Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles: An Easy Way to Star Alliance Gold

Turkish cards

When talking about the easiest ways to reach the Star Alliance Gold status, one frequent flyer program is always mentioned: Miles&Smiles. Not only has Turkish Airlines made it quite easy to reach the status, but they also let you keep that status for two years. It is even relatively simple to get a 4-year Star Alliance Gold status!

The Tiers

Miles&Smiles has four tiers, but only the highest two tiers are really interesting.

Classic

This is a relatively worthless status that you will receive for simply signing up for the program. After your first flight, you’ll get 1,000 miles as a welcome. Besides now being able to collect miles and getting a nice and shiny card, the only other benefit is getting 10MB of free WIFI on international Turkish Airlines flights.

Classic Plus

You need 25,000 miles to reach this status. The benefits of this tier are not particularly interesting either:

  • Lounge access on Turkish domestic flights
  • Additional 10kg baggage allowance
  • 25% more miles on Turkish Airlines business class flights
  • 10MB of free WIFI on international Turkish Airlines flights

To requalify, you only need to earn 25,000 miles in the first year, or 37,500 in 2 years.

Elite

From here on, the tiers get really good! You’ll get the Star Alliance Gold status for 2 years, which brings benefits incl. lounge access, business class check-in, boarding, security line, and luggage handling. On Turkish Airlines flights, you’ll also get

  • Classic Plus benefits
  • Additional 20kg baggage allowance (instead of 10kg)
  • 50% discount on second paid business class ticket
  • Free WIFI

To qualify for this tier, you have to earn 40,000 miles in one year. To requalify, you only need to earn 30,000 miles in the first year, or 45,000 in 2 years.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul 10
Lounge access is one of the most popular benefits of the Star Alliance Gold status.

Elite Plus

This is the highest status, which you will receive after earning 80,000 miles in one year. To requalify, you need to earn 40,000 miles in the first year, or 60,000 in 2 years. Thanks to Turkish Airlines’ soft-landing, if you don’t requalify, you’ll fall back to the lower tier, meaning that here you would then get the Elite status, i.e. another 2 years of Star Alliance Gold. That means reaching 80,000 miles once gets you four years of Star Alliance Gold privileges.

The main benefits of this tier are:

  • All previous benefits
  • Additional 25 kg baggage allowance (instead of 20kg)
  • 2 free upgrades per year
  • Gifting up to 3 Elite status for 40,000 miles each

Earning Miles

You can earn miles on all Turkish Airlines (and Andolujet) flights, as well as all Star Alliance flights. On Star Alliance flights, however, not all classes are eligible for miles accreditation. You can check the exact percentage of miles for each airline here. Miles&Smiles tends to be very generous with premium economy flights, but many cheap business classes, such as Lufthansa’s P class, won’t get you any miles. So, always be careful to check the miles for the flight’s class, before booking the flight. Also, be aware that miles expire at the end of the 3rd full calendar year.

turkish airlines
All Turkish Airlines flights will get you miles at Miles&Smiles.

Spending Miles

As always, we only recommend spending miles on award flights, as shop items rarely get you a good value for your miles.

Award Flights

On each flight, Miles&Smiles has a (very) limited amount of seats, that they will sell for relatively small amounts of miles. You can fly a business class roundtrip from Europe to East Asia or North America for only 90,000 miles, or to South America, Southern Africa, or Oceania for only 110,000 miles. It is, however, nearly impossible to find these limited business class seats, which means that you would have to spend the Guaranteed Business amount of miles, which is extraordinarily high, and practically never worth it.

Roundtrip RouteLimited EconomyOneway UpgradeLimited BusinessGuaranteed Business
Europe – North America
e.g. Amsterdam – Washington D.C.
60,000
+ €267
45,00090,000
+ €443
230,000
+ €562
Europe – Far East
e.g. Paris – Seoul
60,000
+ €291
45,00090,000
+ €476
230,000
+ €596
Europe – South America
e.g. Lisbon – Bogota
75,000
+ €326
55,000110,000
+ €498
255,000
+ €622
Western Europe – Turkey
e.g. Brussels – Istanbul
20,000
+ €92
15,00030,000
+ €141
60,000
+ €226
Western Europe – Middle East
e.g. Barcelona – Tehran
34,000
+ €145
24,50049,000
+ €232
110,000
+ €415

You can check the complete table here. There is, however, a much better way to spend your miles:

Upgrades

Upgrades cost the exact same amount of miles but have much higher availability than the award flights. This means that if you find a cheap economy class ticket (all classes are upgrade-eligible), you would only be spending a little bit more than the (relatively expensive) fees & taxes of the award flight, but would at least be earning some miles. So, if the award flight of your choice is not available, just do an upgrade. Also, upgrades apply to all the flights in one direction. If, for instance, you’re going to fly from London to Singapore via Istanbul, your upgrade will be valid for both flights.

Turkish Airlines New Business Class
You can use your miles to fly in Turkish Airlines’ new business class

A curiosity of Miles&Smiles is that Turkish Airlines has offices in almost all cities that they fly to, and so the easiest (and safest) way to upgrade your flight, is by going to one of their offices and buying the flight and upgrading it there. That way, you’ll be certain, that the flight you’re buying has upgrade availability. We strongly recommend doing it this way, as the Miles&Smiles hotline is pretty terrible and often gives false information. The office-staff, on the other hand, tends to be very friendly, competent, and helpful.

