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According to this thread in the FlyerTalk Mileage Run forum, several airlines are featuring extremely low fares between the US and Istanbul, Turkey.

There appears to be solid availability in February and early March, and I’m seeing fares as low as $413! This is great news, especially for those of us who couldn’t get in on the paid first class fare sale to Istanbul and Moscow last week. Scott tweeted about that deal, but the dates (and cash outlay) just didn’t work for me.

Which US cities have these great fares?

I experimented and found good prices leaving from Washington-Dulles, Newark, and Chicago-O’Hare.

What’s the best way to hunt for eligible dates?

The ITA Matrix is my personal favorite. It’s one of the most useful tools to check for available dates and airlines. For a complete breakdown of how to use this great website, check out Scott’s recent post, ITA Matrix: How to Search for Cheap Airfare with Flexiblity.

First go to matrix.itasoftware.com. Type in “ORD”, “EWR”, or “IAD”  as your home airport and “IST” as your destination.

I prefer to search by the length of a trip and one month at a time. It helps me find the lowest fare. To do so, select “See calendar of lowest fares.” In the screenshot below, I’ve asked ITA to search for 3-8 night itineraries leaving in the month of February.

After you click “Search”, ITA takes you to a calendar listing the cheapest flights departing on each date. When I searched, I was able to find a bunch of sub-$500 fares.

Clicking on a particular date will bring up all available flight options on the next page. To see some sample itineraries, check out the screenshot below.

Keep in mind the ITA Matrix is only for finding airfares. You don’t have the ability to book through this site. Write down the dates, flight numbers, and prices that work for you and book directly at the airline’s website that is offering the bargain fare.

Didn’t you mention other US cities with cheap Istanbul fares?

Yes, Newark is also showing some sub-$500 fares. Below is a 3-5 night search in the month of February.

Chicago-O’Hare is also showing some flights for under $550. That’s not as good of a deal as the Washington D.C. flights, but it’s still fantastic for Istanbul. Below is a 3-8 night search in February.

Below are two sample trips on United and Turkish.

I don’t live in Chicago/Washington D.C./New York. Why is this of value to me?

You certainly don’t have to live in the origin airport city to turn this into a vacation. There are many ways to connect you to these major airports. If your schedule permits, you could even spend some vacation time in both the North American gateway city and Istanbul.

If you need to fly to Chicago, New York, or D.C. to start this trip, you should leave several hours (or even more) between your flight to/from those cities and the main Chicago/NYC/D.C. <-> Istanbul roundtrip. If there is bad weather or a mechanical issue with your flight to Chicago, for example, KLM, Turkish, or United isn’t obligated to accommodate you.

There are tons of domestic options to get you to these cities. Both American Airlines and United Airlines offer frequent nonstop flights to O’Hare airport from around the country. Newark and Washington-Dulles are United’s primary East Coast hubs.

If you have some  Southwest Rapid Rewards points to spare, check out Scott’s post on booking a Southwest Award, Anatomy of an Award: How to Book an Award on Southwest. You might be able to book an award ticket to Newark or Chicago-Midway that would save a lot of money.

Also, if you are planning on turning in frequent flyer miles to get to Chicago or Washington-Dulles, don’t forget British Airways Avios. Avios are redeemable on American Airlines, their oneworld partner, and the award chart is distance based. Flights to Chicago/D.C. that are under 650 miles are only 4,500 Avios. For more information on booking American Airlines flights with Avios, see out Scott’s post,Free First Class Next Month: Using BA.com for oneworld Awards.

Will this deal last into next week? I need to do some travel planning first!

This appears to be one of those lightning deals that could disappear at any time. All domestic carriers, including United, now have a 24-hour cancellation policy. My strong advice is to book now to lock in the great fare. If you wait around, the sub-$500 fares will most likely be gone.

If you book tonight and find out the dates don’t work, simply call the airline or cancel online tomorrow. Just make sure you do so before the 24-hour cancellation window passes. Otherwise, you will have to pay a pricey cancellation or change fee!

**Note that airlines like KLM and Turkish Airlines do not appear to have as relaxed a cancellation policy as US carriers. You might end up paying a fee for cancelling with them.

Why is this deal in the FlyerTalk Mileage Run Forum? What exactly is that?

