Turkish Airlines ‘Martyr Discount’ Generating Fire Amidst Israel-Hamas War

Turkish Airlines highlights a ‘martyr discount’ to reward families of those who gave up their lives in pursuit of their Muslim religious beliefs. This is getting play all over social media in light of the current war in Israel in which the country is taking the side of Hamas.

Star Alliance member and United Airlines partner Turkish Airlines is over 49% owned by the government, is the national carrier, and operates in some measure as a state instrument. They serve more countries than any other airline.

The government subsidizes flights for relatives of martyrs with 50% off flights – no documentation required beyond frequent flyer membership.

Special discount for veterans and relatives of martyrs and veterans!

Thanks to the protocol we signed with the Ministry of Family and Social Services; If you are a veteran or a relative of a veteran or a martyr, you can buy your flight tickets with a discount of up to 50% from the Turkish Airlines website and mobile applications, without having to show any documents. To easily buy your discounted ticket, simply create a Miles&Smiles membership!

This discount does not apply to itineraries merely using Turkey as a connection, and relatives of martyrs are defined as “Mother, father, spouse and single children under 25.” It is valid for travel in economy only and excludes codeshares.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan promotes traditional Muslim family values. Airlines are prominent and public, and the airline is used to raise the relative status of Muslim practice within the country. They even moved to allow pilots to pray in the cockpit earlier this year.

Unfortunate Turkish Airlines Ad, 2010

While Turkey’s Erogan has called Israel a “war criminal” for its response to slaughter of its civilians by Hamas, Turkish Airlines did not introduce the ‘martyr discount’ to reward the families of suicide bombers that attack Israel. It is meant to honor those who resisted the 2016 coup attempt against the nation’s strongman leader. Those are the ‘martyrs’ this discount is intended to support, it is not a new discount, although it is not clearly exclusive to those relatives.

Turkey is problematic from a human rights perspective, as well as questionable as a democracy. It extracts a tax from NATO and is shaky as an ally. But Turkish Airlines did not introduce this discount to encourage Palestinian suicide bombers.

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. More and more Russians eligible for that discount nowadays too, as Putin is one of those believers in martyrs for his motherland being part and parcel of Russia being Russia and Russians being Russians.

    Does the airline have a discount for families whose minor children have been killed by violence this morning in a violent conflict zone? According to Save the Children, it seems like as many or more minors have been killed in Israel and the Palestinian Territories this month than combined in all war zones elsewhere during the last 4 years.

  2. Everybody who reads this blog would give almost anything to fly Qatar Q suites, Emirates first, and Turkish business class. All of these entities have taken a pro Palestine anti-genocide stance. If you don’t like it, or don’t agree with it, do not fly their airlines. Then again, most of the miles and points blogs would have to rethink their business model, since those three airlines are the most coveted redemptions.

  3. Jerry,

    Some people think that flying on award tickets costs the operating airline money because it potentially displaces the airline from selling that space for a higher amount of money than they get from the mileage-ticket-issuing carrier.

    Personally, I have no problem with flying on mileage tickets with any airline that makes the space available, but unfortunately El Al is not as good about releasing premium cabin mileage ticket space to those programs where I have miles as TK and QR.

  4. The headline is a little click-baity, but this doesn’t bother me. If people don’t like it, they don’t have to fly Turkish (or any of the ME carriers for that matter). How would we feel if Amtrak or USPS (govt owned) introduced a gold star family discount? I think most of us would be ok with that.

  5. Airlines and their politico-commercial plays.

    The US airlines at US airports have been giving priority boarding calls for US military and also providing complimentary baggage allowance for US military members. Not sure if that is part and parcel or CRAF participation or just a PR play. Other countries have military, military family, and/or military veteran discounts for ground transport such as trains. Some have freedom fighter discounts — some discounts of which were being used by Indian freedom fighters, even some who were backed by the Nazis and their Axis ally the Japanese.

    And in Israel there was the Olive Green Pass initiative where businesses — local McDonalds included — were giving discounts to IDF members even a couple of years ago.

  6. Since years I do not visit muslim countries, nor would I ever fly a muslim airline exactly for this reason. (Formerly I had to due to company policy, but no business travel any longer)

    Thanks for posting, and I will share with friends who often take vacation in Turkey.

  7. @Jerry

    Qatar and Turkish have lost my business.

    However, Emirates is still in the running. Unless you have something newer than this

    The United Arab Emirates on Sunday described attacks carried out by Palestinian Islamist faction Hamas against Israeli towns as a “serious and grave escalation.” The UAE foreign ministry in a statement also said it was “appalled” by reports Israeli civilians were taken as hostages from their homes.

  8. This is a misleading article. Turkey has an active army and conduct operations around the both domestic and international in compliance with NATO most of times. So in Turkish being a martyr means losing your life while defending your country or trying to provide peace. This discount is for Turkish citizens and nothing to do with hamas or Israel. Turkish Airlines will probably sue you for disrepute.

  9. What’s wrong with the discount given to families of deceased soldiers in military service?

    Didnt el al have more passengers than seats where pax were seated on the floor for flights out of Tel Aviv?? So having disregard for safety in aviation you stand up and support, but do not support families of the military?


  10. This article and the social media posts you referred are misleading and are not based on facts. The term “martyr” in Turkish (şehit) is used for the members of Turkish Armed Forces (or Turkish Security Officers, in general) who die while on active duty. The word does originate in Arabic where it has a religious meaning, but it is not how it is used in Turkey. The Turkish government does subsidize airfare, while providing other benefits for Veterans and military survivors. The link you quoted specifically mentions (under rule details) that this discount is for qualifying Turkish Citizens only. Turkey has a national identity system where all of this eligibility is tracked via an ID number (you have to be a Veteran in the system to claim Veteran discount with Turkish Airlines, which requires a Turkish ID number to be provided for any passenger who is a Turkish citizen). You could criticize Turkey, Turkish government and their approach to this conflict, but you can’t base it of something that has been a long term benefit to military survivors of Turkey and not something related to what you’re using to make your point here.

