Tempted by My Case Study? Here are the Current Terms for a Turkish Airlines Status Match

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I recently wrote a couple of posts, providing a case study in how a status match from Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles resulted in a complete shift in my main programme loyalty. You can read Part One here and Part Two here. Perhaps I’ve been more lucky than clever, but my experience has certainly been an epic travel hacking success!

Those posts might have you thinking… “Sounds great! How can I join in?” Unfortunately the news isn’t so good for those thinking about attempting the same leap. With thanks to ComeyB (and others on the Flyertalk board) as well as commenters on my Flying Piggie blog, this appears to be the current situation with regards to the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles status match policy:

Miles & Smiles will match to their “Elite” status, which is equivalent to Star Alliance Gold, but isn’t their highest level of status.

Which Competing Statuses Will M&S Match?

Miles & Smiles is no longer matching other Star Alliance airlines. It will still match:

  • Oneworld Emerald (i.e. BA Gold)
  • Skyteam Elite Plus (i.e. Flying Blue Gold or Platinum)
  • Emirates or Etihad – Gold or Platinum

How Can I Apply for a Status Match?

At a minimum (you might be asked for more items, such as identification), you will require:

  • A scan of your competing loyalty card showing your current status
  • An account summary showing some recent activity

You then need to fill in a feedback form online. Here’s the link you will need.

This is what the feedback form looks like (with the required answers for the drop-down boxes):

Miles & Smiles may respond via e-mail asking for additional information. (that you will need to upload using this contact form again) They should email informing you of your successful application and the terms of renewing your status beyond those initial four months. Or they may not contact you at all, but your M&S account will show the upgrade (directly or via AwardWallet).

Miles & Smiles may or may not get around to posting you your new card. But interestingly, Miles & Smiles has a desk both land-side and air-side at Istanbul airport. There you can have a new card printed for you and, since you definitely need one Turkish Airlines flight, you will surely be visiting Istanbul airport.

How Do I Keep my New “Elite” Status?

Unlike my 2013 match, the terms enforced by Miles & Smiles are now much stricter.

Stage 1 – A 4-Month Trial

Instead of becoming a full 2-year Elite member, your status match only earns you four months to try out Elite status.

Stage 2 – Fly Once on Turkish Airlines Within those 4 Months

To extend your Elite status beyond that 4-month trial, you must fly at least once on Turkish Airlines. A reward flight will not count. It must be a paid flight credited to your Miles & Smiles account. I wouldn’t want to attempt a codeshare – Turkish Airlines metal only.

If you manage a Turkish Airlines flight, your status will be extended for an additional eight months. In other words, you will have a year of Elite status from the date that your status match application was approved.

Although in principle you could request a status match in order to access other Star Alliance lounges for four months, this would be rather short-sighted in my opinion (since the match is once-in-a-lifetime). The most sensible use of a status match is by those who know they have an upcoming flight on Turkish Airlines, and could request the status match perhaps 3-4 weeks in advance – enough margin to deal with any potential hiccups.

Stage 3 – Earn 15,000 Status Miles on Turkish Airlines Within Those 12 Months

To extend your Elite status beyond those twelve months, you need to manage 15,000 status miles on Turkish Airlines. (again, I wouldn’t trust codeshares)

As an Elite member, you would earn 160% of miles flown on the cheapest Business Class fares offered by Turkish Airlines. So an inexpensive Business Class long-haul return should net you 15,000+ status miles on Turkish Airlines. As with Qatar Airways, Scandinavia is a good place to look, if you can’t find a promotional fare out of the UK.

At the end of your first year, assuming you accumulated 15,000 status miles on Turkish Airlines, your Elite status will be extended for another 12 months. (i.e. 2 years from the date of your status match)

Stage 4 – Earn 37,500 Status Miles During Your Second Year of Elite Status

Even if you have accomplished all that is required of you by the terms of the status match, you still aren’t a full “Elite” member. In order to re-qualify for an additional two years of status, you must complete 37,500 status miles during your second year of Elite status.

If you recall my first case study post, re-qualification for Elite status requires:

    • 25,000 status miles during your first year of Elite status, OR
    • 37,500 status miles over both years of your Elite status

However, because of the structure of the status match, every status mile you earned during Year One is irrelevant. You can still redeem those 15,000 miles for reward flights, but they won’t help you re-qualify for Elite status. This means that you are left with the much tougher job of meeting the two-year requirements in the space of just one year.

Controversy

We love status matches here at InsideFlyer UK. But there’s a very good reason why I haven’t written about the Miles & Smiles version until now. Miles & Smiles are renowned for having limited English language skills. Difficult questions are answered with cut-and-paste formulaic replies that don’t actually answer the question. Communication is unclear, especially regarding terms and conditions. Etc.

So, I needed to allow enough time to pass for enough data points to emerge on Flyertalk and elsewhere (from people who speak our travel hacker lingo).

15,000 status miles on which airline?

Initially many people understood from M&S communications that 15,000 status miles could be accumulated on ANY Star Alliance airline. This turned out to be untrue – all 15,000 miles must be accumulated from Turkish Airlines flights. Even then, some technical glitches occurred and members needed to chase Miles & Smiles for their one-year extension.