Mileage runs are airline tickets purchased with the sole goal of earning frequent flyer miles. Many FlyerTalkers are able to maintain their elite status by purchasing heavily discounted tickets (such as the fare above). The goal is to requalify for elite status for the least amount of money out of pocket. Elite status with an airline usually brings perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, complimentary upgrades to first class, and a whole host of other benefits. For more info, check out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Using FlyerTalk’s Mileage Run Forum.


I’ve never seen low fares like this offered to Istanbul. The fact that you can take advantage from three major US cities is great news. This is a last minute vacation idea that’s hard to beat.

Typically when fares like this are discovered, they don’t last long. If you are interested, you should book quickly and take advantage of United’s 24 hour cancellation policy if your plans fall through. Be warned that international carriers appear to have stricter cancellation policies. You need to be sure when booking through KLM or Turkish Airlines.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

For the past 24 hours, this thread on FlyerTalk has been buzzing with excitement about Alitalia’s most recent discount code that gave a flat $315.30 discount off any flight booked up until 10/26/12 on Alitalia’s Japanese website.

For several days, the US, Italian, German, British, Canadian, and Spanish Alitalia websites have been running a promotion that gives a 25% discount on flights booked using the e-Coupon code SPECIAL:

This was a nice upgrade from the 15% off promotion that Alitalia offered in September–covered in Mile Value’s first Forum Buzz post.

More enticingly, the version of the promotion offered on Alitalia’s Japanese website featured a flat discount of 25,000 Yen ($315.30 USD) on Alitalia flights purchased through the site when the e-Coupon code PROMOJP was used:

As you can imagine, a $315.30 discount on a cheap fare results in a very cheap ticket. There were multiple reports of $0.00 (yes, free) intra-Europe flights booked and ticketed successfully using this code!

It’s only been about 24 hours, so I can still jump on this right?

Nope, it’s dead. If you navigate to the Japanese Alitalia page and try to book any flight, you will be faced with this:

 Do I have any options apart from banging my head against the wall?

Yes. Console your self with this game: type promo.alitalia.com into your browser. It will automatically redirect to promo.alitalia.com/italy. Delete Italy and start plugging in some countries and see if you come up with something interesting, like this:

It’s another Alitalia flat-rate discount–on its Russian website. At 4,000 Rubles off–$129.38 USD–it is not nearly as lucrative as the Japan deal, but for flights that are $500 or less, this Russian discount is still a better deal than a 25% discount. The discount is valid for travel between 11/5/12 and 3/7/13 with blackout dates of 12/20/12 to 1/6/13.

How do I get in on this?

Use the Google Chrome or Safari browsers as they both have translation functions. Navigate to alitalia.com and change your country to Russia:

 On the next screen, direct your browser to translate the website:

You will then have a somewhat normal-appearing Alitalia website, with some quirky translations here and there. Click on Advanced Search to give yourself more flexibility with your flight search options:

Click Find Bargains–to see the cheapest days to fly–then enter your desired flight information. In this example, I want to go from Milan, Italy to Istanbul, Turkey. The airport code FCO–Rome– entered in the “from” box was changed to MXP, for Milan:

If your flight is not bookable–for example, a US domestic flight–you will get this error message:

Keep trying! You may have to get creative with dates and routing.  Once you have successfully chosen your preferred segments, you will see this page, which shows 3 weeks of flight availability from the date you chose:

After you select the date that you want to start your trip, you will then be able to select specific flights:

After choosing both flights, you will be presented with a page that confirms the details and price of your reservations. In this example, the pre-discount price is 6644 Rubles– $214.90. Enter the e-Coupon code PROMORU where prompted, and click Recalculate:

Your 4,000 Ruble discount will be subtracted from your ticket price:

This is a pretty sweet deal – I am getting a round trip ticket between Rome and Istanbul for 2644 Rubles–$85.52! On the next page, you will be prompted to enter the passenger details:

You will then be shown the payment screen. If you booked a flight that cost 4,000 Rubles or less and your total after the discount is $0.00 you can enter your contact information, sit back, and smile smugly. If you have to pay for your ticket, be sure to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees:

After paying (or not), you will end on a confirmation screen with your e-ticket number (beginning with 055) and a six-character alpha-numeric reservation code:

How can I confirm that my $0.00 flight was ticketed?

