Turkish (might be) demolishing its award chart

Update 2/7/24: The Turkish Miles & Smiles site now says that “You can view award ticket Miles values valid until February 15, 2024, from the links below” before the links to the “old” award charts. While the wording doesn’t explicitly say this, I take that to mean that the current “old” award pricing is valid for about one more week and the “new” award chart will take effect on or around February 15, 2024.

Yesterday, Prince of Travel flagged what looks like a near absolute obliteration of the Turkish Miles & Smiles award chart, with almost all awards massively increasing in price to the tune of 80% or more “overnight”. I put overnight in quotation marks because so far, I’m only seeing these prices in the new award chart — they aren’t yet reflected in search results on the website at the time of writing this post. And, oddly, Turkish is still publishing the old award chart. This much I can say with confidence: If you have Turkish miles stashed away for a rainy day, meteorologists are calling for a thunderstorm right now. Use them now….or use a lot more later. At least, probably. You know those meteorologists aren’t always right . . .

“Old” Turkish Miles & Smiles sweet spots

While I have this listed as “old” sweet spots, it is worth repeating that we aren’t yet seeing the “new” award chart implemented at the time of writing, so these are the sweet spots you should look for right away if you have Turkish miles to burn.

Turkish Miles & Smiles has long published a couple of award charts. One chart, called the “Award Ticket Table” has long been the rough equivalent of an “anytime” award chart. On the other hand, the “Promotional Ticket Table” has been the equivalent of a “saver” award chart. That “promotional” table has always applied to Star Alliance partner awards. There was further a separate chart for “domestic” Star Alliance tickets.

Some of the long-time sweet spots of the “Promotional” ticket table have included:

  • Business class to Europe for 45K miles one way
  • Business class to the Middle East for 47K miles one way
  • Business class to “Central Asia” (including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and more) for 52.5K miles one way
  • Business class from “South America” to “South America” (Note: A lot of the Caribbean is classified as “South America”) for 35K in business class
  • Economy class to the Middle East for 32K one way
  • Economy class to Central Asia for 34K one way
  • Economy class within the United States (including to Alaska and Hawaii) for 7.5K one way
  • Business class within the United States (including to Alaska and Hawaii) for 12.5K one way

That’s not an exhaustive list by any stretch, just a “greatest hits” selection. Turkish Miles & Smiles has had a number of very well-priced awards for a long time. See Turkish Miles & Smiles business class sweet spots from the US for more detail.

The trade-off has always been that awards can be notoriously difficult to book: the website doesn’t show all of the availability it should and phone agents frequently can’t see availability (even things that the website can see). Email has been the way to go, but it often takes dozens of emails to different ticket offices to know that you’ll get a helpful response. Even if the stars align, it can be difficult to book for others if you haven’t first booked an award for yourself.

Possible new Turkish Miles & Smiles Award Chart

As reported by Prince of Travel, the Turkish website is displaying entirely new award charts on the page that has long housed their award chart information. That page now has completely new award charts for “Turkish Airlines award tickets” and “Award tickets on partner airlines”. And whereas the old award chart displayed round-trip pricing (a one-way award was half the number of miles down on the old chart), the new chart says that prices are valid one-way.

Their award chart is written in a Turkiye-centric manner. Rather than attempt to re-write the entire chart, here is a comparison for partner awards as per the sweet spots noted above:

  • Business class to Europe increases from 45K miles one way to 85,000 miles one way
  • Business class to the Middle East increases from 47K miles one way to 93,000 miles one way
  • Business class to “Central Asia” (including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and more) increases from 52.5K miles one way to 100,000 miles one way
  • Business class from “South America” to “South America” (Note: A lot of the Caribbean is classified as “South America”) increases from 35K in business class to 50,000 miles one way
  • Economy class to the Middle East increases from 32K one way to 58,000 miles one way
  • Economy class to Central Asia increases from 34K one way to 60,000 miles one way
  • Economy class within the United States (including to Alaska and Hawaii) increases from 7.5K one way to 10,000 miles one way
  • Business class within the United States (including to Alaska and Hawaii) increases from 12.5K one way to 15,000 miles one way

As you can see, many awards nearly double in price. Similar increases can be found for one-way tickets to/from Asia and Africa as well. If and when this new award chart takes effect, it would be a massive devaluation almost across the board.

