(My boarding pass to Istanbul en route to Madrid,
and the flight was TWO hours delayed!)
The Turkish Airlines advertisement says, "You will feel like a star".
Well, Turkish Airlines, you didn't exactly made everyone feel like a star on our flight to Istanbul; like everyone else, you made me feel like shit!
I flew Turkish Airlines during the chuseok holidays, on September 27 to be exact, to have a vacation in Spain. En route to Madrid, I had to make a stopover in Istanbul, Turkey. But before my vacation, I had to endure torture first! I didn't even have to leave South Korea to experience that!
When our 11:20AM boarding time came and went, my fellow passengers and I felt something was wrong. I even approached the Turkish Airlines staff at Gate 113 of the Incheon International Airport to ask what time we were boarding as I needed to make my connecting flight to Madrid; the staff couldn't give any specific answer. And after two hours of delay, we finally flew out of Incheon Airport!
MEALS ON BOARD
I wonder if there's a science regarding the serving of in-flight meals during a 12-hour flight? Why? Because on the 10th hour, I was starving!
The crew served the first meal about an hour after take-off. Since the flight was delayed, everyone who didn't grab a bite while waiting for the flight must have been hungry by then. I noticed the passenger next to me voraciously gulped down his meal; he was obviously hungry. I had a feeling that he wasn't able to eat anything while we waited for two hours at Gate 113. I, on the other hand, decided to get something to eat at the airport, or I would have starved, too.
After that first meal, I waited again for eight hours for the next serving. I wondered, for a 12-hour flight, should there be eight hours in between meals?
POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE AT ISTANBUL AIRPORT
An hour before landing, I informed the female flight crew that I had a connecting flight to Madrid, and I would definitely be missing it. She told me that the ground staff must already know about it and that they were probably doing something about it. Hmm. I tried to believe her.
But when I got to the Transfer Desk of Turkish Airlines, there were already a lot of passengers lining up to re-book themselves. Although I noticed three (3) staff attending to the queue, I noticed two Turkish Airlines staff (one male, one female) standing and chatting on the left-most side next to a computer monitor. A male passenger, who was flying to Munich, had to ask them whether 'they were working', to make sure he wasn't bothering their chat. Jeez. With the long line of tired, hungry and sleepy passengers in front of them, shouldn't the Turkish Airline staff be focusing on attending to their needs, and not just to chat the night away?
REIMBURSE MY VISA EXPENSE
After giving me a new boarding pass for the 7:40AM flight the next morning, the Turkish Airline staff told me to go to another Turkish Airline office next to the Starbucks, which is at the arrival area. This means I had to clear Turkish Immigration! That office would give me my hotel arrangement for that night in Istanbul, Turkey. As a rule, airlines have to book the passengers in a hotel and provide them with meals.
And as I needed to get out of the airport, I needed a visa for Turkey! And no Turkish Airline staff even raised the idea that I might need a visa in order to get out of the airport! I had to get one from a machine and paid US$25!
And last week, when I arrived back in Seoul, I called the Turkish Airline office in Korea and asked whether they would refund my visa expense. She told me I had to raise my complaint to their office in Turkey! WTF? Getting out of the Istanbul airport and sleeping in Turkey were never part of my vacation. Why do I have to shoulder that visa expense?
DINNER AT 10PM and WAKE-UP CALL AT 4:30AM!
When I finally was able to go through the Turkish immigration, I had to find that Turkish Airlines office next to Starbucks. But when I approached three sales ladies at the shop right after the Immigration to ask for directions, they just looked away and didn't want to be bothered. They must have been busy gossiping and didn't want to be interrupted. At that moment, I realized this was the general attitude of the service staff at the Istanbul Airport. And as I was moving around asking questions about the visa and directions, the most common response was: "I don't know".
With the rest of the passengers who missed their flights, I arrived at the hotel almost 10PM, and we were all told that they would provide dinner at their restaurant, and that we had to hurry as they would close at 10PM!
And not only that, I had to get up at 4:30AM to catch the 5AM airport bus they were providing, even though my flight was at 7:40AM! They said that if we didn't catch the 5AM bus, we had to get a taxi later and pay for it ourselves.
LOSING ONE DAY in SPAIN
I should have arrived in Madrid at 11PM that Sunday. Instead, because of the 2-hour delayed flight from Seoul, I arrived in Spain about 1PM on Monday! I practically lost one day!
And while that all happened, I never heard any apology from Turkish Airlines for ruining my first day in Spain! I was starved, forced to run around helpless at Istanbul Airport, forced to pay US$25 on a visa I didn't actually want, and was stressed, fatigued and got an aching back and tired legs that day! What a shitty experience!
And as if that torture wasn't enough, on my journey back to South Korea on October 8, my flight from Barcelona to Istanbul was also delayed by one hour! I missed AGAIN another connecting flight, this time back to Seoul!
My fellow passengers to Seoul and I had to jog around Istanbul Airport again running from our arrival gate to Gate 219 in order to catch our connecting flight to Korea. But unluckily, the gate was already closed when we got there and had to walk hundreds of meters again to the transfer desk, and waited again with our tired, sleepy bodies for the midnight flight to Incheon Airport.
NEVER AGAIN, TURKISH AIRLINES!
Before I booked my Turkish Airline flights to Spain weeks ago, I looked up its reviews online. They were mixed. Some bad, some good, some horrible.
But since I had this first-hand experience myself, I swear I'll never ride Turkish Airlines again!
I am also thinking I should avoid passing through the Istanbul Ataturk Aiport. It's chaotic, very crowded, and has a very poor lay-out, and the airport staff have a very poor attitude. It seems the term 'customer service' is not in their vocabulary. If you're heading there, I advise you to avoid the Sbarro restaurant inside that airport's food court.
So, if you read Turkish Airlines' advertisement that they would make you feel like a star.
Don't freakin' believe it.