ALERT: Star Alliance Business Class Awards East/Midwest/West Coast to Europe for the Whole Family

This is a difficult time for the Turkish people. Erdoğan is a strong man and a disaster who invoked Hitler to justify new powers he seeks in the aftermath of the coup attempt in his country.

He was aggregating power before the coup, restricting rights, but has since been rounding up thousands of citizens and restricting freedoms even more. Of course a successful coup could well have led to limitations on freedom for the Turkish people as well. There was likely no good outcome.

And of course travel on Turkish Airlines is plummeting. That means plenty of award space on the Star Alliance carrier. I’ve noticed this in the past, recently, and earlier this week pointed out to another blogger that they could take their whole family on a business class award trip on their preferred dates out of New York earlier in the week. MileCards writes about it as well.

Here’s San Francisco – Istanbul business class award space for 4 passengers: Note that dotted lines are business class dates, solid lines show economy availability.

Here’s Houston – Istanbul business class award space for 4 passengers:

Los Angeles availability is good as well, though not as good:

There’s great availability Chicago – Istanbul. There’s very good availability (though not quite as much) New York – Istanbul and Washington Dulles – Istanbul. In all cases June is the weakest month, and Miami availability is the sparsest.

I’m staying away from Turkey itself. But remember that even the attack at the Istanbul airport last summer was outside security, security at the airport is good, I feel very comfortable transiting Istanbul.

And there’s an upside to the Erdoğan regime: if you don’t like your seatmate, perhaps they snore too loudly or won’t stop chatting you up when you’re trying to sleep, just discretely whisper to a flight attendant prior to arrival that they’re a Gülenist and you’ll have your revenge.

Turkish offers one of the most over the top business class lounge experiences in Istanbul. There’s billiards, golf, a race track, and a movie room with popcorn machine.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul

And when an itinerary contains a forced layover in Istanbul, Turkish will provide a free hotel night even for economy passengers. A work colleague was given the Radisson Blu at the airport when flying economy to and from Eastern Europe.

Mileage costs:

  • United charges 70,000 each way to Turkey and surrounding areas in Europe, 80,000 if you make your destination the Mideast. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card‘s points usually transfer instantly.

  • Aeroplan charges 57,500 each way to Turkey and surrounding areas in Europe, 82,500 if you make your destination the Mideast. Your American Express Membership Rewards points usually transfer instantly.

  • Avianca LifeMiles charges 63,000 each way to Turkey and surrounding areas in Europe, 78,000 if you make your destination the Mideast or North Africa. LifeMiles frequently sells miles cheap.

Each of these three programs allow you to book awards on Turkish without fuel surcharges.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “discretely whisper to a flight attendant prior to arrival that they’re a Gülenist and you’ll have your revenge”

    Comedy gold. Love the political side commentary on this one.

  2. I just did a bunch of research on hotels in Istanbul. It seems that the Radisson Blu Airport is a common hotel for the layover nights with Turkish. We have a non-Turkish long layover and plan to try and see a couple tourist sites. I ended up booking the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport for 5k in Hilton points! as a Diamond rate. Most of the hotels are also super cheap in cash rates there right now due to the recent and continued events in the area.
    I will also add that although there may be a lot of award space available there right now you might run into a good deal just paying cash (and earning miles). A few months back my wife and I booked Air France from Houston to Istanbul for $1,300 each round trip business so it can be found. It’s still $2,600 in cash for us but we will each earn about 12k in miles and you could end up on a carrier with fuel surcharges, fees and of course taxes at the least.
    We are using IST as a hub to get to Israel on the cheap so it works for us.
    My suggestion if someone is going to Istanbul (or even have a long layover) is to book a tour. Turkish has a whole website for this. They have short 1/2 day type tours that coordinate with Turkish flight schedules, etc.. There are a ton of local tour operators. All are hurting bad right now and the terrorist are beating them down.

  3. “discretely whisper to a flight attendant prior to arrival that they’re a Gülenist and you’ll have your revenge”

    Gary, I know this is meant to be a joke but the way things are over there, if someone actually did this, it might lead to trouble. Think about the stuff that might happen if you whispered ” this guy is affiliated with isis ” in the US on a plane about someone else.

  4. Gary – For a while, there were reports of people who had visited Turkey getting selected for secondary screening for months after returning (TPG and others). Are you aware of any similar reports for people who are simply transiting Istanbul?

  5. @Minn yes it’s a joke but PRECISELY to highlight the absurd situation in Turkey. If the people rounded up as coup conspirators were actually coup conspirators, the coup would have succeeded easily…

  6. @Dave:

    I’ve been to/through IST four times in the last 6 months, leaving the airport each time. I’m GlobalEntry. Have no had any issues with TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, or even plain ol’ security since then.

  7. Do you have to get a Turkish visa if you are staying at a complimentary hotel from Turkish Airlines on a forced layover?

  8. I booked mine in I think November, 3 tickets via Turkish in May. Not many places have seats for a whole family in business on award

  9. @Dave – Did a stay in IST last fall for a couple days, then returned to the US from mainland Europe.

    Was SSSSed for the Europe – US flight, so searched at the gate.

    And on two subsequent domestic flights was also given SSSS – all within 3 weeks of the trip.

    But after that, it cleared up, so wasn’t so bad.

    Though DL was the carrier for the SSSS trips, and haven’t flown them since the last SSSS. AA/UA were the others afterward that weren’t SSSS.

    Interestingly enough, non Global Entry / Pre travel companions on the same ticket did not get SSSS returning Europe to US. They have not flown since so no other read there.

  10. Having been to Istanbul on Turkish in March last year before bombings etc ramped up, I’m wary of even connecting through Istanbul. For this reason, I booked my wife and I on Etihad/Singapore Air for our Europe trip this summer. A little more peace of mind helps on vacation, don’t know about the rest of the readers on this blog.

  11. @ unFairAndunBalancedKindaGuy umm, no, Erdogan is an Islamist. And Trump has promised to end Radical Islamist Terrorism once and for all. He’s not going to get any admiration from Trump.

    I’m guessing you were referring to Putin with that comment. While I don’t believe Putin did anything to favor Trumps election, I’m quite certain if he did he will very quickly regret it. All it took to get a favor from Hillary was a “donation” (sic) to the Clinton Foundation. Trump doesn’t need the money and will be far from a pushover.

    But while on the topic of “strong statesmen”, you might want to read this:

    (google): “Top 10 Ways Obama Violated The Constitution During His Presidency”

    I’m not sure how the author managed to get the list down to only 10, but it’s a good read nonetheless… 😉

  12. As for travel to Turkey adding to the likely hood of getting an SSSS, OMAAT has a post today about Lucky getting that on his last 3 trips. Several commenters to that post mention getting that as well recently, and their guess that trips to Turkey might have been a contributing factor.

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