

a screenshot of a website
Don’t you find it intuitive that “My personal details” is where you go to enter the personal information of others?

Next, scroll down a bit and you’ll find a section on the left titled “My Companions”. There is a link below the black box here that says “Add another passenger”.

a screenshot of a cell phone

From there, you’ll be prompted to enter passenger details. Thankfully, as you see above, there are easy buttons to “edit” after entering passenger info, so don’t sweat it if you make a mistake entering info.

a screenshot of a computer

You’ll need to repeat this process for anyone for whom you’d like to be able to book an award ticket online, but you can always go back and add more companions later.

Using Turkish Miles & Smiles to book a Star Alliance award for someone else isn’t possible online (but it may be through other avenues)

Unfortunately, the above process will not make it possible to book a Star Alliance award for someone else online. If you’re looking to book a domestic United flight for someone else, you won’t be able to do that online unless you are traveling with that person(s).

For a moment, I thought I’d conquered that limitation. During the process of booking an award ticket, it asks you to select the traveler(s) from a list that includes your name and the names of your identified “companions”. However, if you choose someone other than the primary Miles & Smiles member and that primary Miles & Smiles member is not traveling, you’ll get an error message before moving to the next step saying that “It is not possible to book Star Alliance awards for non-members.”

I first caught the fact that it says it is not possible to book an award for a “non-member”. I took this to mean that the person I’d identified as a companion needed to be a Miles & Smiles member. I was testing this concept with a ticket for a family member before moving on to help a friend. I helped my family member sign up for a Miles & Smiles account to add their Turkish Miles & Smiles number to the Companion info (thanks to the handy “edit” button on the companions) only to run into the same error when trying to book.

Booking a ticket for someone traveling without the primary member may be possible through avenues other than the website. While booking a Star Alliance award over the phone can be a total crapshoot at best and what feels like an exercise in improv comedy at worst (with agents making up increasingly hilarious explanations about why they can’t help you book an award on United), booking via email continues to be a relatively painless experience (you just need to email multiple ticket offices since you don’t know which ones(s) will reply).

Years ago, after booking my first solo ticket to Hawaii and writing about it, I booked tickets via email for my wife, my son, her sister, and her sister’s husband. They were traveling without me (they flew ahead to meet me in New Zealand for the last leg of my 40K to Far Away trip and accompany me to Niue). Again, I booked their tickets after having already booked a ticket for myself, but their travel actually occurred before mine. I mention that because I think people have reported in the past that they were unable to book travel for others without having ever booked travel for the primary account holder. If that is indeed a requirement, based on my experience, it would at least theoretically be possible for the primary Miles & Smiles account holder to book a flight for himself/herself for travel far in the future, then book a ticket for others, and later cancel the far-in-the-future ticket for the $25 award cancellation fee. I don’t know that would work, but based on my experience I don’t have reason to think it wouldn’t work (though I did not cancel my flight of course).

It’s worth mentioning that policies could have changed at Turkish Miles & Smiles; I haven’t attempted booking for someone else via email since that initial experience a couple of years ago. But at the very least, I know it was possible for a ticket office agent to make a booking when I wasn’t a passenger on the itinerary. The nice thing about Turkish is that you can put an itinerary on hold before transferring miles, so you can try the email method to book for others and only transfer miles if you get an itinerary put on hold.

Once a ticket office puts the itinerary on hold via email, they’ll give you the confirmation number and ask you to submit payment information. That request for payment information is kind of crazy — they want pictures of your ID and credit card sent via email — but you can instead just call the call center and say that you have an itinerary on hold that you’d like to ticket and give them the confirmation number and pay over the phone. Beware that you’ll need your Miles & Smiles account “PIN”, which appears to be your all-numbers account password. To add a bit of fun, the phone system often rejects credit cards for no clear reason (a friend recently told me that it took 3 attempts – with the same credit card – for a payment to go through. I’ve more than once switched cards a time or two looking for one that will go through. Usually, the third time is the charm).

All this is to say that it should be possible to book a Star Alliance award for others, but not easy or intuitive.

