How to book United flights with Turkish Miles & Smiles

One of the best ways to book domestic United Airlines flights is with Turkish Miles & Smiles. When you can find saver award availability, Turkish charges just 7.5K miles each way in economy class and 12.5K miles each way in business class within the United States (including to Alaska and Hawaii) and much lower change and cancellation fees than United for the exact same United flights. This is true whether booking one-way, round-trip, direct, or multi-segment connecting itineraries. We’ve published a number of posts about this major sweet spot. However, with the key information spread out over multiple posts, we’ve received many questions from readers about how it works. This post is an effort to consolidate information and fully answer the question, “How do you book United flights using Turkish Airlines miles?”.

6 things to know

  1. Book over the phone: While some itineraries can be booked online, you’ll generally need to book these over the phone with Turkish Miles & Smiles at 1-800-874-8875.
  2. United Airlines Saver availability only: You must find United saver availability. Only United saver availability is bookable with partner miles. You can not book segments operated by Hawaiian or other airlines with Turkish miles.
  3. Connecting itineraries are OK: Award pricing is per direction regardless of segments (i.e. EWR-HNL is 7.5K one way in economy class. EWR-ORD-LAX-HNL is also 7.5K one way in economy even though there are 2 stops provided the layours don’t exceed maximum connection times).
  4. Award holds: Turkish will give you a hold for 48 hours if booking more than 7 days in advance, so there is no need to transfer before putting an award on hold in most cases.
  5. Transfers are not instant: Citi ThankYou points generally transfer in 18-30 hours. You can alternatively transfer from Marriott Rewards, but the transfer time is likely to be a week or more.
  6. No mixed cabin bookings: You can not combine an itinerary with some legs in business class and others in economy class. This makes it hard to book awards up front as United does not release much saver availability in business class.

Award prices

Turkish Miles & Smiles has a pretty interesting award chart. You can find the full award chart here (scroll down to “Award ticket table” and click the tiny red arrows to the right of those words to expand the chart).

Turkish has a separate chart for awards flown within a region on Turkish as well as domestic Star Alliance awards (which do not need to be operated by Turkish).

Here are the relevant notes from below that chart about domestic flights::

***Applicable Mile amount for direct flights with Star Alliance member airlines in the same country.

As you can see, domestic Star Alliance awards should price at 15K round trip in Economy Class / 25K in business class / 40K in first class. Since a one-way is half the cost of a round trip, here is a simpler breakdown:

Domestic United Airlines awards with Turkish Miles & Smiles
      • 7.5K each way in economy class
      • 12.5K each way in business class
      • 20K each way in first class (Note: United no longer operates 3-cabin flights in the United states, so what United calls “first class” is really business class)

Those are some amazing prices when you consider that they apply to domestic flights across the United States — whether you’re flying an expensive regional flight to hop a state or two away, on a premium transcon flight, or all the way to Alaska or Hawaii (even with connections to get there). LifeMiles gets attention for the fact that flights can be booked for 7500 miles each way within a single US region. Turkish charges 7.5K each way within the United States.

Step by step guide

Here’s how to book United flights with Turkish Miles & Smiles.

Step 1) Check United.com for saver availability

Start at United.com and search your preferred date and route looking for saver award availability. Only saver awards can be booked with partner miles.

The flights marked “Saver Award” can be booked with United miles. Those with higher mileage prices (like 45K and 90K in the image above) can not be booked using partner miles.

