Up to this point I have resisted collecting Citi ThankYou points. But two unique airline transfer partners are causing me to rethink the decision.
Citi partners with Turkish Airlines and Qantas. Both provide narrow value and yet may nevertheless be helpful under the right circumstances.
I appreciate Turkish Airlines for many reasons. One reason is because its Miles & Smiles loyalty program is so generous in status matching. I enjoyed two years of Star Alliance Gold status via a United to Turkish status match and believe that I could do it again if necessary. Such status gives you access to United Clubs when traveling on any United flight, even domestic economy class.
While the redemption side of the program is not the most attractive, there are some sweet spots like roundtrip business class travel between North America and anywhere in Europe for 90,000 miles on Turkish Airlines or partner airlines. Flying via Istanbul is certainly out of the way, but I love longer overnight flights (it maximizes sleeping potential) and the Turkish onboard soft product is excellent. Even better, the lounge in Istanbul is my favorite business class lounge in the world.
There are fuel surcharges added to award tickets and ticketing a partner award can be difficult – sometimes even requiring a visit to a physical Turkish Airlines ticketing office – but the program is intriguing and may be worth a second look, particularly for Turkish redemptions.
Singapore Airlines, also a Citi transfer partner, charges 130,000 miles for r/t travel between North America and Europe and tacks on the same fuel surcharges on non-SQ awards.
If you have AMEX points, ANA still represents a better buy at 88K miles r/t, but be careful when using Aeroplan (110K r/t / no fuel surcharge) as their maximum permitted mileage (MPM) limit restricts some routings from the East Coast to Western Europe via Istanbul.
While Qantas has a particularly poor loyalty program, I am interested in it for one reason: El-Al Israeli airlines. Why? Because the El-Al Matmid program is even worse.
Using points to fly on El-Al is simply a poor value proposition, but the carrier also does not offer attractive routes to/from the USA, particularly Los Angeles. Israel is at the top of my wife’s travel wishlist so I look forward to taking her there in the months ahead.
While I’d love to fly the new 787-9 to Newark, I’d rather take the 777 and fly non-stop to Los Angeles. It is going to be cheaper to do this via Qantas than via El-Al. Hopefully my security experience in TLV will be easier next time…
Qantas also partners with Emirates, though you are much better off redeeming miles via JAL for Emirates premium cabin redemptions.
Both Turkish and Qantas are not particularly great loyalty programs, but both serve a unique purpose that has me thinking about whether to start earning Citi ThankYou points.
Concise, well-written and informative article – thank you!
Funny, I had the same thought. I recently used all my TY points and was frankly planning to move on from the program. But the ability to transfer to TK is interesting.
One note I’d mention – at least as of this past winter, you had to ticket some TK awards at the airport. I booked an intra-Europe star alliance award (on OS) and had to go to the airport to get it ticketed. At least back then, the airport didn’t ticket many awards so they had to get the station manager to do it. And I was handed a dot matrix printout when it was done, which I found somehow charming. Process took 30 minutes (not including time waiting in line). Still, it was the lowest price both in miles and cash taxes I could find for the award and I was at the airport anyway.
I thought you can’t redeem Qantas miles for elal from the U.S.