You can book a Turkish Miles & Smiles award online for a friend traveling on Turkish Airlines without you

A friend has been having trouble logging into his Turkish Miles & Smiles account this week. That’s unfortunate since Turkish is running a sale for 30% off on some award tickets and that friend had found the perfect itinerary for a trip to the US from Jordan to Seattle for just 32,900 miles and about $380 in business class. The good news is that I was able to successfully book a ticket for him and his wife using my Turkish Miles & Smiles miles.

I initially thought this couldn’t be done since I’d run into the error above when trying to book a ticket for my father-in-law. However, it dawned on me that I had focused on the wrong part of the error: it said that booking a Star Alliance award for a “non-member” (i.e. not the primary Miles & Smiles account holder) was not possible. That inferred that booking a non-Star Alliance award — in other words, an award for travel on Turkish Airlines-operated flights — might be possible.

Sure enough, it is.

I had to first add my friend and his wife to my list of companions (I now have 7 “companions”. I don’t know if there is a limit). After adding them to my list of companions, I searched for a Turkish award. Note that the search tool for Turkish-operated flights differs from the Star Alliance tool — whereas you need to log in, mouse over your name, click “Miles Transactions”, and then click “book now” under “Star Alliance award tickets” to search for a Star Alliance award, you just have to try to check the “Award ticket” box on the Turkish Airlines home page to perform an award search for travel entirely on Turkish metal. That prompts you to log in (if you haven’t already) and it goes to a booking tool that looks the same as the Star Alliance tool, but it’s only for Turkish-operated flights.

a screenshot of a website

It’s also worth a note that if you try to perform a search and reach a completely blank page and you don’t see the browser doing anything, you might just need to hit the “refresh” button to get it to populate results. The Turkish website seems to get sleepy and every now and then you have to “wake it up”.

When I found business class flights available for the date and route they wanted, I was able to choose my friend and his wife as the travelers and move forward to select seats and eventually book the ticket.

This wasn’t without some level of frustration though.

Before adding my friend, I had added another companion as a test of the concept. After selecting a companion as a passenger who would travel without me, Turkish prompted me for a one-time passcode that they sent via both email and phone (presumably to make sure that someone else couldn’t hack my account and book for others).

a screenshot of a computer

After verifying the passcode on the dummy booking and backing out of the transaction, I began getting this pop-up error everywhere from the home page to the search page to my account details page:

a screenshot of a message

I tried logging out and back in and trying a fresh Chrome browser, but that error wouldn’t even let me select the flight I wanted (search results were basically greyed out so they couldn’t be selected). I eventually tried a different browser altogether (I ran into this a few times in the process since I tested the booking process before transferring miles from Capital One; switching to Microsoft Edge worked one time until I made the search took angry again and then I switched to Mozilla Firefox, where I was eventually successful).

On the final go around, I did not see the above error when performing a search or selecting flights or my “companions” (i.e. the friends traveling without me). I verified my account with a one-time passcode. Then I was able to select seats. However, when I reached the final payment page, I got that above error again saying that they couldn’t process my transaction even before entering a credit card for payment information.

However, I was able to just dismiss the error (hitting close) and still enter payment information. But Turkish wasn’t done with me yet! I have sometimes seen the Amex “SafeKey” pop up box during the checkout process on various websites, but this was the first time that I recall actually having to receive a verification code via email.

a screenshot of a computer

In fairness, I was booking a ticket with taxes denominated in Jordanian currency through Turkish Airlines, which doesn’t fit my normal spending patterns, so it isn’t very surprising that this would be the type of transaction that might require verification. It was just the icing on the pop-up prompt cake.

And how sweet it was because moments later I had confirmed tickets for friends on a trip where I wasn’t a passenger. I’m glad to report that it worked fine.

The confirmation page also confirmed the ticket change / refund policies. We’ve written about the fee to cancel both before departure and in the case of a no-show, but the prices to reissue (change?) a ticket were higher than what I recalled.

a screenshot of a web page

It doesn’t make a practical difference since in my only experience trying to change a ticket I couldn’t find an agent who knew how to do it anyway — I just cancelled for $25 and rebooked. But it’s worth knowing that you’ll need to do that.