First, check your email:

It should have a copy of the e-ticket.  But, like any canny cheapskate, you want more proof. If you navigate to Alitalia’s site to check your booking you may get an error message. I had the same problem when I tried to confirm my booking on checkmytrip.com.

However, according to this FlyerTalker, you can get confirmation that your flight was ticketed by going to saudiaairlines.com (a SkyTeam partner). Select Manage My Bookings then enter your e-ticket number and name where prompted:

You will see your e-ticket confirmation–as well as the itinerary, and the pre-coupon price of your ticket:

Can I fly anywhere on any SkyTeam airline?

No. Unlike the September 15% off promotion, the only flights available for both the 25% and 4,000 Rubles off promotions have been on Alitalia, not other Sky Team partners like Delta, Air France, or KLM.

So am I guaranteed a seat on that ridiculously cheap flight I just booked?

It seems very unlikely that Alitalia will honor the $0.00 fares, particularly those that originate outside of the US.  Even if flights originating in the US are not honored, there is no guarantee that the Department of Transportation will rule in our favor–remember how the United mistake fare of 4 Mileage Plus miles and $43 to Hong Kong turned out?  It seems reasonable to expect that they might honor tickets that weren’t too obviously underpriced–bookings for which there was an actual financial transaction.  However, there is at least one report of a cancellation from Alitalia because a flight booked from the Japanese website did not originate in Japan.

If I am actually able to check into my $0.00 flight, when should I start requesting upgrades, special meals, and lounge access because of my Delta status?

Just get on the plane. Don’t do anything that could result in unwanted scrutiny of your ticket.

Which deal is better – 25% off or $129.38 off?

Both deals start to match each other for value when the ticket price approaches $500. A $500 ticket will cost $375.00 after a 25% discount and $370.62 after the $129.38 discount. So, for tickets cheaper than $500, book through the Russian website for the flat rate discount as you will get a better deal.

Anything else I should know?

If you plan to make multiple purchases, consider calling your credit card company to let them know that there may be multiple charges from Russia on your card so that the card is not frozen for fear of fraud.

Clear your cookies and cache from your browser after searches if the Alitalia website gets buggy.

Most importantly–don’t do this if you can’t afford to lose the money that you spend to buy these tickets, as there are no guarantees about how refunds will be managed if the tickets are cancelled.


Alitalia is running a worldwide promotion that offers 25% off all Alitalia-operated flights booked on its US website. This strong promotion was overshadowed by the more sensational offer of a flat 25,00 Yen or $315.30 discount once available on Alitalia’s Japanese website. This offer has been pulled.

However, there is a less-publicized discount of $129.38 on Alitalia’s Russian website which makes it possible to fly on Alitalia for free or very cheaply on lower cost routes. The PROMORU discount is a better deal than the 25% discount for fares $500 or less. Both the 25% and $129.38 discounts are available for use until 10/26/12, and are valid for travel dates between 11/5/12 and 3/7/13. The blackout dates are from 12/20/12 to 1/6/12.


I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

United is offering its direct flight from Newark to Honolulu for $420.40 roundtrip on several dates in November and December! I hear Hawaii has better weather than New York that time of year.

For all my Oahu-based readers, the same deal is available in reverse December 3 -11.

How do you get in on the deal?

The easiest way is to start at matrix.itasoftware.com. Type in EWR-HNL or HNL-EWR. Tell the software your desired vacation length and give it a date to start searching.

After hitting search, you’ll get a thirty-day calendar. The price listed on each date is the cheapest vacation of your desired length starting on that date. Here is the seven-night vacation calendar from Newark to Honolulu from November 14 – December 14:

As you can see, the cheapest seven-night vacations start November 27-29 and December 3-5. Here’s November 28 – December 5. The westbound flight is in the afternoon, and the eastbound is a redeye.

I would start on ITA because it will quickly show you all possible dates at the cheapest price. Once you find the itinerary you want, head to united.com and input your dates. It was easy enough to reproduce the same flights from above.

This fare earns 9,924 United redeemable and status miles. That works out to 4.2 cents per mile, nearly mileage run worthy, and definitely vacation worthy!

Hat tip: Dan’s Deals

Let’s meet up at the Chicago Seminars. For more great posts like this, sign up for the MileValue RSS feed, like the MileValue facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @milevalue. Get your friends involved too, so you can have more companions for your Free First Class Next Month.


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