  11. @Patti says that she is boycotting QR and Turkish. That’s her right. I am sure she will now agree that the BDS movement against Israel is justified.

  12. Martyrdom in Turkey is a legal status to protect the families of those who died to protect our country. There is also a civilian Martyrdom which includes civilians died in terror attacks. Anyone from any religion can be a soldier and if they die doing their mission they will be considered martyrs because unlike you, we value our soldiers; for instance we don’t dump them to streets with mental health problems after they come back from their missions and if we couldn’t protect them we try to protect at least their loved ones.

  13. @59Impala. ‘Muslim airline’? Really? When did such entities get religion? Thank heavens, bigots like you won’t be in the Q Suites I fly in.

  14. If I had to avoid flying all airlines from countries whose governments have done two or more barbaric or barbarism-supporting things in the past 25 years, I would have basically no options to fly around. Governments aren’t saints and large airlines in the major airline alliances aren’t really religious.

  15. “Airlines are prominent and public, and the airline is used to raise the relative status of Muslim practice within the country.”

    The first part is indisputable in this matter. The latter part is more than questionable — unless serving and imbibing alcohol can be said to “raise the relative status of Muslim practice within the country” or anywhere for that matter. Turkey’s flag carrier serves alcohol on its flights where there is no local prohibition to do so.

  16. I will due my due diligence and read into this a little more – but on the basic level, this will now convince me to probably not return to turkey – especially on TK
    – I have a flight on them later this week and very unhappy about it as I will be coming from the US.

    even my friends are telling me not to go on this trip….. and as I get closer, I find it harder to justify it

  17. What a bunch of utter fools (the ones believing the clickbait that this is some sort of “terrorist discount” saying they won’t visit Turkey or fly with them)

    It’s clearly a TURKISH national military discount, not some kind of global jihadi appreciation discount. In fact, plenty of Turkish soldiers have died in conflict with the exact Islamic state terrorists you think this discount is pertaining to. Get a grip…..

  18. Hi Gary.
    I don’t understand how you reached out with the result that the airline supports terrorist Hamas. They have had the option for many years, and since June 2023, it is available on their mobile app. Here is a tweet they sent back last summer. https://twitter.com/TK_TR/status/1672201216229515264
    In Turkey, military service is an obligation, and thousands of families have veterans wounded during the service or martyrs. You may not know, but the Turkish Armed Forces are way older than the Turkish Republic, and Turks have been known as warriors throughout history. So, I don’t know if they support terrorists or condemn them; I definitely know that this discount is not for the reason you mentioned. I follow your blogs and read your articles, but that airline did many good things in the recent past for many people. I can’t ignore some realities. Thanks for your consideration.

  19. Well done to Turkish Airlines. People who serve their country in a meaningful manner SHOULD be allowed to get discounts.

  20. Many years back, when I was flying with Delta Airlines, we had a group of US soldiers on board and the stewardess asked the passengers to applaud the US soldiers for their ”service” to their country.

    I was pretty taken aback anyone in their right mind would want to applaud for an institution as violently murderous as the US military but I never boycotted Delta, just preferred United.

    The US military has a record of violence and mass killings of civilians far more extensive than the Turkish military has in its recent history. Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza is a matter of record and I do not need to be commenting on that here.

  21. The martyr clause was removed from Turkish Airlines website. It was there yesterday and is gone today. I spoke to a TA rep because I cancelled an upcoming flight. I asked her about the martyr clause and she said she doesn’t know about it.

  22. @Garry Leff: Did you actually read what you wrote here as your first sentence:

    “Turkish Airlines highlights a ‘martyr discount’ to reward families of those who gave up their lives in pursuit of their Muslim religious beliefs.”

    This is clearly misleading and it shows you have no idea what ‘martyr’ discount means in Turkish culture. There are a lot of ‘martyr’ who are Chrristians and Jews who died in defending Turkiye during 1st world war. Here is an article published by Armenian newspaper (use Google translate to transalte it): https://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/6693/canakkalenin-unutturulan-gayrimuslim-sehitleri

    There was 82 ‘martyrs’ with Christian and Jewish origin in just one battle alone.

  23. As others pointed out, the martyr and veteran discount applies to wounded or killed soldiers who were serving in the Turkish military and their families, irrespective of religion or lack thereof, and has been in place for decades.

    It is grossly negligent, malicious, and/or grossly irresponsible of you to publish such a disinformative and libelous article without bothering to do the slightest bit of fact checking.

    You should remove this article and promptly publish an apology if you have the slightest bit of honour and professionalism in yourself. Shame on you.

  24. Never have i read such a misunderstood article from a “journalist” before.

    The martyr discount is for people with veteran or martyred status given by TSK (Turkish Armed Forces). This is an official title bestowed to those injured or fallen in combat while serving IN THE TURKISH ARMY. These titles makes the soldier or family of the martyred soldier eligible for discounts. This is not a religious status and is given to soldiers of any belief so long as they are injured or martyred while serving TSK. The discount only apply for those people

    As with most western journalist, you melt an entire countries systems of government and beliefs into a single pot based on their religion and region and make whatever argument based on false information as long as it serves your POV.

  25. Can I get a link for where the martyr discount is published; I look and can’t find it anywhere.

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