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How to Redeem Points and Miles for Turkish Airlines Business Class

July 22, 2019
9 min read
Daily life in Istanbul
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While first-class travelers expect a perfect experience from start to finish, flying in business class often requires you to pick which element of the flight experience matters to you the most. For example, China Eastern offers excellent seats on both its 777s and 787s but isn't known for its soft product. United's Polaris lounges are excellent, but the food and service onboard can be hit or miss — and much of the carrier's long-haul fleet still features outdated seats.

And then there's Turkish Airlines, which has a reputation for having the best business-class catering of any airline. The one downside is that many of the carrier's business-class seats are not competitive these days, though that's starting to change as it takes delivery of new 787 Dreamliner aircraft with an all-new, business-class cabin. Nevertheless, if you're looking to enjoy a solid onboard experience — even with an outdated seat — Turkish business class can make for a great award redemption.

Today we'll take a look at everything you need to know to redeem points and miles for business class with Turkish Airlines.

Planes & Routes

Turkish Airlines currently flies from its brand-new hub airport in Istanbul (IST) to the following nine North American cities:

  • Washington-Dulles (IAD)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • New York-JFK
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Chicago-O'Hare (ORD)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Toronto (YYZ)
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An overwhelming majority of these flights are operated by Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which feature 49 business class seats spread over seven rows in a 2-3-2 configuration. While this configuration is fine for couples traveling together, it's not ideal for solo travelers. There aren't many airlines that still have a middle seat in international business class, and so if you find yourself on a 777 you'll want to be careful about which seat you select.

Turkish Airlines 777 business class. Photo courtesy of Zach Honig

The next most common plane in Turkish's long-haul fleet is the Airbus A330, which you can currently find flying to Atlanta and on one of the airline's three daily frequencies to JFK. Turkish has a number of different configurations for its A330s, but most of the ones flying to the US feature a standard 2-2-2 layout. These planes have the same forward-facing seats as you'll find on the 777, but with only six per row instead of seven, the A330 is actually a more appealing plane to fly on.

Turkish Airlines A330 business class. Photo courtesy of Zach Honig

However, by far the best plane in Turkish's fleet is one that hasn't arrived yet. Turkish will begin taking delivery of 787-9 aircraft later this year and will use them on flights between Istanbul and Washington-Dulles starting Aug. 8; Atlanta will follow beginning Sept. 15. The 787s feature an entirely redesigned business-class cabin that will offer direct aisle access from every seat. TPG's Ben Smithson got to try it out on a domestic flight to help the crew get familiar with the new plane. You can see his first impressions of the product here.

Photo courtesy of Turkish Airlines

So with a large chunk of Turkish's fleet featuring sub-par seats, why all the love? Much of that comes down to the carrier's phenomenal business-class catering, provided by DO&CO. The two companies just signed a 15-year deal to extend the relationship, so you don't have to worry about this excellent food disappearing anytime soon. Just take a look at this stunning appetizer TPG Editor at Large Zach Honig got when he flew Turkish Airlines business class last year.

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Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

Turkish even has an onboard chef, and while most of the catering work is done before the plane leaves the gate, it's another testament to how much the airline cares about the dining experience.

Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

How to Book

Turkish is a member of Star Alliance, so you have plenty of options to book its business class. With the exception of Singapore KrisFlyer, all the major Star Alliance programs include Istanbul in the Europe region. This means a business-class award from the US to Turkey costs the same as if you were flying from the US to Paris or London. In fact, you can even route the long way through Istanbul and connect to other European destinations, as long as you don't exceed the maximum permitted mileage for a given route.

Here are the one-way business class award rates for flights from the US to Istanbul with the most popular Star Alliance loyalty programs.

Frequent Flyer ProgramMileage CostsTransfer Partners
Aeroplan57,500 milesAmex Membership Rewards, Capital One
Avianca LifeMiles63,000 milesAmex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One
Singapore KrisFlyer69,000 milesAmex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One
United MileagePlus70,000 milesChase Ultimate Rewards

If you know exactly what day you plan to fly, you can easily search for award space using any of the above programs — we recommend United or Aeroplan — or you could use ExpertFlyer, which has the added benefit of letting you search seven days at a time plus the ability to set alerts for a given flight if it's not available when you first search.

I find Turkish Airlines to be incredibly generous when it comes to business-class award availability, and if you're trying to search for more than a week at a time you should turn your attention to the United website. When you click on "Advanced search" from the homepage, you'll see an option that says "My dates are flexible." Checking this box will take you to a two-month calendar view, which is a great option for flexible travelers.

If you're looking to try out the new 787 Dreamliner, Turkish has almost no business-class award availability out of Washington at this time. However, space on the 11-hour flight from Atlanta to Istanbul is much easier to come by. In the calendar below, all the dates with dotted blue lines have business-class award availability.

Amazingly enough, most of those dates have at least four business-class awards, making this a great option for families.

If you're traveling with someone and don't mind losing direct aisle access — or if you simply care more about food and drink than about the seat itself — you can also find decent availability flying out of Chicago-O'Hare.

However, if you can find a way to connect through Atlanta, you'll end up with a much more rewarding experience on the carrier's 787.

Credit Cards That Can Help

If you're looking to book one of these awards, there are a number of cards that can make it a reality thanks to the array of Star Alliance carriers that partner with the major transferable point currencies. Here are a few great options:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in your first six months of card membership. You can then transfer your points to Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles to book.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Transfer points to United — and be sure to swipe this card for the award ticket taxes and fees to enjoy the various travel protections it offers.

Bottom Line

There aren't many airlines that truly have it all when it comes to the business class experience. Many travelers have shunned Turkish Airlines because of its outdated business-class seating arrangement and missed out on one of the best culinary experiences in the skies. It's true that 10 hours is a long time to spend next to a stranger if you're paying business-class prices, but the introduction of new 787 aircraft into the Turkish fleet should help the airline offer an excellent business-class product in all areas.

For more on Turkish Airlines, please see the following:

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.