Step 2) Try booking a United award ticket with Turkish Airlines online

Some domestic United Airlines flights can be booked online for just 7,500 miles each way (including to places like Hawaii and Alaska). Unfortunately, the online tool definitely doesn’t show everything that is bookable via the phone. Only basic one-stop round trip itineraries are available online. Some itineraries just don’t show up for no explicable reason, some price higher than they should, and it’s unclear whether or not you can book a ticket for someone else online. Here are the basic quirks regarding online booking (note that you can avoid these altogether by booking over the phone):

  1. One-way awards are not bookable online. You must search round trip if you’re using the online tool (but you can book one-way over the phone).
  2. Only economy class is available online. There is no way to specify cabin class and I have only seen economy class results.
  3. Many available routes don’t show up online. It’s not clear why, but many itineraries that are available at United.com do not show up on the Turkish Airlines website.
  4. Not all routes price correctly online. Only some itineraries price at 7,500 miles each way in economy class online. Some price at over 11K online for no known reason (the same itineraries can be booked over the phone for 7,500 miles each way).
  5. The online tool often doesn’t show the most direct routing. Even when direct flights are available, the system sometimes forces a connection (for example, rather than allowing a nonstop round trip award between San Francisco and Honolulu, the options presented required connecting through Los Angeles or vice versa).
  6. Some airports are not available in the online tool. For example, Newark-EWR is not an available airport for online booking.
  7. You may have trouble booking a ticket for someone else online. I haven’t personally tried doing this, but it is unclear whether or not you can use your miles to book travel for someone else on the website. You can definitely book travel for others over the phone.

Despite the drawbacks,  if you’d like to try booking a Star Alliance award like a United domestic trip online using Turkish Miles & Smiles, first log into your Turkish Miles & Smiles account. Then, click the drop-down menu to the right of your name (in the top right corner). Choose “Miles Transactions” and then look for the “Star Alliance Award Ticket” area and click “Book Now”.

That will take you to the Star Alliance booking tool, which looks exactly like the booking tool on the home page, only it works for searching Star Alliance awards (whereas the one on the home page apparently doesn’t). From there, it’s fairly self-explanatory.

Note that you cannot specify a cabin. I only found economy class awards online. There is no ability to search one-way for Star Alliance awards nor to book one-way Star Alliance awards online (though I’ve had no trouble booking one way over the phone).

If you search and nothing happens, it is not finding availability. This does not mean that no awards are available. It just means that you’ll need to call to book.

However, if your route has availability, you’ll see results like this:

From there, you select your desired flights and go forward to book as you would on any airline website. If you have miles in your account, you should be able to complete the process online. However, if you do not yet have miles and/or you do not find the itinerary you want online, you’ll want to move on to Step 3.

Step 3) Call Turkish Airlines. Feed the agent each segment separately.

To book a United Airlines award ticket over the phone with Turkish Miles & Smiles, follow these steps:

  1. Call 1-800-874-8875
  2. Press 1 to continue in English
  3. Press 1 because you’re a Miles & Smiles member
  4. Enter your Miles & Smiles number
  5. Press 1 to confirm your number is correct
  6. Press 4 for reservations

When you call Turkish Airlines to book a United Airlines award ticket over the phone, you will need to be prepared to tell the agent exactly which flights you want and then feed the agent one segment at a time.

For example, if you’re looking to fly from Chicago to Honolulu with a layover in San Francisco, you’ll need to be very specific:

“I’d like to book a partner flight on United airlines. There are 2 segments. The first flight is from Chicago (ORD) to San Francisco (SFO) on October 22nd for 2 passengers in economy class. I’m looking for flight UA 1891 leaving Chicago at 10am and arriving at 12:50pm in San Francisco.”

Let the agent find that flight. Then, move on to the next flight.

“The second segment is from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) on October 22nd for 2 passengers in economy class. I’m looking for flight UA 300 leaving San Francisco at 2:10pm.”

If you instead just ask for Chicago to Honolulu, the agent will likely tell you that there is no availability (unless there is a nonstop flight available). You have to go segment by segment.

Keep in mind that the max layover on domestic itineraries appears to be 4 hours. If your itinerary has a longer layover, you’ll be charged for two awards.

Note that sometimes, agents will not find the itinerary you want. In that case, you’ll need to proceed to Step 4. If the agent found the itinerary you wanted, skip to Step 5.

Step 4) Hang up, Call again.