Bottom line

At the end of the day, I discovered that it is possible to book an award ticket online for a friend even when you’re not traveling with them, but only if they are traveling on Turkish airlines-operated flights. That’s at least partially good news, particularly if you’re able to take advantage of the current award sale.

This specific situation worked out well for me: I had some miles in my account that were due to expire on 12/31. My friend couldn’t log into his Turkish Miles & Smiles account, but he does have Capital One miles. Thankfully, since Capital One allows you to transfer miles to anyone else with a Capital One card that earns miles, it’s very simple for him to transfer the miles to me to cover the award. And since Capital One allows transfers to partners in increments of just 100 miles, I was able to transfer almost exactly the number I needed to book the ticket, only orphaning around 50 leftover miles from a paid United flight I credited to Turkish (and those 50 miles are not set to expire soon). In the end, my friend got the tickets he wanted and I’ll end up with Capital One miles that don’t expire, which is a win-win.

I really wish it were easily possible to book tickets for friends on Star Alliance awards. It’s frustrating that it isn’t easy to do that since (particularly during this holiday period) it might be nice to be able to gift a friend or family member with something like a round trip ticket to Hawaii that only cost you 15,000 miles. The good(ish) news is that it still may be possible to do so via email, but I’d love to see this expanded to work online. However, given Turkish’s continual difficulty with simple IT like having a “submit” button to ticket an award (p.s. it does work now), that’s probably just wishful thinking.

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rocco

I have never flown TK, but I have only seen fantastic reviews. Now that I am finally trying to book some award flights for friends using my Citi points, I discover that the website is a total cluseterbl**p. It boggles the mind that a multi-billion dollar company cannot be bothered to develop a useful website with consistent and understandable rules.

Maguette

Hi all,
I faced the same challenge when trying to buy a star alliance ticket (different company would be operating the flight) for my brother using my miles. I had the same error message so I called turkish airlines call center and they were able to buy the ticket for in less then 15mn on the phone. So there is indeed an alternative solution. I just wanted to share my experience. Cheers
Note: i am not travelling so I was only booking for him.

Last edited 1 year ago by Maguette
blake

Had you ever previously booked a Miles and Smiles ticket for yourself?

blake

Thanks Nick! That’s good to know, though I was particularly curious about the Star Alliance award side.

Gregg H

This is very frustrating. Would a possible workaround be to book a random “dummy” award flight for yourself? Once that flight is booked you would be able to book a flight for yourself and multiple people correct?. If so, then book the main intended award flight for your entire party. Once that is booked and confirmed, cancel the “dummy” flight within 24 hours to get a fee-free cancellation.

ron

Anyone successfully book a Star Alliance flight online for the member AND a companion?

787

Hi

That’s great but how were you able to do that? I am not able to increase the passenger count from 1 to 2 while searching for star alliance flights on turkish website.

Thanks in advance!

JLYJ

Have a friend who will travel with me on the same itinerary (hopefully on the same reservation). So am I understanding this correctly that online booking isn’t possible for a companion unless it’s booked after my ticket is booked first. It would have to be on a separate reservation? To be on the same reservation I would have to do it via phone or email.

When I select 2 adults, I get the following 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.”

Last edited 1 year ago by JLYJ
JBCH

Hi, did you call them for the booking?

Jeff

Nick,

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Just to add a data point, I recently opened a TK account, booked successfully an award for myself online and then canceled it as I decided to take my partner with me. I re-booked this one way for two with Tk agent on the phone, which was painfully long, but all went well.

Now, I am attempting to book my partner a one way, all TK operated flights, per your instructions, and I can see my companion’s name but it’s not clickable!

Not sure how you got your to work.

Jeff

Just to update this post. I followed the suggestion of emailing multiple locations and I am pleased to report that, indeed a station did respond to my request and with a bit of back forth pulled through and ticketed the one I wanted for my companion. There were several documents that I had to scan in, but it was all worth it for a business class US to Europe for 31.5K. A couple other stations responded to say the flights I wanted were not available even though they clearly were. A bit painful overall, but yes it’s possible to book an award for another person.

