After spending a great final day in Shiraz on April 8th, we headed back to Baharestan in a comfortable (yet slow!) bus on the 9th. We spent our final evening at Mehdi’s house, where we watched a Bollywood movie, a martial arts film in which Jackie Chan practised Drunken Fist kung fu and an episode of the popular Iranian series Yusarsif, about the life of the prophet Joseph; all of which on Iranian national television. Mehdi, Ali and I had a final nightly walk in which Mehdi told us about his encounters with Jinns. After stating that I didn’t believe in Jinns, Mehdi offered to show me a picture. Considering the fact that I still wanted to get some sleep that night, however, I decided that I did not want to see it. Mehdi and Ali brought me to Isfahan Airport early in the morning, so I could catch my pre-planned flight to Istanbul at 6:55 PM. That’s where the trouble started…
When I arrived at Isfahan Airport I discovered that the departure time of my flight to Istanbul, TK893 (06:55 AM – 09:15 AM), had been postponed to 07:55 AM. This meant that I would miss flight TK1957 from Istanbul to Amsterdam (10:20 AM – 12:55 PM), but I didn’t care much about it. Luckily (or so I thought) the man at the check-in desk immediately gave me a boarding pass for flight TK1953, which would depart for Amsterdam from Istanbul at 03:15 PM. Good, so my second flight had been rebooked automatically and without additional costs…
So far I thought everything was going well. I waited patiently until 03:15 PM and I boarded the plane. The people at the gate ripped my boarding pass, leaving only the luggage tag, and allowed me to go to my seat without asking any questions. Moments before the plane would take off, however, the engines were already running, I was suddenly summoned to leave the plane. “What is going on?” I thought. Did they find drugs in my luggage? Was I suspected of being a spy for the regime in Tehran? No, my boarding pass apparently was not valid. A Turkish Airlines official told me to buy a VISA ($30) and then buy a new ticket at the Turkish Airlines ticket office. I received no further help. I had to do everything myself and I had to explain the situation to everyone again and again. It was a horrible experience, even more so because I only wanted to go back home as quickly as possible and catch up with my lost sleep.
Nevertheless, I took my own responsibility. I paid for the VISA and tried to book the next Turkish Airlines flight to Amsterdam. However, when trying to explain the situation to the man at the ticket booth, he asked me for the boarding pass for flight TK1953. This boarding pass had already been ripped when I entered the plane, so I could not offer him anything other that the luggage tag. He told me that I would not get a compensation for my new ticket and that the next flight of Turkish Airlines only had business class tickets left. I then went to a cheap tickets office operated by Turkish Airlines to buy a ticket for the next KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) flight. I booked flight KL1610 (originally €210, but €228 because I paid by bank pass). I then asked if Turkish Airlines would transfer my luggage to my new flight. They said ‘yes’. I asked them if they were sure. They said ‘yes’.
After booking my new ticket I had to book a hotel (€80), where I had dinner (€12). Everything seemed to be alright so far, until the KLM official at the check-in desk told me that my luggage would not be automatically transferred to flight KL1610. I had to reclaim my luggage from Turkish Airlines at the last moment, which was a very stressful experience, and check-in my luggage at the KLM desk. Because I hadn’t announced in advance that I had any luggage, I had to pay an extra 100 TL. After the check-in at KL1610 I faced no more difficulties.
All of these incidents had cost me over €300 extra and I also lost almost one full day. The most frustrating part, however, was that most of these costs were due to mistakes made by Turkish Airlines staff: 1) flight TK893 departed an hour too late, 2) Turkish Airlines gave me an invalid boarding pass for flight TK1953, 3) Turkish Airlines ripped my boarding pass so that I didn’t have any proof to request a refund, 4) Turkish Airlines told me that my luggage would be transferred automatically to the new flight. I didn’t receive any help from them and was even approached with suspicion and skepticism by its officials when I tried to tell them my story. I was angry and rightfully so. The next day I filled in a complaint form. Yesterday I received their response:
Dear Daan Nijssen,
Initially, we would like to state that we feel regret for the unpleasant situation that has occurred.
We would like to indicate that as is the case with other airlines, too, Turkish Airlines also has to make changes to its schedules from time to time, due to such reasons as operational, technical, or weather-related difficulties.
Our passengers are informed of possible scheduling changed via SMS or e-mail and the establishment of contact with the relevant division is facilitated. Alternative flights are presented to our passengers in the case of altered schedules, and free-of-charge reservation alteration can also be made for passengers who request that.
In our investigation, it was determined that the schedule for the TK0893 Isfahan/Istanbul flight and TK1957 Istanbul/Amsterdam flight on 10th of April 2016 was altered on 29th of March 2016.
On the light of this information, we are sorry to indicate that since the schedule change was infromed at least 1 week before your flight, as being determined by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and it’s your responsibility to change alter your reservation accordingly, we are not able to fulfill your request of reimbursement for your additional costs.
Finally, we would like you to state that our personnels who served on 10th of April 2016, have been warned within own division due to providing inaccaure information so as not to cause dissatisfaction to another of our passengers.
We ask you to accept our apology for the difficulties caused to you by these operational practices.
We hope you do not experience such adversities on your future travels and, with hopes of being able to welcome you as our guest again, we are respectfully yours.
Okay, I get it. It was my responsibility to change the reservation. They had indeed sent me an e-mail about changes to the schedule, but I didn’t pay much heed to it. I didn’t notice any significant differences with the original flight schedule (the difference in departure time was only one hour), so I did not foresee the consequences of ignoring this e-mail. Moreover, when I was given the invalid boarding pass for the second flight in Isfahan, it was only natural that I thought that my reservation had been changed automatically for me. Of course, I should have read the terms and conditions. I learned my lesson. However…
The main point – and Turkish Airlines knows this – is that many people, mostly inexperienced flyers, make the same mistakes as I did. Many people don’t read the terms and conditions and suffer the consequences. All of these people could have had their reservations changed without additional costs and be compensated for hotel costs, if only they had booked a few hours earlier. Although it may be these people’s ‘own fault’, it still leads to highly stressful situations that these people don’t ‘deserve’. This is especially true when Turkish Airlines officials don’t offer appropriate help and make the situation worse through their own mistakes. The least thing Turkish Airlines could have done is be a little bit more sincere in expressing their sympathy. Offering a standard apology and then slapping me in the face with the rulebook only gives me the impression that Turkish Airlines only cares about its own rights and profits.
If I were in charge at Turkish Airlines I would at least give back the money that I had spent on the missed flight, or compensate the costs of staying one night in Istanbul. Not because I am obligated to do that, but as a sign of good will. If they would only have compensated the money lost on the missed second flight, the costs for Turkish Airlines would be no more than they would have been if I had changed my reservation in advance. In addition, it would have left me feeling much happier and even thankful. Customer relations are an important aspect of every business and this experience has left me bitter taste.