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UPDATED 8.3.2019: (Book by Phone) Lie-Flat Seats on United in the U.S./North America for 12,500/15,000 Points

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IMPORTANT UPDATE: You can now redeem Turkish partners’ awards over the phone. This is yet another game changer because the Turkish award chart has some amazing and very unique sweet spots. HT Nick @Frequent Miler and VFTW.

Recently Nick Reyes from Frequent Flyer shared an amazing find: some time ago, the Turkish Miles and Smiles program had put Hawaii (at least Honolulu) in the region of North America, which made it possible to fly between anywhere in the U.S. and Honolulu for 7,500 miles in Economy or 12,500 in Business.

This is huge! Turkish Airlines is a Citi ThankYou airline partner, and you can easily transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio.

Flying from anywhere in the U.S. including East Coast all the way to Hawaii for 7,500 miles and $6 in taxes is the kind of value that validates the idea of traveling for free. I don’t believe it gets closer to free than that, at least I can’t imagine how.

Unfortunately, trying to find a United Business Class award seat to Hawaii is an exercise in futility that can tax your sanity big time. You might want to keep some Valium nearby in case of emergency. Or at least, chamomile tea — do not be reckless!

You can and probably have read all about it in Nick’s very detailed write-up, but the Turkish award chart opens up more possibilities. Let’s take a closer look.

Turkish sweet spots

Turkish has a reasonable award chart with a few sweet spots in Business from North America. Turkish lists its redemption values per round trip, but one way flights are allowed for 50%. I’ll list one way levels to avoid confusion.

  • Europe: 45,000
  • Middle East: 47,000
  • Central and North Africa: 49,000
  • Central Asia (India, Nepal): 52,500
  • North America: 15,000 (and 10,000 for Economy)
  • U.S. Domestic: 12,500 (and 7,500 for Economy)

North America includes: Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, United States (including Alaska), Honolulu, and the Dutch Antilles, of which Aruba and Bonaire are the only islands in the region served by United (the Dutch part of St. Maarten is in South America 🙂 ).

The way the Turkish award chart describes the U.S. is a bit weird. It includes Hawaii (at least Honolulu, but possibly other islands as well), Alaska, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but excludes Puerto Rico (Guam too, but that’s more reasonable).

As great as some of these redemption rates look, there is a problem with Turkish — fuel surcharges. The way it used to be, Turkish added surcharges to everything that flies including United flights in North America, which is something no other airline did, AFAIK. However, according to Nick’s post, it’s no longer the case, as his flight to Hawaii ended up costing him $5.60 in taxes.

I wonder what other changes Turkish has made recently, if any.

12,500 miles for a lie-flat United seat on transcontinental routes

UPDATE 8.3.19: You can still find lie-flat award space from the East Coast (New York and Boston) and California (LA and San Francisco) especially within the next 30 days. I’ve found 3 seats on some days in August from New York (EWR) to San Francisco!   

Getting any Business Class seat including old and tired recliner seats for 12,500 miles is already a great deal. Just as a reminder to some folks who are more spoiled than others, 12,500 miles per one way is normally a regular Economy domestic fare. It’s been this way since the inception of frequent flyer programs and it still is what both American and United are charging on most routes when you’re lucky enough to get your flight on a Saver award.

Which is why I personally was surprised to learn that United has quite a few domestic routes with lie-flat First Class cabins.

First, there are 3 transcontinental routes:

  • New York (EWR) and Los Angeles
  • New York (EWR) and San Francisco
  • Boston and San Francisco

Quite honestly, I didn’t expect to find availability on any of these routes, but I was wrong. There is some award space sprinkled around here and there — abysmal, yes, but it does exist, even for 2 people.

Poor nonstop EWR-LAX availability for 2 people in March

New York to San Francisco looks better if you want to travel this summer.

EWR-SFO Business Class availability this summer — not that bad, actually!