If the agent does not find the itinerary you wanted (and you have verified that it shows up as a saver award at United.com), politely end the call. Then, hang up and call again and try with a different agent.

Unfortunately, this is the biggest hangup with booking Turkish Miles & Smiles awards: not all agents seem to be able to find all United saver availability. I’ve sometimes been able to book on the first phone call and other times it has taken me 5 or 6 phone calls over the course of a week to find an agent who was able to book what I wanted. I’ve literally had back-to-back phone calls where one agent said there were no available seats and the next agent saw the availability I was after. You just need to roll the dice and be persistent.

Step 5) Put an award on hold

Once an agent finds your flights, you will need to ask them to put the itinerary on hold for you to transfer over the miles (since Turkish allows free and easy holds there is no reason to transfer miles before this point). The agent will need to take the names and birthdates of the passengers in your party to put it on hold. The process is a bit slow because everything gets repeated a couple of times for clarity.

Provided you are booking travel at least 7 days in advance, you will be offered a hold of 48 hours, which is plenty of time to transfer the miles necessary.

If you are booking a flight within 7 days of travel, you will only get a hold for 24 hours. That may be enough time to make the transfer if you’re lucky.

Step 6) Transfer miles

Option 1: Citi ThankYou Points

Most people will transfer Citi ThankYou points to Turkish Miles & Smiles since Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is a 1:1 Citi Transfer Partner. Simply log in to ThankYou.com and transfer your points to Turkish Miles & Smiles like you would with any airline partner.

Transfers from Citi are not instant. Transfer times vary from 18-30 hours. You should easily receive the miles in time to ticket your held award provided you initiate the transfer right away after placing the hold.

Citi did provide a transfer bonus to Turkish Miles & Smiles once last year. Hopefully we will see that return.

Option 2: Marriott Bonvoy*

You can alternatively / additionally transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Turkish Miles & Smiles at a rate of 3 Marriott points to 1 Turkish Airlines mile. When you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you’ll get a 5K bonus for a total of 25K Turkish miles. Unfortunately, Marriott transfers are slow and may take a week or more. You can’t count on a transfer from Marriott processing while you have an award on hold.

Option 3: Buy miles from Turkish

Turkish Miles & Smiles will sell you up to 50,000 miles in increments of 1,000 miles for 3 cents per mile. These miles post instantly to your account, so this can be a way to top off your account for a valuable award.

Option 4: Buy Citi ThankYou points

As long as you have a card that earns Citi ThankYou points, and you have at least one point in your account, you can buy additional ThankYou points for 2.5 cents each, up to a maximum of 100K points per year.  You can then transfer those points to airline miles.  Greg wrote about this in detail a while ago: Buy miles via ThankYou Rewards. He then wrote a post about doing it specifically for award to Hawaii. See: $386 to Hawaii round trip from anywhere in the US.

Step 7) Call back to ticket before deadline

Once you have the miles necessary in your account, you’ll need to call back to ticket your held award.

The process is pretty straightforward: you’ll call Turkish again and tell them that you need to pay for an award you have on hold. You’ll give them the PNR and they will verify all of the information. The agent will then transfer you to an automated system to enter your credit card information. After you enter credit card info, the agent came will verify the first 4 and last 4 digits of the card number and your Miles & Smiles number and then transfer you to an automated prompt to enter your Miles & Smiles PIN. That “PIN” is the password for the account. Once that is complete, the award can be ticketed.

Change / cancellation fee for Turkish award tickets

Changes before check-in will incur a $25 fee (the ticket must be used within 1 year of the day it is issued). Changes after check-in or a no-show will incur a $50 fee. Itineraries can be canceled over the phone and miles are immediately re-deposited.

Bottom line

Turkish Miles and Smiles offers the hands-down best value for booking United Airlines domestic award flights. Unfortunately, the process for booking isn’t always easy, but it can be well worth a little effort for the huge mileage savings, especially on expensive regional flights or awards to far-off parts of the country like Hawaii and Alaska where United Saver awards would cost several times as many miles for the same flights.

