UPDATE: It appears that the website now indicates that February 15th will be the last day to book at the old rates – so we have a week’s notice to book what we want.

turkish miles smiles devaluationUgh. My least favorite posts to write are the ones that involve the gutting of a once-great rewards program. It happens more often that I wish it did, which is why I value transferable points so much more than any individual airline mile and why I also ALWAYS answer no when people ask if they should transfer a boatload of points into one program – perhaps because they want to close an account or because of a transfer bonus. 

And that is what seems to have happen with once-beloved (until today?!) niche loyalty program Turkish Miles&Smiles.

It was once only a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou and, for a time, the primary reason to choose ThankYou over other programs. Capital One added Turkish as a partner once they converted their “miles” to “Miles” (making them transferable) and Bilt Rewards was smart enough to snag Turkish as a transfer partner when they launched, understanding that the miles and points community would see them as a very strong part of an already strong transfer partner lineup.

But sometimes the heads of loyalty programs just don’t get it – and it seems that is the case here. Unlike Air Canada and Air France which, in the past few years have made their awards so much more attractive than they were before that they now generate meaningful revenue from US credit card partners, Turkish seems to think that they will save money by increasing award prices when they will, instead, kill the golden goose. Keep in mind that loyalty programs (the sale of miles) often earn an airline more than flying does!

As I’ll highlight in a moment, Turkish has made *most* but not all awards too unattractive to bother with transferring anything to Turkish Miles&Smiles. After all, the program is well known to be quirky, with a website that often doesn’t show Star Alliance availability that shows everywhere else (I once got lucky ticketing EWR-HML nonstop only by emailing an Asian ticket office that could see the space no phone agent could but I knew existed), and with well meaning phone agents that often can’t do what is needed, leading to a ton of frustration. They also levy what we used to call “fuel surcharges” (YQ) which are now just “carrier imposed surcharges” on both their own metal and any partner that levies them like Lufthansa. 

People put up with ALL of that because the award rates were SO good, like 45,000 miles from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe in business class. If you could find space on an airlines without surcharges, like United, you could get a screaming deal.

But last night Canadian points blog Prince of Travel uncovered a devaluation in the form of new award charts posted (but not yet, as of this writing, implemented on the Turkish website – so you probably can still squeeze in redemptions at the old prices for minutes, hours, or days). 

If you are flying Turkish metal, for example, the cost from the US to Europe goes from 45k in Business to 65k. If you are flying a Star Alliance carrier, it seems to jump from 45k to 85k! And awards are now additive when you have a stop… that stings. 

The only thing that may have truly escaped a major devaluation is flights on United in North America which only appear to move from 7,500 in coach and 12,500 in Business to 10,000 and 15,000 respectively – still great value, especially when you find a rare United saver award to Hawaii!

Anyway, you can dig deeper on the linked Prince of Travel article for all the charts and they even give before and after pricing. (I just took off for the first destination on the Find Dave, Make Money MilesTalk $1,000 Challenge, so my time is a bit limited ;-))

PS: Since the actual award engine is not using this pricing I do want to stress that it really could be any length of time until this is implemented or they could back off altogether. Their IT is not known to be a strong spot and so even if they wanted it out today, it could be a year or two 😉 

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Thoughts?

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