M&S do seem to have cleared up both the IT and their communications. Only Turkish Airlines flights count towards the 15,000 status mile requirement. (and since all “Year One” miles are wasted for status purposes, there’s almost no reason to credit any Star Alliance flights to M&S during that first year)

Why Can’t I Do 25,000 status miles during Year 1 Like a Regular “Elite” Member?

Excellent question. Many of those who status matched assumed that “since I need to do 15,000 miles already, why don’t I do 25,000 miles and lock in my re-qualification…”

But experience has shown that accumulating 25,000 status miles during your first year after a status match… worthless!

Why Do I Only Have One Year to Accumulate 37,500 Status Miles?

Again, excellent question. All I can surmise is that M&S have decided that nobody should be allowed to “re-qualify” for Elite status when they haven’t properly “qualified” in the first place. So, since the IT seems to be programmed to check at the end of the first year (and only then) for 15,000 status miles on Turkish Airlines, those are then wiped off as the member upgrades from “temporary Elite member” to “proper Elite member”.

However, this leads to a fairly simple conclusion. Why bother? Anybody can qualify for Elite status by accumulating 40,000 status miles with a 12-month period. And accumulating even 15,000 status miles with cheap economy tickets (25% earn rate) is going to be excruciatingly difficult – yet the one of the main reasons for a status match is to receive lounge access on economy tickets. In Business Class, the ticket already includes lounge access and most of the perks of Star Alliance Gold.

Maybe I’m missing some nuance, but 37,500 status miles within a specific 12-month period is no easier than 40,000 status miles within ANY 12-month period.

Should I Bother Then?

It depends… the best strategy I can think of is to request a status match and then do 40,000 status miles that first year! You’d be meeting the exact same requirements as a new M&S member starting from nothing – hopefully overriding the “temporary Elite member” quirks – but at least you’d be doing it as an “Elite” member (lounge access on economy tickets, a higher earn rate on Turkish Business Class tickets, etc.) After all, your base requirement is 15,000 status miles (on Turkish only) for an extra year of status, why not do an additional 25,000 status miles to earn an extra two years? [edit: a recent comment on Flyertalk suggested that even 40+K status miles won’t earn you “proper Elite” status]

Alternatively, I suspect that the main use will be more limited. You enjoy status from a competitor, but have an upcoming trip on Turkish Airlines in Economy and fancy trying out the lounge. You’d be using your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but the terms are unlikely to be eased in the future – so perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Conclusion

As I’ve hopefully made clear, the Miles & Smiles status match policy is now far less attractive than it used to be. It still has its uses, however, and I hope that this post helps explain how it works.

Leave us a comment below if you are contemplating a M&S status match or have a similar (or different) experience to the one I have described…

Comments

  1. Pangolin says

    Thanks for clearing that up. For me, I was never interested in the status match side as I knew that they wouldn’t match another *A airline, but I was more interested in the mechanics of qualifying and retaining *G on TK so I could compare it to the alternatives.

    One thing though – if you do the status match, even though you essentially have to do a similar number of miles in one year, wouldn’t the ‘temporary Elite’ status mean that you immediately get the benefits such as lounge access and better mileage accrual? In other words, the traditional way involves jumping through the hoops to get Elite status while this way involves getting the status upfront and then jumping through the hoops to keep it – but with a higher rate of mileage accrual it should be easier to hit the target.

    It’s a bit like the hotel fast track to status offers. Marriott used to offer a ‘taste of Platinum’ for Gold members whereby you’d be given Platinum for 3 months and need to make 9 stays to keep it, whereas now you just get a challenge and don’t get any higher status until it’s 100% completed (I think Hilton still do it the better way).

    Anyway, I for one really appreciate these in-depth case studies as this is the time of year when we need to think about where we’ll park our miles next year to get those coveted higher tiers. Everything I’ve read leads me to believe that flying SAS and booking Aegean is definitely the way to go for *G on Star Alliance. The great thing about Aegean is that once you’ve got *G it’s very easy to keep – just 12K and 4 segments (with Aegean or Olympic) in 12 months. A single trip like MAN-CPH-XXX will earn you 6K if you book SAS Plus and allocate the miles to A3. You need 24K (plus 4 segments) to go from Silver to Gold but a single RT to SFO/LAX/HKG etc. will give you that even by booking Plus Saver!

    See the SAS points table here and note that booking to A3 will give you 200% on Plus and Business fares 🙂

  2. Miles Hunt says

    The “Emirates or Etihad – Gold or Platinum” seems to be right, but it also appears to fall victim to your point that “Miles & Smiles are renowned for having limited English language skills”.

    When I tried to status match my Etihad Gold with Turkish Airlines, the response I got was negative, with the explanation “Please be informed that only Skyteam (Elite Plus), Oneworld (Emerald), Emirates (Gold – Platinum), Etihad (Gold -Platinum) and El Al (Platinum – Top Platinum) members have an opportunity for Turkish Airlines gold card.”

    This has now happened twice. Perhaps they think Etihad “Gold-Platinum” is some sort of status in itself.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      LOL. Unfortunately my Turkish mate isn’t into miles, otherwise I’d have him on the phone to Istanbul fairly often!

      Apart from the language, one does get the impression that relatively few agents are empowered to actually do or say anything…

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