For other posts on Turkish Miles and Smiles, see:

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Neil
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Neil

Comment on your “bottom line” – I agree Turkish offers great value for long haul flights but on expensive regional flights you might also want to consider Lifemiles. I’ve booked two under 500 mile expensive regional flights in the last two weeks – Avianca seems to be charging 6500 miles plus roughly $15 (United would be 10,000 miles plus security fee, not sure if they still charge late booking fee). Now of course there are negatives with Avianca (including higher cancellation fees) but if you can get your itinerary to ticket you’ll save time over the Turkish call-in process. I know Lifemiles get lots of hate and I’ve been frustrated using them on business class to Europe but I have to say I’ve been amazed how easy they were to use on my domestic flights over the past few weeks. And I’ve also found you can then call in your United frequent flyer number and get any status benefits you have (not sure if that is also true on Turkish). Just a thought ….

Arun Baheti
Guest
Arun Baheti

How does this work with the new United dynamic award pricing — no “saver”?

rocco
Guest
rocco

How about adding a lap child to a Turkish reward ticket? Any insight?

Anna
Guest
Anna

In one place you said they can hold the award for 72 hours and later in the article you said 48. So is it a two day hold or a three day hold?

Enrico
Guest
Enrico

Great article. I didn’t know it was possible. yeah call-in can be more effort, there it is just a matter of availability, Lifemiles has been were restrictive and low, even though there was a save award on united, and a matter of how much is your time worth calling and getting cheaper flights.

Tami
Guest
Tami

Can you book United international flights this way?

uzay
Guest
uzay

My experience has been quite different in the last week. If I try to book a “north america” originated flight on United, Turkish will not book the ticket it on the phone. For whatever reason I was able to book and pay my Hawaii originated flight but for the flight from LAX to Hawaii I was told I had to go to an office within 7 days to complete booking. Ditto for making changes to existing miles reservation, i.e. have to go to a sales office in person to pay the dollar change fee. Perhaps it was just misinformed agent though I have to say she did sound like she knew what she was talking about. I’ll add that I am Turkish and spoke to the folks Turkish line (not sure why that would matter but just in case).

Tonya
Guest
Tonya

Can you book a flight by chatting with them through WhatsApp?

Tom
Guest
Tom

You mentioned UA flights on Saver award availability only. Any idea on the Saver flights came up on united.com under “Exclusively available to you as a MileagePlus Premier® member and MileagePlus Chase Cardmember” , do they qualified or no? Thanks.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Nick, this is GREAT info!! I’m looking at a one way from ORD to JFK next summer for a my wife and toddler. Very important question–will using Turkish pts to fly United allow me to select our own seats (this will be first time we are flying domestic w/our 3 yr old child. Previous times were as a lap so seat selection is not a concern, but hearing some of these stories how families/child doesn’t get assigned next to parents can be frightening!)? Thanks!

paul5795
Guest
paul5795

Great info as usual. I can’t help it though, every time I see a post about this deal I ask myself “am I going to be able to use this before it is dead??” And now you even have info about buying Thank You points, something, of course, I don’t need to do — but will increase the pressure on this deal even more. Lol.

Khai
Guest
Khai

Thanks for the detailed step by step instructions! Step 2 didn’t work for me as I couldn’t find any availability on Turkish airlines. I checked both United and ANA and found saver award availability for one flight (HSV-HNL) and followed Step 3 to book the flights via phone call. I called 3 different times and none of the agents were able to find any availability (even after I fed the info for each segments). I then emailed the ticket office (using the email method you shared) and surprisingly received reply on the next day with a 48-hour award hold confirmation for that exact flight (with PNR I was able to look up on United)! I immediately transferred points from Marriott, which took approximately 2 days. By the time the miles showed up in my Turkish accounts, it was already past the 48-hour award hold period. I called back regardless, provided the PNR, and the agent was still able to see the award hold, and had no problem processing the payments and confirmed the booking. Thanks again for finding this sweet spot and I’m glad I’m able to hop on this awesome deal! =)

dominick
Guest
dominick

I assume domestic would also equal AC yyz-yvr lie flats in J?