While, in theory, you can use your miles for redemptions on other Star Alliance airlines, the availability is incredibly limited, so that you shouldn’t expect to be able to do this.

Redeem on Star Alliance Flights

There are several ways to redeem your Miles&Smiles miles with Turkish Airlines’ Star Alliance partners. There are some attractive sweet spots, but also a bunch of obstacles (especially during the booking process).

You can find the official mileage chart for partner redemptions here. All displayed fare are roundtrip prices – and one ways cut the needed mileage in half. That fact makes for some interesting sweet spots.

Here are some interesting one ways in Miles&Smiles redemption chart:

  • Business Class North America – Europa for 45,000 miles (+ approx. €5 to €250 fees)
  • Business Class Asia – Europa for 45,000 miles (+ ca. €200 fees)
  • Business Class Europa – Oceania for 52,500 miles (+ ca. €300 fees)
  • Air Canada Business Class within Canada for 12,500 miles (+ ca. €50 fees)1
  • United Business Class within the USA for 12,500 miles (+ ca. €5 fees)1

1 – According to the chart, it should be 15,000 miles – but it’s only 12,500 miles.

Fees, taxes and surcharges depend greatly on the operating airlines. For example, United Airlines charges only €6 for a US to Germany long haul trip, while Lufthansa charges more than €200.

A rare find: Business Class from Tokyo to Zürich for 45,000 miles + JP¥24,060 (~€170).

Especially lie-flat business from New York to Hawaii for measly 12,500 miles are a no-brainer. And prices between Europe and Asia are very attractive, as well. But in most cases, two problems arise when trying to book these bad boys:

  1. Bad Availabilities: Most Star Alliance members are rather cheap when it comes to reward spaces. In most cases, you can only get the best redemption ratios a few days or an entire year in advance.
  2. Complicated Booking: Turkish Airlines’ website offers a form for Star Alliance award tickets. It’s deeply broken. Callcenter employees are usually no great help, as well. The simplest way is searching a Turkish Airlines licensed travel agency and book your tickets there. You can get additional information or join the discussion about this topic in this Flyertalk threat.
Business Class through Canada, booked with miles at the Turkish Airlines travel agency next door.

Status Match

Oneworld Emerald, Star Alliance Gold, and SkyTeam Elite Plus members of other programs can take part in Turkish Airlines’ Status Match Challenge. You’d get the Elite status for 4 months and can very easily extend it. Here’s all you need to know about that:

Conclusion

Reaching the Star Alliance Gold status is quite easy in this program, but requalifying is even easier. The possibility to have one busy flight year and then keeping the Star Alliance Gold status for 4 years is fantastic. Also, the mileage redemption chart is quite generous, and benefits such as free WIFI on all Turkish Airlines flights are also great. Earning miles is particularly lucrative on premium economy flights, as well as Turkish Airlines business class flights.

Cover Picture: Ditmar Lange

Write a comment

Comments (8)

  1. Jones says:

    Looking at the photo above

    “A rare find: Business Class from Tokyo to Zürich for 45,000 miles + JP¥24 (~€0)”

    are you sure it is not JP¥24 THOUSAND?

  2. Marcus says:

    I am Elite Plus now for 7 years. Here are my observations:
    – The Elite free upgrades once a year are really awesome: Unlike in most other programes they are valid for every economy booking class and book in C, not I! However there is a minimum number of C seats that neads to be available, which I think is 3. Also at least these free uprades include connections.
    – The threshold for requalification is really low – 40.000 miles in the first year or 60.000 miles in both years for Elite+
    – Miles expire after three years and can only be extended by a hefty fee, which is not ideal.
    – Miles redemption was improved but is still much more a hassle than in other programs
    – Call Center is really bad; also there is no way to complain i.m.h.o.. Airport offices are usually better, but are also hit or miss – especially outside of core office hours, when the station manager is not available as a backup
    –> I mostly collect miles at TK M&S for the status. After I reached the requalification, I mostly shift mileage accrual to other programs where miles are easier to redeem.

  3. profan says:

    “Also, upgrades apply to all the flights in one direction. If, for instance, you’re going to fly from London to Singapore via Istanbul, your upgrade will be valid for both flights”

    Can you elaborate on this please? I have jfk-ist-dyu booked with cash (cheap economy) and able to upgrade with miles, but each flight is offered individually (jfk-ist 45k miles, and isd-dyu for 25k extra). The same ob the return: tas-ist-bos, the upgrade with miles is offered on the second leg only, not on the first.

    • Ditmar Lange says:

      Well, recently I booked a HAM-IST-SIN ticket and my upgrade worked for both segments. In your case, maybe the feeder flight to/from DYU is too long or in a different zone/region, and thus costs extra. But usually, from Europe, that shouldn’t be the case.

  4. Kachnik says:

    I’m trying to reach Elite plus do I have 18 months instead of 12 because of the Covid 6 month extension?

  5. Michael Mellinghoff says:

    I think it is worth mentioning in this context, that Turkish Airlines gold the lounge in Istanbul is one of the most remarkable ones worldwide !

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