A few days ago I wrote an article on how I made a costly mistake twice. I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but it is what it is. Honestly, I haven’t put too much thought on it for a while now. But since it’s already mid-September, I need to work on the planning again. I’ve been considering to go to warmer places around Thanksgiving, but airfares are high. After losing a few days of work hours, I can’t seem to justify spending $1100+ to go to Hawaii in coach.
Long story short, my trip in November as follows:
- Alaska Airlines: Washington to Los Angeles
- American Airlines/Cathay: Los Angeles to Manila via Shanghai and Hong Kong
- Turkish Airlines: Manila to Los Angeles via Istanbul
- American Airlines *: Los Angeles to Washington via Phoenix
I had an award booking as a placeholder on American Airlines. It was a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Washington in economy class. It cost me 12.5k AA miles. Obviously, it was not the preferred way to travel back home.
At the same time, I don’t want to waste my holiday by doing nothing at home, so I need to make a decision about where to go.
Finding the Flight
When I was searching for award tickets on united.com, I came across tons of availability on Air Canada around the holiday. That includes transcontinental flights in a premium cabin. I confirmed the availability on ExpertFlyer and Turkish Airlines by calling them. Indeed, the award space was available.
Turkish Airlines has some sweet-spot mileage redemption. I will talk about the details in-depth in a separate post. I ended up booking the flight. Los Angeles to Toronto on Air Canada 787-9 (Business) Signature Class for 15k miles + tax. Not bad, eh?
The revenue ticket costs nearly $1,700.
Originally, I planned to fly beyond Toronto, but it seemed like the system doesn’t allow onward domestic flights within Canada. The agent didn’t see the availability of connecting flights unless I fly direct. I even hung up and called again (HUCA), but I got the same result.
So if my theory says that you can fly domestically with connections, for example, Vancouver to Montreal via Toronto. But you can’t do Los Angeles to Ottawa via Toronto. It’s strange I know, but I need more data points to prove my theory.
It’s been discussed in many blogs that you can’t redeem Turkish Airlines miles on Star Alliance partners over the phone. You had to go to the local office to make a payment and get your reservation ticketed. It wasn’t the case for me.
I called Turkish Airlines and they were able to confirm the availability. Yet, there was an issue when he tried to confirm the reservation. He was able to create a PNR for both Turkish and Air Canada, but nothing confirmed.
He told me not to worry because he would reach out to the IT department. He advised me to proceed with the payment.
As I mentioned before, I was to make a payment over the phone. The agent transferred me to an automatic system that asked me to enter my credit card information using the phone keypad. For the redemption authorization, the agent used the same method. I had to enter my PIN using the phone keypad. Everything went well, except the reservation never got ticketed. I also checked the Air Canada reservation and was able to find the reservation by entering Air Canada PNR.
Turkish Airlines allows putting a reservation on hold for 3 days. I attempted to call them at least half a dozen times to get the reservation ticketed. But unfortunately, I always spoke with someone who is not knowledgeable. All they did was to write an email to the “back office”. Of course, the “back office” never replied.
I also reached out to the Twitter team. They created a case number or known as “feedback form”. What’s frustrating is that they always asked me for the case number but never resolved the issue. Instead, they transferred me around to different departments.
Three days passed. The reservation expired and canceled. At this point, I was not at all happy. I called them again and firmly explained my frustration. Finally, I was transferred to an agent who was a little more knowledgeable. Unfortunately, she couldn’t modify the canceled reservation. She informed me that she would reach out to the “back office” to get the refund process taken care of. I concurred.
I then asked her to create a new reservation. She quickly confirmed the availability and created a new booking. She quoted me the total tax amount in U.S. Dollars and Canadian Dollars. For some reason the amount is noticeably more in CAD, so I told her to charge the tax in USD – It was around US$30.
A few minutes later, she told me that there was an error. I knew it was the same error that occurred in the first place. But this time, I was glad she figured out what went wrong. Apparently, the tax can only be paid in Turkish Lira. She quoted me ~455 TL, which is about US$45. That’s significantly more than what was originally quoted. But I decided to proceed with that amount. Once the payment amount was entered in TL, the system issued the ticket immediately.
What a pain! But now at least I have a valid ticket to get back to the East Coast comfortably. Not only I can review Air Canada 787-9 (Business) Signature Class, but I can also spend some time in Toronto for Thanksgiving!
Turkish Airlines offers a sweet spot mileage redemption rate. However, their IT department needs to step up their game. It can also be very frustrating when you get a clueless agent. In the end, I’m glad that the last agent I spoke to was knowledgeable enough to troubleshoot the issue and quickly resolved it. That said, being able to redeem Star Alliance partner flights over the phone is an improvement. Previously, we had to come to the local office in person to make a payment and ticket a reservation.
Fifteen thousand miles in a premium cabin on a transcontinental flight is a steal. I was originally booked on American Airlines flight in economy class which cost me 12.5k miles. Moreover, the revenue ticket cost for the same Air Canada flight is nearly $1700.
Now I start planning on my trip to Canada. I also need to decide how I’m going to get back to DC from Toronto. If you have any questions on how to earn Turkish Airlines miles, please feel free to contact me. I will be more than happy to guide you.