Turkish Airlines and Other Options for Getting to the Maldives

Online Travel Review flags that Turkish Airlines will begin flying to the Maldives on November 24th. This is one of the toughest places in the world to get to on points.

The new Turkish service is an 8.5 hour flight on an Airbus A330.

    Istanbul – Male, 8:25pm – 7:10am+1, Turkish Airlines TK730
    Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday

    Male – Istanbul, 9:00am – 2:30pm, Turkish Airlines TK731
    Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday service

With Qatar leaving as a United mileage partner in mid-September, and with securing Qatar bookings becoming increasingly difficult using United miles, it’s nice to see this addition especially for the Star Alliance.

The only other significant Star Alliance service to Male is Singapore Airlines via Singapore (though in a pinch one could fly Thai Airways via Bangkok to Colombo, Sri Lanka – it’s a cheap 450 mile flight to Male fromthere).

On my trip earlier in the year I spent a few days in Singapore on the front end of the trip and then flew Singapore business class to Male.

On the return, though, this was a really rough way to go — Maldivian domestic flight to Male, connecting to Singapore, then a third ticket flying to Hong Kong before a short Hong Kong stay and then home.

The Turkish flight is pretty good for US to Maldives connections, on the return it leaves just at 9am which if you’re staying at a resort that requires a Maldivian domestic flight to get to, means that you’ll likely need to overnight in Male on your return.

In addition to Singapore and Turkish, another Star Alliance option — exceptionally hard to get award seats on — is the Austrian (Tyrolean) twice-weekly seasonal service from Vienna.

My next trip to the Maldives is going to be on Etihad in first class using American Airlines miles. Etihad offers first class (suites with doors) to Abu Dhabi, and outstanding availability from JFK.

The downsides are that American’s award chart to the “Indian Subcontinent and Middle East” is expensive at 180,000 miles roundtrip in first class (135,000 roundtrip for business) and because of a quirky American AAdvantage rule that requires the overwater carrier to have a published fare between the origin and destination airports — and Etihad doesn’t publish fares between many cities in North America and Male. Thus they’ll often want to charge two awards to get there. I’m taking advantage of the higher cost by doing a stopover in the Middle East during the trip. But it’s still be more miles.
Currently you can use Malaysia Airlines to get to the Maldives using Delta miles, they offer daily service between Kuala Lumpur and Male (and from Los Angeles to Male via Taipei). Delta adds fuel surcharges to this award. Malaysia Airlines is going to be joining oneworld, which means it’ll be an option with American miles soon.

Assuming that Delta’s partnership with Malaysia ends, that will leave Skymiles options to the Maldives limited to Aeroflot’s thrice-weekly service from Moscow and China Southern’s twice weekly from Guanzhou. (Of course, other options exist to Colombo.)

Another oneworld option is to fly British Airways to London, and then their Gatwick flight to Male.

Other non-alliance options include:

  • Air India daily service from Bangalore and Trivandrum
  • Bangkok Airways from Bangkok
  • Emirates from Dubai
  • Oman five times weekly from Oman
  • Charter airline Mega Maldives flies from Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu

(Photos from my stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 am curious what will the AS award chart will be for EK flights to the Maldives.

    Didn’t EK charge UA customers per segment? I.E. We had to pay X amount of miles to DXB then a separate amount of miles to connect to wherever we want to fly? I remember the award chart being decent to DXB, but it is a whole nother chunk of miles to fly to another destination besides Dubai.

  2. Not being critical, just curious as to what everyone finds so amazing about the Maldives? That you couldn’t find in Bali, Goa, etc.

  3. Last week, I was fooling around on the UA site trying to find Qatar flights from LAX to MAL in the new year and the search engine pulled up a lot of Business class availability on both Turkish and Austrian. Don’t remember the exact dates, but Istanbul is a city I would like to visit again, so the ability to build in a stopover there is a major positive.

  4. @DBest .. beauty disconnected in the middle of the ocean, it’s closer to Bora Bora than Bali but with better diving/snorkling.

  5. @Mike you can use JL miles on EK, but JL isn’t a US Membership Rewards transfer partner… you could get Japan Airlines miles via Starwood though

  6. @Golfingboy – we don’t know yet what the AS chart will be. It was UA that charged per segment on EK, not EK that was charging MileagePlus members that way

  7. @bmvaughn that’s why I wrote in my post, “In addition to Singapore and Turkish, another Star Alliance option — exceptionally hard to get award seats on — is the Austrian (Tyrolean) twice-weekly seasonal service from Vienna.” 🙂

  8. Is SFO-JFK/ORD-AUH-DEL on EY a published fare (SFO-DEL) and therefore 180k AA miles in F?

  9. Ah! a welcome post after the usual credit cards stuff.
    Good info and very well put together. I have to give credit where credit is due.

  10. You could fly from Kunming on China Eastern to Maldive, I think the flight is only offered twice a week.

  11. Hi Gary;

    From the west coast, I think the best option will be LAX-HKG-CMB-MLE on one world once Sri Lanka air joins (I think in 1q2013). The HKG-CMB is a one stop.

    One neat thing is that for One World, CMB is in the southeast asia region, so is less miles than India. So a stopover in CMB is not that much extra. Come to think of it, maybe the best is LAX-HKG-CMB in CX F for 135K and CMB-MLE on Sri Lanka using BA miles – given the distance, it should be one of those rare sweet spots on the BA mile chart.

    I thought Malaysian Airlines would join One World, which would give another option, but that is either proceeding slow or not happening. Do you know more about the Malaysian Airline status vis a vis One World?

  12. @Gene – Yes, EY publishes a SFO-DEL fare which should make it 180k miles roundtrip in F (of course AUH-DEL will offer business only, no F)

  13. I am so glad I got over there before it “got on the radar” for everyone and before the Conrad took away the free breakfast for those with status! @Dbest-white sand, no one selling stuff to you on the beach, and admittedly -the exclusivity. I don’t dive but snorkeling in Bora Bora had the most colorful and most variety of fish.

  14. Thanks! Great news!
    Although after reading your Hyatt Maldives posts and seeing your photos I thought that the IC Thalasso OWB and location in BOB is so much more amazing (stayed there a few months ago).

  15. @DBest … plus with civilization and flying contributing to more acidic oceans and higher sea levels, the land and coral won’t be around for your grandchildren! So you should definitely hop on an airplane to get there asap.

  16. A very useful post indeed…time to start planning. One thing though ; Isn’t TK kinda stingy with their award seats? I can barely find anything to IST from LAX/ORD/IAD…even almost a year ahead…How are you guys finding availability?

  17. Hi Gary – it looks like United has award availability for this new route on Turkish Airlines. However, US Airways is unable to see the new route in their systems. Also, the KVS tool doesn’t show the route. Do you know anyway to book award seats on this route with US Airways miles or when US Airways will have access to the route? Thank you.

  18. @Justin – I haven’t talked to US Airways yet but based solely on you description would guess we need to wait for a schedule refresh which historically happens Friday evening?

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