San Francisco to New York availability looks even more encouraging, but, again, only if you’re looking for summer travel. Then, it drops dead. I’ve found only 2 more awards from September until the end of the schedule.

Even better award space FROM SFO

There is some space available between Boston and San Francisco, too, but it’s even sparser.

Other U.S. domestic routes with lie-flat Business Class seats

Then, there are shorter hops. You can find United widebody aircraft with Business Class and, sometimes, First Class cabins on the following routes.

  • Denver and: Dallas (IAD), Houston (IAH), Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
  • New York (EWR) and: Houston (IAH) and Chicago
  • Dallas and: Houston (IAH) and San Francisco
  • Houston and: Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco
  • Los Angeles and Chicago
  • Chicago and San Francisco

Download the United cargo schedule to see all United widebody routes. Most of them will have lie-flat seats (verify with Seat Guru or/and Seat Maestro). HT to: Point Me to the Plane.

United Business Class in North America for 10,000/15,000 miles, and let’s hack it a little

Here is the Turkish definition of North America again: Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, United States (including Alaska), Honolulu, Aruba, and Bonaire.

So you can fly anywhere between Alaska and Mexico/Aruba for 10,000 miles in Economy and 15,000 miles in Business provided that the flight is on the same carrier — Turkish doesn’t allow you to mix carriers, alas.

So you can fly, for example, from San Francisco to Cancun for 15,000 miles in Business Class. That’s not going to be a lie-flat seat, mind you, but, well, we can’t always have everything. 🙂

A Business Class award between San Francisco and Cancun won’t put you in a lie-flat seat, but for 15,000 miles it’s still a bargain

UPDATE 8.03.19: I now doubt the scenario below will work. You might be charged for the higher-cost region even if you’re just transiting — DEVELOPING. 

But what if we take it a little further? You don’t have to be flying on United. Any Star carrier will do. And United often “outsources” its award flights to Mexico or the Caribbean to Copa. Like this one.

In case you feel hack-ish

 

But what if you change your mind about Aruba during the layover in Panama City? Maybe, you happen to enjoy the PTY lounge so much that you miss your flight? Or perhaps you realize you’ve had a bad case of nostalgia for the Panama Canal? Or maybe you suddenly got terrified of the prospect of another hurricane? Should something like that happen and your plane takes off without you in Panama City, you would find comfort in the fact that you got from the U.S. to Latin America for 15,000 miles in Business Class.

I’ve also seen flights to Mexico and the Caribbean routed via Colombia on Avianca. Remember once again, though, that your travel has to be completed on the same carrier.

Of course, we all know how much airlines “love” it when you dump a segment, but I’m almost positively sure you won’t be penalized for missing your flight on one or 2 occasions.

Would it work? I don’t know. Does Turkish add fuel surcharges to Copa or Avianca, or Air Canada for that matter? No idea. However, I’m encouraged by Nick’s report that at least the fuel surcharge on United appears to be a thing of the past now.

Ease of Turkish miles redemptions from 1 to 10

UPDATE 8.03.19: I give it a 4 now. You still can’t book a partner’s award flight online, but it’s gotten much better!

Another reason why Turkish didn’t have a lot of play with the miles ‘n’ points crowd is how hard it is to redeem their STAR partners awards. Not only can’t you book them online, not only can’t you book them on the phone — until recently you were supposed to personally go to a Turkish ticket office to book your flight. What century is it again?

Fortunately, it seems no longer to be necessary, as you should be able to book your ticket via email. Please read carefully that link if you’re going to follow that path.

Obviously, this is not as good as booking online or on the phone for 2 reasons. First, transferring ThankYou points is not instantaneous; second, sending an email and getting the response may take another few days, and we all know how fragile Business Class award space can be; we’ve all been there.

This is the reason why I give it an 8. Still beats the hell out of driving to the airport.

So any plans on using Turkish miles on these redemptions or others?

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