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A few days ago, I arrived at the airport for my first flight of 2020 and was told that I wouldn’t be able to check in. My flight on Turkish Airlines was delayed and I would definitely miss the connection to my final destination of Abu Dhabi. I was pointed in the direction of the ticket office to discuss alternatives.
The direct flight on Etihad had just taken off and an Emirates flight to Dubai was apparently fully booked in Business Class. Therefore, my only option if I wanted to reach Abu Dhabi (without going home and trying again the next day – actually very tempting!) was to fly to Istanbul on my delayed flight and connect to a Turkish Airlines flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that would arrive at 2 a.m. local time. I would then – without a visa for Saudi Arabia of course – need to stay airside and connect to an Etihad flight departing at 4:30 a.m and arriving at 7 a.m. UAE time. YUCK! Instead of my scheduled arrival to Abu Dhabi at 1 a.m. (10 p.m. UK time) and a short taxi ride to my hotel, I would be spending the night on airport benches and on short haul flights (i.e. no flat beds).
My experience at Riyadh airport was somewhat chaotic, as obviously nobody ever connects between Turkish Airlines and Etihad in Saudi Arabia! Nonetheless I made it to Abu Dhabi the next morning, even though my checked bag didn’t.
Claiming EC261 Compensation
Because I departed from an EU country, the nationality of my airline is irrelevant. And because I arrived to my final destination more than 6 hours late, I had a clear cut situation for an EC261 compensation claim for a 4+ hour delay. This entitles me to 600 euros.
Just to be sure, I made sure to check the Istanbul weather reports for fog, snow, etc. – anything that might allow Turkish Airlines to deny my claim with an “extraordinary circumstances” excuse. All seemed normal, so I sent in a claim using the feedback forms on the Turkish Airlines website.
Quite quickly I received a response offering 25,000 Turkish miles for my troubles. No mention of EC261 at all, simply a request to confirm my acceptance of their offer.
After spending a couple of days thinking it over, I replied to the email in order to insist upon the 600 euros I was entitled to under EC261. But, as I am a miles junkie, I did make clear my willingness to consider a “substantially higher” offer of miles.
Another email arrived a few hours later, offering me 40,000 miles. Still no mention of EC261. Nonetheless, I decided to accept the offer.
What?!?! Why Would You Do That?
At first glance, 600 euros is probably far more valuable than 40,000 miles. Cash is king, and can be spent on anything. Miles with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles can basically be spent on Turkish Airlines award flights. Booking a Star Alliance partner can also be managed with a fair amount of effort.
BUT… I never reached the stage of Turkish Airlines offering to pay me 600 euros. In fact, Turkish and many other airlines are notorious for simply not paying EC261 claims without a court order. Since I have no desire to take any airline to small claims court personally, I would probably pass my case off to a “vulture” claims firm. Therefore, my 600 euros would actually only end up as 300-400 euros in my pocket, several months from now…
But What Are 40,000 Turkish Miles Actually Worth?
Well, if I tried to buy them directly from Miles & Smiles, I would be charged $1,200 (£920).
I would never really do that, but I might buy Marriott points during a 30% discount promotion and then convert them into Turkish miles. Ignoring the fact that I would need to convert 120,000 Marriott points –> 50,000 miles for maximum efficiency, I would be paying roughly £675 for 40,000 Turkish miles.
So… accepting 40,000 miles instead of a chance at 600 euros certainly starts to make more sense.
What Does 40,000 Turkish Miles Actually Get Me?
Well, 45,000 miles is enough for a one-way award ticket in Business Class between Europe and just about anywhere in the world except Oceania. There are some surcharges to be paid, but not nearly as excessive as what British Airways or Lufthansa charge.
Would I be able to take a notional 600 euros in compensation, add 200 in taxes and surcharges and get myself in Business Class to Hong Kong for 800 euros? Perhaps… if I bought Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles and booked a Cathay Pacific reward flight. But otherwise I would have to faff about with positioning to Stockholm or some other travel hack to fly on a cheap Qatar Airways fare. I certainly wouldn’t get anywhere near Asia by buying 600 euros worth of Avios or any other form of miles.
So… receiving nearly enough miles for a one-way reward in Business Class to just about anywhere I wish to visit (and can find award space) started sounding better and better, especially since my Turkish mileage balance is a bit low at the moment…
What Would You Do?
Would you accept miles in lieu of a valid EC261 claim that might require taking the airline to court? I recognise that few readers are familiar enough with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles to judge, but what about Avios or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club? How many miles would tempt you into dropping a valid EC261 claim? Let us know in the comments section…