As much as I love Turkish Airlines–and I do love Turkish Airlines–trying to rebook a canceled Miles & Smiles award ticket has become an exercise in hopeless futility and endless frustration. While Turkish offers great value in mileage redemptions, be aware that a flight cancellation can really mess you up your award ticket.
Turkish Airlines Award Ticket Horror Story…No Flight Cancellation Goes Unpunished
Last year I booked an award ticket from San Francisco – Istanbul – Jeddah in business class for November 2023, using miles from Miles & Smiles (the Turkish Airlines loyalty program) that were going to expire. It was only 47,000 miles plus about $300 in taxes/fees and I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to return to Saudi Arabia and also experience Oman Air First Class (for my return flight).
But after the war broke out in Gaza (not sure if it was related, but it happened three days after), my flight from Istanbul to Jeddah was canceled.
First, a word about the Turkish Airlines call center. The men and women working there mean well: they are generally polite and their English is serviceable to excellent. I do believe they answer every phone call with a desire to help.
But help is the last thing I received…read on.
Call #1: I called in to rebook and was told that I could choose a new travel date up to a year in the future. I did not rebook on the spot because I was warned that once I chose a date, it would be locked in. The agent also informed me that I could move to any departure or arrival city, as long as it was in the same region (i.e. from San Francisco to Los Angeles or from Jeddah to Dubai).
Call #2: I chose a date in March. A new reservation was set-up and then a note was sent to customer service to open up “saver” seats, since there were none available on my travel date. I was told to call back in 2-3 hours.
Call #3: I called back and was told that the space was confirmed. But the agent was unable to issue the ticket and told me it would be sent back to the support desk to ticket and that I should monitor my email inbox.
Call #4: The email never arrived. The next day, I called back and was told the reservation had been canceled. A new one was set up. I was again told to call back.
Call #5: I called back eight hours later…but the reservation was not yet confirmed.
Call #6: I called the next morning and the reservation was still not confirmed.
Call #7: I called back that afternoon and the reservation was canceled. This agent told me the ticket had no value. I politely hung up.
Call #8: The agent claimed that her system would not allow her to rebook me and that I should send an email to customer service.
Call #9: I called back, this time with a feedback number generated from the website. I was told to call back later.
Call #10: After receiving an email simply instructing me to call back to book, I called back and was told that I could not change the routing and that I could not rebook unless “I” class (saver) space was available and it was not on my travel date. I explained that previous agents had set up a reservation and then sent it to customer service to be rebooked into I class but was told this was not possible.
Call #11: The agent was happy to rebook me and set up a new reservation for ticketing, telling me to wait for an email to arrive.
Call #12: After the email failed to arrive eight hours later, I called back and was told to wait longer.
Call #13: The reservation canceled. I called back to restore it and was told that it was impossible “because it was an award ticket.”
Call #14: A very helpful agent set up the reservation and sent it over again to be rebooked into I-class. I was told to wait for an email confirmation.
Call #15: I called back three hours later and an agent explained that my ticket could not be rebooked in March because travel had to begin one year from the date of original issue (in January 2023).
Call #16: The next agent claimed she tried to rebook me for March, but the system would not let her. She pressed me to accept a refund, but since the miles had already expired, it would have been a refund of only the taxes. I refused.
Call #17: Resigned to fly in January, I called with a new booking date this week. The agent set up the reservation and told me to call back to see if his support staff would open up the saver award space. I later received an email that my reservation was “confirmed.”
Call #18: I called back immediately to ticket it and I thought we were finally done…the agent said the taxes were slightly different and took my credit card information. Then all of a sudden…after a long pause…he asked me from where to where I was traveling. I told him. He then said, “I’m sorry but the new price is 120,00 miles.” I tried to pull up the reservation using the old record locator and the reservation had been canceled…somehow this guy canceled the reservation. I explained that the mileage should be an even exchange because the change was involuntary. He said, “I understand, but I cannot do anything.” I asked him to put me on hold and restore the reservation he canceled, but he said it was impossible and that I had to send an email to customer service…
Call #19: I sent an email to customer service and got a response back the next day saying that I had to pay a $150 no-show fee because I missed the first segment. That’s ridiculous because I called about the flight cancellation before the trip and was told there was no way to get me to Jeddah that day. Therefore, the reservation was canceled until we could figure out a new rebooking date. I called in…willing to pay the fee just to get the process done…but was told that I could not pay the fee over the phone and would need to (wait for it…) send an email to customer service and ask them to process the payment.
Call #20: No mention of the no-show that was not really a no-show, but I was told that I could only rebook within seven days of the originally canceled flight.
Call #21: I was told on this call that I could only rebook within 30 days of the original flight date.
Call #22: The agent set up the reservation and sent it over to customer support to be confirmed, like in the past.
Call #23: Even though the space confirmed, the agent could not ticket the reservation. He asked me why I created a new reservation instead of using the existing one and I told him that it was not me who made the new reservation. He told me he could not help…but that I should fill out the feedback form online.
Call #24: The agent told me that he could not help me and that Miles & Smiles tickets could only be booked at the airport. He told me that Turkish call centers are unable to re-issue award tickets. I did not argue…
Call #25: An agent seemed helpful and rebooked the reservation for the following day, as requested. He told me to call back in an hour to make sure it was processed.
Call #26: I called back an hour later and was told the ticket was not finished and that I should wait for an email.
Call #27: By the following morning, no email arrived and the agent told me to be patient…with the flight departure six hours away.
So folks, I am heading down to Los Angeles International Airport in hopes of resolving this…
No kidding, this has been an award ticket nightmare!
Am I the only one who has had such a terrible time dealing with the Turkish Airlines call center?
image: Turkish Airlines