The one place where the (likely coming soon) devaluation won’t be as painful is for domestic economy class tickets on United (when there is saver/partner availability). While those economy class awards increase by 33% and business class awards increase by 20%, Turkish will still have the best deal running for flights to/from Hawaii and Alaska as well as long-haul across the United States.

Turkish is still publishing the old award charts, too….and they updated them to make them look nicer. (Weird!)

You may not be shocked to hear that Turkish’s website hasn’t been updated (hold your laughter) to reflect the new award pricing, but odder still is the fact that the old award charts still exist. And I don’t mean that they exist in the Internet wayback machine, but rather if you scroll down the page from the new Turkish Airlines award chart, you find this weird award calculator example that demonstrates that the “new” pricing is additive — which is to say that the “new” price for Dubai (Middle East) to London (Europe 2) is 33,000 miles one way in economy class according to the “new” award chart, and the example shown below the chart demonstrates how they came to that new award chart price: it is the result of the additive price of the “new” Dubai (Middle East) to Istanbul (Turkiye), which would cost 18,000 miles, and the price from Istanbul (Turkiye) to London (Europe 2), which would cost 15,000 miles in economy class (18K + 15K = 33K). I guess I like that they are showing their work like it’s high school math class (hey, Wyndham Rewards Shopping Portal, take note), but I hope that the additive pricing won’t continue if you have an award with more segments.

However, odder still is the fact that directly below that calculator example are links to what we’re calling the “old” award chart. In the screen shot above, see the tiny red font at the bottom; there are links to awards on Turkish airlines and an “Award ticket on partner airlines” document. That link goes here.

And that’s where things get downright weird. That link is to a PDF document of the “old” award chart that looks like this:

Further down that chart, we see the “old” Star Alliance “domestic” award pricing and the explanation that the above chart shows round-trip pricing but that a one-way is half the price of a round trip.

The above is all exactly the old “Promotional Ticket Table”, except that the Promotional Ticket Table never had any color to it (versus this PDF with red and shades of grey). In my years of covering Turkish Miles & Smiles, I’ve never seen that award chart in PDF / color form. I’m not saying it hasn’t previously existed — maybe there has previously been a link to that PDF somewhere and I just missed it, but I don’t think that PDF has existed for a very long time at least. Just to see if I was crazy, I took a peek back in time with the Wayback Machine and as recently as January 30th, that page looked the same as I remember it, without any link to a PDF-form award chart (nor does the Wayback Machine have any record of the link to the new PDF having existed previously).

On the one hand, I have to think that the new award pricing is coming even if not immediately. On the other hand, why would they go to the trouble of creating a “prettier” and PDF-ified version of the “old” award chart if they were immediately planning to do away with it? I don’t get it.

“New” award pricing has NOT YET taken effect

The good news as I write this post a couple of hours before publication is that the “new” award pricing has not yet taken effect. I want to repeat again and we don’t even know that what is showing now as “new” award pricing actually will take effect or whether Turkish intends to provide some notice before it does. One would think that Turkish wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to create a new award chart if they didn’t intend to implement it. At the same time, if they went to the effort to create a PDF of the old award chart, perhaps they intend to honor the historical pricing for some period of time before the new award chart takes effect.

Many of the best award chart sweet spots still exist….for now.

For instance, as noted above, one of the best sweet spots in the Turkish Miles & Smiles award chart has long been business class to Europe. At 45K miles one-way, this award is only marginally more than most programs charge for economy class tickets to Europe. While Turkish passes on carrier-imposed surcharges, you can fly several carriers to Europe that do not add surcharges on their flights. A few hours ago, I priced out this itinerary from Miami to Lisbon in business class for 45,000 miles and $5.60.

Under the new award chart pricing, that same flight looks like it is slated to cost 85,000 miles one way.

That same 45K pricing has been valid on Turkish flights to Istanbul from the United States. Again, as of a few hours before this post published, there were still a number of seats on some days from New York to Istanbul for 45K miles and $217.

Award prices to other regions are also pricing according to the “old” chart. For instance, this flight from Newark to Dubai is pricing at 32,000 miles one-way in economy class. Since that follows the “old” award chart pricing (it would be 58K under the “new” chart), I assume that if you’re able to find business class availability it should still price at 47K miles one way.