THEsocalledfan

Nick, I’ve done it for friends before. I have a hacker friend who has not had Citi cards since the AA grand shutdown, and wanted to take to Hawaii. I made him find the availability and he transferred me hyatt points to replace my turkish from citi. I was good with that. As everyone says, its always a painful experience, but it can be done through email.

Does anyone else have an issue where Turkish does not even have you local airport in their system? I run into this everytime as they don’t have FSD in the system, and the phone folks will say it is not possible. The email folks, who are usually US based must note this is an error and have a way to push it through.

Elle

I’ve given up on booking United flights with Turkish miles. The training with their customer service reps is so inconsistent and lacking that I always come away frustrated. It’s not worth it. If you have a simple online itinerary that you don’t need to change then you may be fine but watch out if you need to make a change…they have no idea what to do or how you could have possibly booked the ticket in the first place.

Beth

I just spent hours this weekend with friends trying to use my miles to book award seats for all of us on a Turkish Airlines operated flight –so consider yourself lucky. I had previously added them as companions into my account and I booked my own award flight first. But after that I could not purchase flights for anyone else. I won’t bore you with all the various things we tried to get the website to function. Eventually we called the US based 1-800 number for assistance and were told there were no available business class awards in the system at all on any day around when we were planning to fly, although the website showed many options. HUCA got us no further. Finally my friend (who is Turkish)called the help number in Turkey. Of course there were award seats available and the agent proceeded to book all the flights for us using my points. But without a friend who speaks Turkish, we would have never managed this.
We were also told that should our friends travel on a different day than I did, there might be an issue with them travelling on my points–despite holding confirmation numbers and valid reservations….. And after the frustration we experienced, I believe that could happen. .

Christian

I don’t currently have a Turkish account. How would you suggest finding the space? Expertflyer? United?

Ben

The main issue is that award space has completely dried up.

Stevenson

what business fare class on united would qualify for the 12,500 turkish miles award tickets to hawaii – I or O?

how can i find the above without searching day-by-day and clicking on details to see far class?

Stevenson

Thanks. But if I look myself on United’s website, how many miles are needed for a “I class” award ticket from nyc-hnl? This would help when looking at a monthly calendar.

For example, JN class costs 135k

Stevenson

Thanks.

I am already booked in economy, but was hoping to get lucky close-in to departure date.

I realize I am in the minority, but I don’t mind traveling to HI in economy, as the flights are during the day. It is the return trip (overnight) when business class is really needed.

Am ok with using ORD as well, in case there is increased availability to/from there, with it being a United hub and all.

JerryLove

I have booked numerous tickets on Turkish for 2 or more passengers using Turkish miles out of my own account. Sometimes I was one of the passengers and other times I was not. Regardless, just know, going in, that the booking process will be a long, tedious slog. Yes, you will have to phonetically and comically spell out each letter of the passenger name, even though that passenger is a Miles and Smiles member and all of their information could be easily pulled up by the Turkish Airlines agent with just that membership number. Yes there are times that an agent will tell you that a Star Alliance flight is not available despite it being available on their website. It is an exercise in futility to try to convince the agent otherwise, simply hang up and call again. Yes, their credit card verification system will often reject your first or second payment attempt. The third time is typically the charm.
I have certainly saved miles by booking with Turkish but I am also sure that the cost is some reduction of my lifespan 🙂 I guess just be aware of the tradeoff in advance.

Sam

SQ’s nominee limitations, and cost to remove/replace a nominee, is just asinine. NH also restricts who you can book awards for (family only), but at least it’s free. In comparison, TK allows you to add anyone for free.

Brian

I booked a ticket for a friend traveling without me by emailing a ticket office and calling in to pay. I’ll spare the bloody details but it was awful and concluded with me having to make a trip to the airport at a time of my choosing prior to their flight to show my ID and credit card.

I have 9000 miles left with Turkish and once I spend those I plan to never use the program again. And even for those I’ll only consider a flight I can book online.