First Class to Hawaii for 12,500 Miles and a 13-Minute Phone Call

Jul 30, 2019

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Nick and Greg over at the Frequent Miler have been doing some excellent work covering the new sweet spot within the Turkish Miles & Smiles program. Hawaii used to be a part of the Oceania region but has recently been updated to be included within the North America region, the same region as the contiguous United States.

One-way, economy-class tickets within the US on Star Alliance partner United Airlines cost just 7,500 miles, while United domestic first class — which Turkish counts as business class — requires 12,500 miles.

***Applicable Mile amount for direct flights with Star Alliance member airlines in the same country. Amounts shown reflect round trip tickets.

Saver economy availability is actually fairly abundant on United, and tickets can easily be booked for 7,500 Turkish miles and $5.60 per person each way between the US and Hawaii. United charges 22,500 United miles per person for an economy ticket on the same route, and even Singapore KrisFlyer — long considered one of the best Hawaiian sweet spots from the US — would require 17,500 miles.

While 7,500 miles is an outstanding value — especially from the East Coast — 12,500 miles for first class to Hawaii is among the most spectacular sweet spots out there.

I decided to give it a try.

The Booking Process

In the past, booking Star Alliance-operated flights using Turkish miles required either an in-person trip to a Turkish ticket office or a series of emails to a ticketing office — which may or may not go answered. These tickets are now reportedly able to be booked over the phone. Before calling, I did a close-in award search on United.com between the mainland and Hawaii, focusing on less-sought-after routes. I very quickly found multiple dates within the next two weeks that showed saver first class availability on the flight from Kona (KOA) to San Francisco (SFO):

Armed with 13,000 Citi ThankYou Points ready to be transferred over to my Turkish account, I gave Turkish Miles&Smiles a call (1-800-874-8875). After going through a simple phone menu and four minute hold time, I got a very capable agent who confirmed my account information. She pulled up the route on which I had found saver level award availability, and her system showed the same award space I saw on United.com. There were three first class seats and nine economy seats available on the 10:00pm departure from Kona operated by a 737-900.

She then quoted me the expected 12,500 miles and $5.60 for the one-way ticket. I told her I intended on transferring over credit card points to my account and requested a hold until my miles showed up. She said the system would automatically give her hold options after she filled out all my personal info. She quickly entered my birthday and name and gave me a PNR for the ticket. She let me know I could hold the ticket for 48 hours without the miles in my account.

I quickly used the Turkish Airlines PNR and was able to pull up the itinerary on United.com:

I then confirmed the itinerary showed up on my Turkish account, and just like the agent said, I had 48 hours to pay for the ticket before the complimentary hold expired and the ticket was gone:

The phone call lasted a total of 13 minutes, and if the ThankYou points had already transferred into my Turkish account, I would be set for a first class flight from Hawaii back the mainland for a staggeringly low 12,500 miles and $5.60. Turkish miles transfer from Citi in about 1-2 days, so you’d essentially have to really hope the miles showed up before the hold expired.

That being said, I am going to call back in 24 hours to see if the hold can be extended (for research purposes) in case the transferred miles don’t show up before the ticketing deadline. As noted above, I called 1-800-874-8875 to quickly reach a Turkish agent.

Bottom Line

Booking United-operated awards to or from Hawaii using Turkish Airlines miles could be one of the best possible ways to visit the Aloha State. If you don’t have Citi ThankYou points to transfer to Turkish, Marriott Bonvoy points are your other avenue, as they transfer at a 3:1 ratio plus a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring 60,000 points.

The roadblock here is going to be first-class saver availability to and from Hawaii, something United (and quite frankly all airlines) are rather stingy in releasing. Use the United interactive route map to look at some lesser-known routes, and search close-in dates for the best chances of finding saver first award availability. And even if you can’t, booking one-way economy awards for 7,500 miles from anywhere in the US to Hawaii on United is a staggering deal.

This was really an excellent booking process for a partner phone booking and something all of us should investigate and book if possible.

Featured photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy.

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