Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Programme Grants Frequent Flyer Status Extension

Turkish Airlines frequent flyer programme Miles&Smiles has granted a full one-year status extension to all its members due to the ongoing corona virus crisis.

Status extension

Miles&Smiles has informed all its members yesterday that their frequent flyer status would be extended by a full year.

The frequent flyer program of Turkish Airlines has already granted its members a six-month status extension in March when global aviation came to a halt as most countries went into lockdown.

Although this was seen as a prudent first response to COVID-19, Turkish Airlines was soon surpassed by almost every other airline, with most of their competitors handing out a full one-year extension.

To reassure their most loyal customers, Turkish Airlines has now communicated that all statuses would be protected by an extra 12 months on top of the 6 months granted earlier.

turkish airlines miles&smiles status extension
Turkish Airlines’ own Miles&Smiles programme informed its members that their statuses would be extended by a full year. ©Turkish Airlines

My own take as a Miles&Smiles Elite member

Although I personally I did not need the gesture as I was all but set to requalify anyway, I still welcome the status extension and think it was realistically speaking the only right decision which Turkish Airlines executives could have made.

Many frequent flyers around the world still face severe restrictions which prevents them from returning to the skies, whether it is business travel which now is only a fraction of what is used to be, or closed borders and strict entry requirements which prevent many nationalities from travelling abroad.

Even though I would most likely easily have earned the 1,812 miles I needed before 31st March 2021 to requalify for my Miles&Smiles Elite status (which corresponds with Star Alliance Gold), I still appreciate the “free” extra year which has been given.

Right now, my status is safe until 31st March 2022 – and I still only need a mere 1,812 miles to requalify before that.

miles&smiles status
I now only need to earn 1,812 status miles before 31st March 2022 to protect my Miles&Smiles Elite status. ©Paliparan

Other frequent flyer programmes

With the one year extra status on top of the initial half-year extension, Turkish Airlines has now even gone further than most other airlines and their frequent flyer programmes who only extended their statuses for a year.

I’m quite curious to see what other frequent flyer programmes will decide in the upcoming months. Although I suspect a few of them might also lean towards a further extension out of fear of their most loyal customers walking over to competitors, I still think many other airlines might be a bit hesitant doing so.

As we have seen in recent weeks, many airlines have instead come up with double miles and points promotions. This seems to be a more logical choice, as airlines (rightly) expect their frequent flyers to do at least some flying when possible.

Given the huge aviation crisis we are currently in, I think it is also rather selfish of frequent flyers to only expect freebies thrown in. After all, airline frequent flyer programmes are a two-way street. In return for our business, we receive airline status and some special perks.

turkish airlines planes status extension istanbul
Turkish Airlines planes at Istanbul Airport. ©Paliparan

Turkish Airlines has some other problems

Although the status extension will definitely help Turkish Airlines keep their most loyal customers ready, I think there is a more serious issue at hand which the airline should seriously address sooner than later.

Turkish Airlines has always been known for its fabulous on-board product in both economy and business class. In economy, you even receive a full hot meal on mid-haul flight within Europe. In business class, the Do&Co catering and fine Turkish cuisine has earned the airline a great reputation across the world.

Since the outbreak of the corona crisis, Turkish has however drastically altered their meal service. In economy class you are lucky to get a cup of water, while in business class all you get now is a cheap carton box with some packaged cold food – even on a 12-hour-long intercontinental flight between Istanbul and New York.

According to multiple reports on airline and frequent flyer forums, even the normally excellent Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul has reduced its food and beverage options, with only sandwiches, pre-packaged items and soft drinks available – and thus no alcohol, freshly prepared food and those delicious Turkish desserts.

Although Turkish Airlines has said this is all an unfortunate necessity due to COVID-19, other airlines across the world have long since gone back to their usual catering.

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A Turkish Airlines economy class meal on a flight between Turkey and Germany. ©Paliparan
turkish airlines business class meal
A Turkish mezze starter on an intra-European flight in business class. ©Paliparan

Cost-cutting measures

It certainly is an argument which frequent flyers are not buying into. After all, what is the difference in corona risks between handing out a cheap meal out of a carton box with only some water, or a quality meal on a tray with a glass of champagne?

The amount of time a person has his mask off is still the same. The amount of contact moments between the crew and the passenger are still the same. Frequent flyers see through these excuses of “COVID-19 safety enhancements” and know it’s a pure cost-cutting measure.

The bottom line is that Turkish Airlines’ most valuable customers expect a good on-board service. That is the reason why they brought their business to this airline in the first place! If Turkish Airlines therefore wants its frequent flyers to book future flights again, it should first and foremost bring catering and service back to its old standards.

You don’t have to take my word on this. If you take a look at any frequent flyer forum or social media you can see hundreds of complaints of disappointed passengers who see that while every competitor has brought service levels back, Turkish Airlines is still offering a sub-par product nowadays.

These high-value passengers – many of them travelling on expense accounts – are now booking their trips on airlines like Lufthansa, Qatar Airways or Air France instead. If Turkish Airlines doesn’t address the issue, they might have lost some customers forever.

Turkish Airlines has currently even massively reduced the food and alcohol options in its (normally excellent) business lounges. ©Paliparan

In short

The decision of the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles programme to extend all status by a full year has been warmly welcomed by its members. It is a prudent step to take, as it prevents a lot of statuses of high-value customers from expiring and it is only in Turkish Airlines best interest to keep these frequent flyers on board.

However, the airline has a more pressing issue it must address. If Turkish Airlines wants it most loyal customers to fly again it should bring service standards back to its old (high) levels – especially so in business class.

As most other airlines around the world have brought food & beverage service back to normal levels with some extra safety precautions, Turkish Airlines still seems to believe that this is not possible due to corona health & safety restrictions. If the airline sticks to this – it might very well cost them dearly in their pockets.

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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