It’s Time to Book Award Travel on Turkish Airlines!!

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.

While I’m not inclined to make discretionary trips to Turkey now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the huge opportunities for transiting the airport enroute to the many destinations that you can conveniently reach via Istanbul in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

My award booking company partner Steve Belkin (also known as beaubo) booked travel on Turkish Airlines today, taking his daughter and her teenaged friend to Tel Aviv via Istanbul. Fantastic availability for business class awards on Turkish Airlines long hauls between the US and Turkey, and I’ve long said that the day after an incident is much safer than the day before.

Of course Steve puts this more into practice personally than I do — I went to Paris last fall, but he flew Asiana right after the incident with Asiana 214 in San Francisco, flew Malaysia right after the disappearance of MH370, and took his sons to Bali shortly after the less than 3 months after the 2005 Jumbaran and Kuta bombings. While disasters dominate the news, it’s important to keep relative risk in perspective.

Here’s a search of availability using United, Air Canada, or Avianca LifeMiles (or other Star Alliance miles) for 5 passengers in business class between New York JFK or Chicago and Istanbul next month:

You’ll see that New York JFK space is available for 5 passengers every day in August. Chicago is available nearly every day. Turkish also flies from Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Boston and Washington Dulles.

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.

Now, you don’t have to use miles in a Star Alliance program like United’s, Air Canada Aeroplan’s, or Avianca LifeMiles’ in order to take a family to Europe. You’ll see that there’s space for 5 passengers (or more) in business class on several routes this summer like New York JFK – Frankfurt (Lufthansa), Zurich (Swiss), and Geneva (Swiss) with connecting options beyond those cities. There’s also plenty of opportunity for a whole family to fly business class on routes like Chicago – Frankfurt (Lufthansa), Paris (United), Vienna (Austrian), Rome (United), London (United), and Munich (United). And that’s just searching two US airports.

Summertime there’s a compression of business and economy fares, economy cabins tend to fill up and paid business travel isn’t as strong (though we’ve seen fantastic paid fares for both cabins lately). Couple that with somewhat depressed travel to Europe and award space has become a bit easier to get.

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. Just be careful when transiting in Istanbul as there are two airports. Not really all that fun to switch between them on short layovers. Turkish mixes them together and awards aren’t always obvious on this.

  2. “Couple that with somewhat depressed travel to Europe and award space has become a bit easier to get.”

    That is a true statement – Turkish airlines has great availability most of the time. I flew Boston to Istanbul (stayed a week) and Istanbul to Tokyo. And KL to Istanbul to Boston last year. I had my pick of days for 2 seats.

    The staff and food on the airlines is fantastic. Personally, I did NOT like the lounge. It has like 900 seats but virtually no private areas – always felt I was out in the open. Of course opinions vary.

    My favorite Business Class Lounge is the Virgin Atlantic lounge at London Heathrow – I absolutely loved the food, people, space, haircut, showers – etc.

    David M

  3. I have a long layover in IST in March. The only thing that concerned me about the attempted coup was if it sparked a civil war. I will judge the security situation come March as to whether to hop into town or just stay put at the airport.

    I think it’s important to remember, of course, that things in Turkey can probably change quickly. Whether that means you should get travel insurance or keep an eye on any alternative options should the situation change is up to you.

  4. I flew Turkish Business class a few years ago from IST to IAH – they set that damn 777 to 80 degrees F – it was an OVEN for 13 hours. I hated it

  5. Is the chatter about being branded with the dreaded “SSSS” whenever you transit through IST still true?

  6. I completely agree with Tim. I flew it on an award ticket from IAH-IST-VIE and while the food was exceptional, it’s a dated and RIDICULOUSLY warm cabin with no privacy and a middle seat… I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly TK again until they update their business class cabin.

    I think the lounge is pretty swanky though.. especially for a J class lounge.

  7. Personally I was concerned with events in Turkey when I transited IST on TK J class in early June; spent 90 minutes (I purposefully planned my flights to minimize the transit time) there from Europe to Asia. I liked the TK lounge. My flights were great, as was the crew, and food and seat. The airport at 1 a.m. was filled to the rafters as many TK flights depart at this hour. But I had a bad feeling – sure enough then came the attack on the airport a few weeks after I was there. And now the coup attempt. I’d be very wary of visiting Turkey or even transiting their airports at this time due to the overall security situation and uncertainty of the mammoth events in gear following the coup attempt. Sure, there’s always risk anywhere, but it’s the levels of risk that one should be looking at when making a judgment to go or not go.

  8. I was in the lounge for about 3 hours last month at a non peak time (midday) and it’s really gone downhill because of the overcrowding. There are queues absolutely everywhere- a long queue to get in, queues for the showers and queues for every decent food station because the chefs just can’t cook enough food for the sheer volume of people there. I estimate there would have been at least 1000 people in there and this was not early morning or late evening when it’s actually a peak time. The food is good if you can actually score it, for example they would make one batch of borek every 30 minutes and it would disappear within 2 minutes of being put out (because 20 greedy people were lined up). IST with its mostly stand off bays and terrible delays is not a nice airport to transit even with the lounge- I won’t bother attempting it again even with *A gold. LHR T2 or ZHR is much better.

  9. Not your main topic, but as someone who lived for,days with photos of the Asiana “incident” isn’t it a bit disingenuous to refer to the CRASH in this minimalist way?

  10. not sure i want to give money to the regime that is “reeducating” 1000’s of people right now

  11. I was all set to click book on an aeroplan award Ath-Ord via ist when I got distracted 30 minutes later I went online to see the airport was bombed. I did not book and waited a few weeks to see if other flights would open up for June 2017. After the initial fears wore off I finally decided to book…. a few hours later I saw that the airport was occupied by military. Talk about poor timing. At this point I guess I’ll just wait it out and see what the landscape is like next June and then consider switching. I’m not too concerned but bringing my wife through IST is another story…

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