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According to this thread in the FlyerTalk Mileage Run forum, several airlines are featuring extremely low fares between the US and Istanbul, Turkey.

There appears to be solid availability in February and early March, and I’m seeing fares as low as $413! This is great news, especially for those of us who couldn’t get in on the paid first class fare sale to Istanbul and Moscow last week. Scott tweeted about that deal, but the dates (and cash outlay) just didn’t work for me.

Which US cities have these great fares?

I experimented and found good prices leaving from Washington-Dulles, Newark, and Chicago-O’Hare.

What’s the best way to hunt for eligible dates?

The ITA Matrix is my personal favorite. It’s one of the most useful tools to check for available dates and airlines. For a complete breakdown of how to use this great website, check out Scott’s recent post, ITA Matrix: How to Search for Cheap Airfare with Flexiblity.

First go to matrix.itasoftware.com. Type in “ORD”, “EWR”, or “IAD”  as your home airport and “IST” as your destination.

I prefer to search by the length of a trip and one month at a time. It helps me find the lowest fare. To do so, select “See calendar of lowest fares.” In the screenshot below, I’ve asked ITA to search for 3-8 night itineraries leaving in the month of February.

After you click “Search”, ITA takes you to a calendar listing the cheapest flights departing on each date. When I searched, I was able to find a bunch of sub-$500 fares.

Clicking on a particular date will bring up all available flight options on the next page. To see some sample itineraries, check out the screenshot below.

Keep in mind the ITA Matrix is only for finding airfares. You don’t have the ability to book through this site. Write down the dates, flight numbers, and prices that work for you and book directly at the airline’s website that is offering the bargain fare.

Didn’t you mention other US cities with cheap Istanbul fares?

Yes, Newark is also showing some sub-$500 fares. Below is a 3-5 night search in the month of February.

Chicago-O’Hare is also showing some flights for under $550. That’s not as good of a deal as the Washington D.C. flights, but it’s still fantastic for Istanbul. Below is a 3-8 night search in February.

Below are two sample trips on United and Turkish.

I don’t live in Chicago/Washington D.C./New York. Why is this of value to me?

You certainly don’t have to live in the origin airport city to turn this into a vacation. There are many ways to connect you to these major airports. If your schedule permits, you could even spend some vacation time in both the North American gateway city and Istanbul.

If you need to fly to Chicago, New York, or D.C. to start this trip, you should leave several hours (or even more) between your flight to/from those cities and the main Chicago/NYC/D.C. <-> Istanbul roundtrip. If there is bad weather or a mechanical issue with your flight to Chicago, for example, KLM, Turkish, or United isn’t obligated to accommodate you.

There are tons of domestic options to get you to these cities. Both American Airlines and United Airlines offer frequent nonstop flights to O’Hare airport from around the country. Newark and Washington-Dulles are United’s primary East Coast hubs.

If you have some  Southwest Rapid Rewards points to spare, check out Scott’s post on booking a Southwest Award, Anatomy of an Award: How to Book an Award on Southwest. You might be able to book an award ticket to Newark or Chicago-Midway that would save a lot of money.

Also, if you are planning on turning in frequent flyer miles to get to Chicago or Washington-Dulles, don’t forget British Airways Avios. Avios are redeemable on American Airlines, their oneworld partner, and the award chart is distance based. Flights to Chicago/D.C. that are under 650 miles are only 4,500 Avios. For more information on booking American Airlines flights with Avios, see out Scott’s post,Free First Class Next Month: Using BA.com for oneworld Awards.

Will this deal last into next week? I need to do some travel planning first!

This appears to be one of those lightning deals that could disappear at any time. All domestic carriers, including United, now have a 24-hour cancellation policy. My strong advice is to book now to lock in the great fare. If you wait around, the sub-$500 fares will most likely be gone.

If you book tonight and find out the dates don’t work, simply call the airline or cancel online tomorrow. Just make sure you do so before the 24-hour cancellation window passes. Otherwise, you will have to pay a pricey cancellation or change fee!

**Note that airlines like KLM and Turkish Airlines do not appear to have as relaxed a cancellation policy as US carriers. You might end up paying a fee for cancelling with them.

Why is this deal in the FlyerTalk Mileage Run Forum? What exactly is that?

Mileage runs are airline tickets purchased with the sole goal of earning frequent flyer miles. Many FlyerTalkers are able to maintain their elite status by purchasing heavily discounted tickets (such as the fare above). The goal is to requalify for elite status for the least amount of money out of pocket. Elite status with an airline usually brings perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, complimentary upgrades to first class, and a whole host of other benefits. For more info, check out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Using FlyerTalk’s Mileage Run Forum.

Recap

I’ve never seen low fares like this offered to Istanbul. The fact that you can take advantage from three major US cities is great news. This is a last minute vacation idea that’s hard to beat.

Typically when fares like this are discovered, they don’t last long. If you are interested, you should book quickly and take advantage of United’s 24 hour cancellation policy if your plans fall through. Be warned that international carriers appear to have stricter cancellation policies. You need to be sure when booking through KLM or Turkish Airlines.

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