Business class to Central Asia is still ringing in at 52,500 miles one-way, such as this one-way from New York to Deli, India for 52,500 miles and $29.00 in business class.

And those who share my love of the Hawaiian Islands will be happy to hear that routes like Chicago to Maui (via San Francisco in this case) are still pricing at 7,500 miles and $5.60 one way when you can find availability.

No news is….no news?

At this point, you’re almost 1800 words into this post that ultimately say “nothing has changed”. However, I think it would be more accurate to say: Nothing has changed* (with an asterisk).

If I’m going to completely shoot from the hip and make some guesses (that I emphasize are really just guesses because if I know one thing it’s that nobody understands Turkish Miles & Smiles…..perhaps not even Turkish Miles & Smiles), these would be the best I’ve got:

  1. Turkish probably wants to update its award chart. I’ve long assumed that they have just been thrilled to be selling miles to the US banks, but perhaps a change in the balance of award bookings has pressured them to finally increase award prices substantially.
  2. Turkish likely intends to increase awards in the near future.
  3. Turkish might intend to give us some notice before the “new” charts take effect. I think the fact that they have both charts coexisting on the same page is a good sign that we will perhaps be getting some advance notice as to when those “old” charts will no longer be valid.
  4. Turkish is probably hampered a bit by poor IT…and that may last days, weeks, months, or even years.

To that last point: Turkish’s IT has long been an absolute mess. The website doesn’t show awards that should be available and phone agents could sometimes see awards that should be available, but whatever they would see wouldn’t necessarily match what you could see on Turkish’s own site. Clearly, whatever system agents were using to search was either difficult for them to understand, substantially different, substantially buggy, or all of the above.

The website itself stopped working for a long time. While you could search for awards, the “submit” button to actually submit your payment on the final checkout just disappeared from the website for I believe about a year. Turkish was aware of this problem….and didn’t fix it. For about one year.

They also previously eliminated the “domestic” award chart that served to prove the pricing on awards to Alaska and Hawaii and for a time I think they added it back with higher pricing that never actually took effect. And then they added it again with the old pricing.

The phone payment system has been notoriously buggy. I’d often have payment fail the first two times….only to go through on the third try with the same card.

I have long half-jokingly speculated that Turkish has probably wanted to increase award prices, but that whomever built the award pricing engine quit or was fired a long time ago and they couldn’t find anyone to reverse engineer the system and figure out how to change it. Of course I meant that mostly in jest, but when you have a Star Alliance award ticket search tool that just now returned flights (albeit with no seats available) on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, I just don’t know how else to explain it.

Yes, that’s a Star Alliance award search result including itineraries entirely on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

You really can’t make stuff like that up.

Do I really think that the person who designed the award pricing engine quit and they haven’t been able to figure out how to update it? No. Well, probably not. But could I imagine a world in which the implementation of the IT necessary to increase award pricing across the board is proving to be more challenging than they anticipated, thus providing a window of opportunity for those sitting on Turkish miles and/or Citi ThankYou points, Capital One Miles, or Bilt Rewards points (all of which transfer 1:1 to Turkish — and near-instantly these days) to redeem at “old” levels? You wouldn’t have to try too hard to sell me that story.

All that said, I want to emphasize that I do think Turkish probably does intend to increase award prices….and whether they will actually give advance notice or not is anybody’s guess. Of course, I have to also say that it is entirely possible that Turkish will keep the “new” award chart published for anywhere from a day to a year without implementing the new pricing (it’s not like they haven’t had other things go broken / unfixed for that length of time). However, given the fact that we may not know the actual intentions until they take effect, in this case, I might argue that no news is the news — and it’s a notice to get booking your preferred Turkish Miles & Smiles awards ASAP.

Bottom line

Turkish Miles & Smiles has published what appears to be a new award chart without any announcement about whether and when it will take effect. If what they’ve published does become their new award chart, it represents a massive devaluation, with the cost of many awards nearly doubling. However, at the moment, awards are pricing according to the historical award chart — and Turkish is still publishing links to that award chart also on the same page where its “new” chart exists. If you have Turkish Miles & Smiles miles collecting dust, it likely time to brush them off and find a redemption you like right now. Of course, it is also possible that the “new” award chart will exist on their website for a year or two and nothing may change in the near term. But a gamble here is a big one, so I’d recommend booking sooner rather than later.

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