This particular Arsehole had reason to fly from the US to a few places in Europe (and back) and identified quite an excellent deal being offered by Turkish Airlines for all the major cities that needed to be visited. After maximising the value of the purchase in terms of credit card rewards, the Arsehole was happy in their securing of the set of tickets on offer.
Alas, it all started to go somewhat wrong.
The first leg of the trip departed from the sixth worst airport in the entire world, LAX. The excellent Star Alliance lounge at the Tom Bradley terminal served as a wonderful refuge from the terminal prior to boarding, however this particular Arsehole soon learned that announcements for boarding were not a matter of procedure in this lounge and passengers needed to ensure that they were at the gate for boarding without prompting for Turkish Airlines flights.
With this information, the Arsehole headed to the gate to observe a complete omnishambles in progress. The gate in question featured shiny new biometric scanners that weren’t used, staff who decided to complain in the general direction of anyone asking why boarding was delayed and changing the configuration of the boarding lines every few minutes out of either catharsis or confusion.
Eventually, boarding happened and I was very impressed by the crew and the way they took care of their passengers – uniforms were immaculate, attentiveness was present and unobtrusive and the handling of requests was very exceptional.
And then the flight landed
Istanbul Atatürk Airport is a very interesting place. Many aircraft land at remote gates, there’s quite a lot of congestion and jet bridges have a rare configuration for deplaning passengers involving well-dressed airline employees standing at the threshold, directing passengers up a ramp to the departures level for connecting international flights or down a different ramp to customs and connecting domestic flights. This is where things started to go quite wrong.
Somehow, the flight from LAX to Istanbul had managed to lose about an hour in the air, so the connecting flight that Turkish Airlines had sold me had since buggered off to Bucharest with precisely zero fucks given. In cases such as these, it is the responsibility of the airline to rebook passengers such that they get to their destination without having to resort to hitchhiking or hiding in someone’s luggage and I was directed to the Turkish Airlines rebooking desk. Which is in the domestic section of the airport for some incomprehensible reason.
A brow-beaten bloke looked at my boarding pass, muttered something unkind about Bucharest and then gave me a new boarding pass that would see me arrive more than 6 hours later than my original itinerary promised. This made me a very sad panda, but things only got worse.
Upon finally boarding the flight to Bucharest, it became apparent that an equipment change had occurred and no Business Class seats were present. In an example of gross egregiousness, I was subjected to flying in Economy!
Thankfully the subsequent legs around Europe were without incident, with an expectation of dealing with the late arrival and downgrade of my Istanbul-Bucharest leg once I was home. Alas, I was about to be grossly disappointed.
As originally booked, my flight to the US would see me have over 3 hours to meet a connecting flight at San Francisco airport (which is the 5th worst airport I have ever been to). Yet, for some unknown reason, Turkish Airlines decided to alter my itinerary such that I would have less than 90 minutes to clear immigration and customs, recheck my bags, change terminals and be molested by the TSA. To add insult to injury, the incoming flight was ordered to come to a halt and wait for a bloke named Keith to tow the 777 to quite a distant gate.
Upon getting through immigration, Turkish Airlines staff had tried to be “helpful” and moved my bag off to a storage area which they proceeded to forget the location of. After administering hypnosis and deploying my personality in the general direction of the staff, my bag was suddenly found and I was told that I would be delayed by another few hours and I would have to endure the unrelenting pestilence that is Economy for my connecting flight.
Up with this I shall not put
So in summary:
- My arrival in Bucharest was delayed by over 6 hours
- The Istanbul-Bucharest leg was downgraded to Economy
- The San Francisco-Seattle leg was changed without notification or justification
- The rebooked flight arrived hours later than scheduled and was downgraded to Economy
I wrote to Turkish Airlines, expressing my concerns and was told to fuck off in the second most polite way I’ve experienced to date. After laying out all the facts, the airline refused to do anything about the issues encountered even though their customer rights document laid out exactly what they should be doing.
In the end, I ended up invoking my favourite C word in their general direction and let American Express deal with them. Oh, the fun that was had:
Dear Mr Arsehole,
Thank you for bringing the issues you encountered during your journey with Turkish Airlines to our attention. We have reviewed the documentation and evidence you have provided and agree that the airline is refusing to act as is detailed in their customer rights document.
To that end, please be informed that a credit of 1,200 Euros will be applied to your account whilst we recover the funds from the airline.
But this is not the end of the story
About 6 months later, I received an e-mail from Turkish Airlines with regard to this incident. I was expecting the message to allude to attempting to claw back the funds in some fashion, but surprisingly this was not the case:
Dear Mr Arsehole,
We have reviewed the manner in which your case was dealt with and agree that it was unacceptable. As an apology, please find attached a voucher valued at 168 Euros for use on our airline when we next welcome you aboard.