Anatomy of an Award: LA to Hawaii to DC for 15k Turkish Miles (Citi Points)

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A note from Sarah Page: In case you don’t catch the byline, this was written by MileValue founder Scott Grimmer. We’re happy to feature a post by our old friend and coworker! Thanks for your time and valuable insight, Scott.

I recently booked my friend a ticket from Los Angeles, where he lives, to Honolulu, where I’ve been this winter, to Washington, DC where he’s meeting another friend.

An Open Jaw Award Ticket

He’s flying United flights, but instead of paying the 50,000 miles United would have charged for Saver award space booked within a few days of departure or the 35,000 Singapore miles I would have previously used for this award space, I paid 15,000 Turkish miles plus $11.20 total or 7,500 each way plus plus $5.60 in taxes.

My Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles account was only a few days old when I booked the ticket. I had only opened the account to transfer Citi ThankYou Points in, in anticipation of booking this super sweet spot award.

The Turkish Miles&Smiles Award Chart

Turkish Airlines publishes its award chart on this page and the relevant award chart is the “Promotional award ticket table.” I’ve reprinted the price of a few roundtrip awards from North America below.

One way awards are half price. So an intra-North America award one way in 10,000 miles according to this chart. But that’s not the price Turkish actually charges. They charge 7,500 miles each way in accordance with a chart Frequent Miler screenshotted last year which is now no longer on the page.

Not only is Turkish charging way fewer miles than competing frequent flyer programs for intra-North America flights, but it doesn’t have a separate region for Hawaii, which is placed into North America.

So an award between Hawaii and the US mainland costs 7,500 Turkish miles one way.

Of course, Turkish has no such flights on its own planes, but Turkish is a member of the Star Alliance with United and can book any Saver award space on United. Turkish collects fuel surcharges on award tickets, but there are no fuel surcharges on domestic United flights.

So an award between Hawaii and the US mainland on United planes with Saver award space costs 7,500 Turkish miles plus $5.60 one way.

United charges 22,500 miles for the same flights booked more than a month before departure, and up to 25,500 in the days before departure. Even my go to for Star Alliance award bookings to Hawaii, Singapore Airlines charges 17,500 miles one way.

Searching Award Space Between the Mainland and Hawaii

Go to united.com and do a search like this from your home airport, being sure to check “Book with miles.”

When a pop up box asks you to sign into MileagePlus, click the X in the top right corner. Don’t sign in because elites and credit card holders will see extra award space that Turkish cannot book.

In the search results, Turkish can book Saver award space. You can spot Saver award space three ways, which I’ve highlighted below:

  1. The price will be 22.5k to 25.5k one way depending on time until departure.
  2. The small words “Saver Award” will appear above the price.
  3. When looking at each segment, the fare class “X” will appear.

For my friend, I found ample direct award space between Los Angeles and Honolulu, for his outbound, so we picked the ideal time for him to arrive, and good award space between Honolulu and the DC area for his “return.” In that case, we picked an award into Washington National “DCA” instead of Dulles “IAD” or Baltimore “BWI” for his convenience getting into the city.

I noted the dates, times, and flight numbers of the flights I wanted to book him with United Saver award space, and then I emailed Turkish Airlines.

Booking Turkish Miles&Smiles Awards

Turkish Airlines awards can be booked online, but their Star Alliance award search page which is a bit hidden doesn’t show most of the Saver award space their partners release.

Turkish Airlines awards can be booked by phone, but their agents seem to only have access to the same search engine that is online because I got the same incomplete set of options when I called, and no amount of feeding the correct award space, asking them to “search segment by segment,” or asking to speak to a supervisor solved my problem.

The way to book a Turkish award is to email a US-based reservation office, as they seem to have access to better award searching engines or skills.

I emailed the LAX office (RESERVATION.LAX@THY.COM) the following:

Hello,

I transferred 15,000 points to my Turkish account and am ready to book the following open jaw award that I checked has X fare class on all segments.

Passenger: XXXXX, male, birthday XX March, XXXX
Miles & Smiles Account with miles: XXXXX (Scott Grimmer)

Date: XX February, 2020
Class: Economy
Origin: LAX
Destination: HNL
Segment: 1) UA 1158 XXFEB LAX-HNL 0830 1233

Date: XX February, 2020
Class: Economy
Origin: HNL
Destination: DCA
Segment: 1) UA 362 XXFEB HNL-EWR 1635 0658
2) UA 3513 XXFEB EWR-DCA 0829 0953

Please tell me the next steps to book.

Sincerely,
Scott Grimmer

You should obviously edit this email to fit your needs, but there are some key things to retain:

  • I gave the secure flight information (name, gender, birthday) for the passenger so the ticket can be booked.
  • I said I was ready to book immediately.
  • I gave the exact date, time, and flight number for every flight.
  • I gave the Turkish account number from which the miles would be taken and the name on that account.

I received a form email, basically ignoring my message:

Dear Client,

Kindly contact our call center at 1-800-874-8875 for booking your mileage ticket and purchase.

This required me to send one more email:

They said they couldn’t find the award space but I know there is space in X fare class (economy award fare class) on all those segments. Online there are many reports of the offices being able to do it by email but the call center not working.

