A very happy 2016 to all of you! I hope the year has been treating you well so far. Unfortunately, 2016 has been nothing less than a cornucopia of exhaustion, worry and frustration for myself, my family and all 21 tour mates on my winter vacation.[This is the shortened version of our terrible encounter with Turkish Airlines & Ataturk Airport. For full version, videos, pictures and how I was asked to give a blowjob in return for using a public toilet, please visit my post at https://goo.gl/yMpSP4. If you are impatient, scroll all the way to the bottom for a TL;DR.]
For those of you who don’t love me enough to frequently see my content on your Facebook feed, I’ve been in Eastern Europe on a tour package with CS Travel since 17 December 2015. The first fortnight was rather enjoyable; our Singaporean guide Alex Fong made sure we visited, ate and experienced the necessary. But I should have sensed trouble from the beginning.
My mother’s luggage with her winter wear was rerouted to God knows where from Istanbul where we took the national carrier Turkish Airlines to Prague. There’s a happy ending in here (but it’s the only one) – her luggage was delivered to our hotel some 8 hours later. Turkish Airlines – TK from here on – also managed to completely break off the top handle of my Samsonite.
And now we get to the crux of my long and going to get even longer rant: I am currently writing this with my ass planted on a very cold and very dirty tiled floor right here in Istanbul Airport. [Edit: I continued after touching down in Singapore.]
Trouble first arrived on 31st December, the day of our departure. We were booked to leave Munich to Singapore via Istanbul. Most of us already knew that Ataturk Airport had cancelled all flights so we were mentally prepared to spend the night at the airport hoping for a flight out.
The queue at TK’s counter at the airport rivaled a free Hello Kitty giveaway. There were hordes of angry customers that weren’t just our group demanding explanations from very unresponsive staff. Accountability seemed to have been on holiday somewhere far away from us.
While I understand that there are certain protocols to follow when there are cancelled/delayed flights, I don’t think its any excuse for rudeness or neglect. It got to the point where counter staff ran away when they saw one of my tour mates (let’s call him Dr. O) approach to ask questions. Its not that any of us were deliberately hounding them, we weren’t getting any updates unless we queued for hours to ask.We also received €10 for a day’s meal as compensation in a place where 500ml of water cost €4.
Things got worse after we finally arrived in Istanbul. The transfer area in Ataturk Airport looked like what I imagined a luxury building in a 3rd world country would look like. Trash everywhere, sporadic splotches of various liquids, food/dirt smears all over the floor and countless passengers sitting or lying around. Little did I know that I was soon to become one of them.
The transit area at this godforsaken airport had nothing. By nothing, I mean they had no places to buy food or drinks. And I easily spent 5 hours with no food, no water, no money, no credit cards, no ciggies and no luggage because TK forced us to check in all our luggage as a group and now they have no idea whose is whose and it would be too much of a hassle to pull them out.
Alex found an airport staff to help with getting us something to eat or drink. This man came back with complimentary sandwiches & cans of soft drinks that were supposed to be handed out in times of delay. He asked for money in exchange for this favour. I’m not sure how much was paid up but many of us saw Alex pay him in Euro.
Everyone had to sleep with their valuables clutched tightly in their hands or stay awake like we did. The floor was so cold that even the younger folks started complaining. The was a TK lounge with chairs and bedding in there that we could have made use but it was “fully booked”. We were also told that we could ask for small pillows and blankets from the same place so we went to get some but were told they have “none left” by the receptionist who was standing directly infront of bags and bags of brand new bedding.
A few hours later, the airport finally deigned to release some pillows to us. By release, I mean a pile of pillows just thrown in the middle of nowhere that we had to walk a good distance away to pick up. And they were saturated with urine. Other stranded passengers alongside us started grabbing them. We managed to get a few, but some were lost during the night as they were sneakily stolen or given away to people who needed them more than we did.
Then the impasse happened.
We were told that only 20 seats would be available on SQ the following day. We had 26 pax in our group, including Alex. I was expecting chaos and quarrels over who would get to leave but everybody was very calm and reasonable when it came to allocating family members who could leave first. We all agreed to let half of each family fly home to Singapore.
It was a very painful decision and my brother and I still feel guilty about this but we were the ones who came back first. We were the only Singaporeans left there and our embassy was not able to help us at all. We knowingly left our aged parents back in Istanbul with no fresh clothes, no luggage, no confirmation of any flights out or accommodation.
You see, TK promised us that our luggage was in the airport, and would be on the same SQ flight as us. There was no way my parents – who has a combined age of over a century – would be able to handle 150kg of luggage by themselves when they arrived in Changi Airport.
The story doesn’t end here. There was no luggage at all when I touched down today. According to the staff at Changi Airport, the luggage tags that we were holding on to doesn’t even exist in Istanbul. We abandoned our parents for nothing. We had just spent 9 very happy hours on an SQ flight with beautiful FSS, comfortable seats, delicious food and bingeing on cocktails to have our world crashing down on us again. Suddenly, we could feel every germ particle on our 48 hour old clothes once more. But then we were now on local soil. There were plenty of airport staff willing to go the extra mile to help us sort out this issue. We lodged reports for lost luggage and were told that they would be delivered to our homes if/when they arrived. There was nothing more we could do but based on the service standard differences between SQ & TK, and Ataturk vs Changi, I wanted to kneel down at the feet of my fellow countrymen and thank them more than they deserved.
The last communication I had with my mother was that they had problems checking in at Istanbul Airport for their SQ flight home to Singapore. They were also told that our luggage would not be able to fly with them. I haven’t had any new updates in the last 6 hours and everybody is uncontactable so all I can do is pray that my parents and the remaining tour mates are right now flying home to us in comfort.
For TL;DR –
> Delayed luggage upon arrival with winter clothes inside, damaged Samsonite case and 15 pieces of lost luggage thanks to Turkish Airlines (TK).
> Rude and not compassionate TK employees who laughed in our faces when they cancelled all our flights and we had to beg to get new flights.
> Stranded at Munich & Istanbul Airport for more than 48 hours. Elderly and young children had to sleep on cold hard floors in winter with no access to food, water, or our own luggages as we were forced to check them in by TK.
> Repeated broken promises of flights out to Singapore, TK staff completely not willing to talk to any of us. Singapore embassy unable to help us.
> Sexual harassment in Ataturk airport and extortion for using public toilets.
> Forced to abandon our parents in Istanbul with no personal belongings as TK promised to send luggages to Singapore with only 15 of our 26 member tour group.
> Said luggages did not appear in Changi Airport when we touched down, Changi has told us that our luggages don’t even exist in Istanbul.
Moral of the story: Don’t fly Turkish Airlines, and don’t trust anything anybody in Ataturk Airport says. This post is public, so please feel free to share.
Update: My parents and rest of the tour group have arrived in Singapore as of this morning. Not surprisingly, our luggage didn’t appear.
I’ve been told that the same fuck shit happened in Istanbul Airport when they were trying to board – they weren’t booked at all and weren’t allowed on the flight. Fortunately, there was an Istanbul-based Singaporean at the SQ counter today who went beyond his duties when he discovered that my left behind group was having trouble. He manually keyed in every single one of the 11 pax’s details to book their seats, personally escorted them to the plane, and found out where out luggages were. He refused to put the on the first available flight which was TK, and promised to send them out to us by SQ tomorrow. He left his contact number with my tour guide and told him to inform him anytime we would need any help for the luggages. Thank you Mr Lim, and Singapore Airlines should be proud to have you onboard with them.