Securing Transatlantic Business Class Award Space from Houston

Turkish Airlines launched Houston – Istanbul six days per week service yesterday. The route makes a good deal of sense for Turkish. They’re a Star Alliance member and Turkish is a Star Hub, so they should see some decent feed. They also connect up with a ton of former Soviet cities with oil, including many more obscure airports.

I also like Turkish quite a lot for their strong business class lounge in Istanbul, their willingness to put even economy passengers up in a hotel when traveling on a forced overnight, and because of their decent award availability to Asia and Africa (it’s often a go-to last-ditch way of getting folks to either on award tickets). They’re also the best way to use Star Alliance miles to the Maldives. (And they’re willing to status match.)

So I was hopeful to see good business class award availability for the new flight, at least during non-peak season.

Unfortunately I searched the entire months of June and November and found only two dates where two business class award seats were available for Houston – Istanbul: November 11 and 18.

Houston – Europe departures have tended to be difficult to get for years, with the exception of Lufthansa where up until a couple of years ago the flight was a gimme (and Houston – London on British Airways used to be as well, I have booked parties of six in first class on that flight in the past). Inventory even on those flights has tightened up quite a lot. And the number of transatlantic departures from Houston is fairly limited to begin with.

There’s some Houston – Amsterdam business class award space out there (at least two seats on November 5, 6, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21) and a wee bit of Houston – Frankfurt business class award space (at least two seats on November 25, 26). There’s also the occasional Heathrow seat.

Hopefully – for consumers, not for Turkish – sales won’t quite live up to expectations and they’ll loosen award availability over time on this route.

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. I also hope availability improves. It was wide open for the pickings to get to Olympics in Feb ’14 in biz, so I’ll be trying out this route then.

  2. However, for now their regular flights out of IAH are about 20% less than their competitors. But with connections and longer flights from their hub in Istanbul.

  3. Didn’t realize that this service was so new.
    I booked 3 biz awards IAH-IST (leaving on upcoming Sat), last Sep.

    My return was on Qatar DOH-ORD (also a new service, launching I tihnk on April 10th), but that changed from 7 days a week to 3 days a week and had to cancel since they are not partners with UA anymore.

  4. When TK first loaded the space, award availability was excellent, but it quickly dried up and I have to believe it was due to the United online search tool, which just makes Star redemptions too easy!

  5. As a GRU-based flyer, I have noted over the years that TK and JJ are the two stingiest airlines in the business when it comes to award space.

  6. So for one way it’s a 12 hour flight IAH-IST in Business class for 50,000 UA miles and $2.50, is that right?
    What is the seat like? Comfy for sleeping?
    Thank you for the heads up about the dates.

  7. Got it, November 11th. I so appreciate you telling us about those 2 dates, that saved me SO much work. I feel like I got a good deal. Thank you!

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