Can you please help me ticket this? 

Aloha, 
Scott

And voila! Seventeen minutes later I got the following email:

Dear Mr. S. Grimmer,

Please find the reservations booked on economy class for below passenger and flights.

The required miles per passenger are 15000 and the airport taxes per passenger are $11.20.

If you agree and would like to purchase your tickets please contact our call center at 1800-874-8875.

The deadline to purchase the ticket is [tomorrow] the latest by 05.00pm (PST).

The booking reference number for Turkish Airlines call center is XXXXXX and for United Airlines record locator is XXXXX.

1.1 XXXXXXXXXX MR

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

1 UA1158 X  XX XXFEB  LAXHNL  HK1   0830 1233

2 UA  362 X  XX   XXFEB  HNLEWR HK1   1635 0658*

3 UA3513 X  XX XXFEB  EWRDCA HK1   0829 0953

The reservations office had reserved my award with a Turkish Airlines confirmation number, and all I had to do was call and book. The call was a bit tedious–I had to read out the flight time for each segment and type in my Turkish Airlines six digit PIN–and took 20 minutes, but in the end I had a booked ticket.

I took the United confirmation number to united.com and selected my friend’s seats for his flights.

The above process works, but it does take some time and effort. If you’d rather not spend time nor effort, but want to take advantage of this super sweet spot, MileValue’s Award Booking experts can handle it for you.

Transferring Citi ThankYou Points to Turkish Miles

Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to Turkish miles in increments of 1,000 miles from inside your Citi ThankYou account. Unfortunately the transfer is not instant. Mine took about 24 hours, and I have seen reports of 17-30 hours.

Some people suggest not transferring until you have a held award. My award was held for 29 hours, so that might have worked, but I was happy to transfer before I had my held award so I could ticket my award as soon as I got the email that it was held.

Getting Citi ThankYou Points

Right now the Citi Premier is offering 60,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of cardmembership plus the card earns 3x points on travel including gas stations and 2x on restaurants and entertainment. The $95 annual fee is not waived.

Citi advertises the bonus as being good for $750 in airfare, and it is if you use the points like cash at a value of 1.25 cents each to book flights on any airline, which is one possible use.

Of course, following the instructions in this post, you could use the bonus for eight one-way flights between the US mainland and Hawaii, which is worth $1,600 to $4,000 probably.

Note from Sarah Page: Don’t forget that if you hold a Citi Premier or a Citi Prestige card, as well as Citi Double Cash Card, you can transfer the points earned by the Citi Double Cash circuitously to Turkish by first moving them to a Premier or Prestige account. Read about how and why you’d want to do this in Citi Double Cash Crowned King of Everyday Spend.

Bottom Line

You can transfer Citi ThankYou Points to Turkish Miles&Smiles miles and book United Saver award space between the mainland and Hawaii for 7,500 miles + $5.60 each way. United charges 22,500 miles + $5.60 each way for the same exact seats.

The process requires relying on a no-longer-published award space, sending two emails, and making a phone call, but for these savings, those are small sacrifices.

United is very generous with releasing Saver award space to Hawaii, especially in the weeks leading to departure and especially in winter.

I have not tried to book this deal in United First Class, which should price at 12,500 Turkish miles each way (the Business Class price on the award chart above), and United releases way less premium award space to Hawaii at the Saver level, but it should be theoretically possible.

Addendum (February 12)

I booked a second award in the manner outlined in this post. It was three roundtrips from Honolulu to Washington-Dulles. This time I didn’t send the 45,000 ThankYou Points to Turkish miles until I had the email with the confirmation number.

The reservation was set to expire at 5 PM PT the day after it was held, which was 27 hours after I got the email. My point transfer took between 36 and 42 hours, so I missed the deadline. But I called in any way, and the agent never mentioned the missed deadline and had no problem ticketing the award.

Two new lessons:

  1. Point transfers can take longer than others have reported.
  2. The deadline to make a reservation is not really a deadline. I’d still adhere to it when possible, though, since I don’t know how long the award really is held and bookable.

So that’s 8 one ways between Hawaii and the mainland USA for one Citi Premier sign up bonus!


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Scott
    I’m reading this post and didn’t look at the name . I’m seeing Simple,Simple and OK photos and larger print and Step by Step looks like something Scott would post . Then I read your name @ the bottom . This has been posted on many times by other Blogs . BUT you as usual has made it easier to understand and to DO . I got Hawaii on Sunday ORD>KOA>OGG>ORD by Thank you points booked a year ago so no TK then.
    Still live in a Cave and still a Brilliant Lawyer HaHa .
    Take Care my Travel Hero you Made my Day .
    CHEERs

  2. What else is the TK miles good for, in case the United email booking workaround stop working
    I have 65 k THankyou point expiring and wondering this is a good choice
    No immediate plan to book yet

  3. Funny, I saw the routing and it immediately reminded me of Scott. Sure enough, he wrote the post 😂 We miss you, Scott!

  4. Alive! He’s Alive! Good to hear from you again, Scott. Your ability to suss out sweet spots was legendary.

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