Bob
Guest
Bob

If you have a priority status with Star Alliance (Ex – United Gold) and use Turkish Miles or Singapore Miles to book an award ticket for travel on United, do you have any status while using the award ticket like extended seating, priority boarding, etc?

trackback

[…] How to book awards: Book with Turkish via phone or email. Please see: How to book United flights with Turkish Miles & Smiles. […]

nohohh
Guest
nohohh

Nick, now it looks like you can specify cabin class online.

Also, talked to few reps today they keep saying their system isn’t letting them to book partner award since the 20th.

Nate
Guest
Nate

this was also my experience, both yesterday and today. I wonder if this is dead.

Don
Guest
Don

The agent I just spoke with said that there was a system software update, and suggested I call back or try to book online.

Nate
Guest
Nate

well i was told yesterday that the system had received an update and that it would be up today. when i called today, i was told they don’t know if the same ability to book partner rewards would be there with the newly updated system. i find that odd. the online booking tool for partner awards does not work. ticket offices reached out via email are sending back responses, suggesting that you call the 800 number. I have a feeling they’re about to plug this.

Don
Guest
Don

I can’t imagine they would do away with partner awards. One of the requirements (whether tacit or not) of joining an alliance is partner awards. I can imagine them plugging it as they rework redemption costs, but I think it’s unlikely they’d block them completely.

Nate
Guest
Nate

I agree with you, and obviously i’m not suggesting that they won’t book partner awards. When I said “about to plug this”, I meant take away the sweet spot.

Don
Guest
Don

Are you able to book round trip itineraries where one direction is in business and the other is in economy?

Sam
Guest
Sam

Call today after HUCA 2 times, they said the system is upgrading. Not sure if they are lying or not. The previous agent find the flights but said no availability.

Benny
Guest
Benny

Called 8 times in last 4 days. Asked for dozens of choices (all available at UA and SQ) from HNL to US mainland(SFO, LAX, DEN, ORD, IAH) during 3 weeks window in Nov., , either system update or no availability. Gave up, going to use SQ instead

Benny
Guest
Benny

Still within 24hrs window after ticketing from SQ, so went for another shot with TK. The agent told me I had to go to the office to make the reservation for partner operated flight…..

Another hint for SQ, I can find flights available in their website but cant book directly (showing 30K miles one way even for itinerary with less than 2 hrs connection ). They are now providing online chat option to make reservation, quite useful when dealing with complex itinerary. After sending them the link of award chart and hold for ~20mins, they manually corrected price.

trackback

[…] spot for award travel within the US, recently consolidating information and publishing a post on How to book flights on United using Turkish Miles & Smiles. However, domestic US flights are not the only sweet spot; given the recent development that Citi […]

Steve
Guest
Steve

Just to confirm (haven’t done Citi Thank You Points yet but this has me thinking!)- the 7500 points each way applies to regular United metal and Regional operated United flights in US? (but not is you connect on Hawaiian) You don’t have to pay the tax with the United card to get free carry on- it’s booked as regular economy, not basic? The 10,000 points each way in North America is for Canada and the Caribbean?
Thank you for all your research on this sweet spot, and have a great upcoming trip.

John
Guest
John

Has anyone had any luck booking award travel on United recently? I’ve been trying for several days and while they can see the United flight, they aren’t able to book it. They keep saying that they are having a system issue and to try again the next day or to go and book in person at the sales office….

Chris
Guest
Chris

John, Did you ever have any luck doing a phone booking? I just tried today and two different agents told me that due to a system upgrade they can’t book Star Alliance awards

Lance Schultz
Guest
Lance Schultz

Does this work for segments using united express?