Pricewatch: Readers’ queries
This week’s concerns relate to Turkish Airlines’ customer service, and a change to Ryanair’s online check-in policy
Turkish Airlines: reader experienced ‘the worst customer service of my life’. Photograph: Getty
ANGER OVER AIRLINE
AFTER DREAM HONEYMOON
Last week’s feature on Turkish Airlines and its poor grasp of consumer rights prompted Kilian Fitzgerald to contact us with an outrageous story.
“My wife and I travelled with Turkish Airlines to South Africa through Istanbul on our honeymoon in December 2013,” he says.
The outward flight was fine, with no hitches, but when the couple arrived at Johannesburg airport three weeks later to fly home, “we were told at check-in that we had been moved to the following evening’s flight as the one we had originally booked was full. We were never notified by email, phone call or text that we had been moved to the following night’s flight and were first told when we arrived at the check-in desk.”
When they approached the Turkish Airlines desk they were told there was nothing they could do, and they would have to wait to get the flight to Istanbul the following night and the connection to Dublin on the Monday morning, which would get them home 24 hours later than planned.
“Eventually, after about an hour of arguing, we were put back on the flight from Johannesburg that night. However, he said he could only help us from Johannesburg to Istanbul. He said he had put a note on the system on our booking and the Turkish Airline staff in Istanbul would see this and they could change us back on to our original flight to Dublin when we got to Istanbul.”
That did not happen. At the transit desk in Istanbul, Fitzgerald experienced “the worst customer service of my life”. Firstly the woman behind the counter gestured the couple away and kept repeating – “no ticket, no reservation, go to ticket desk, buy another ticket”.
“I approached another man in a Turkish Airlines uniform to tell him our story and showed him a print-out of our booking, which he took and went in to an office. After about 40 minutes had passed, a woman came back out to us and said calmly that our flight reservation was for the next day and that if we wanted to be on today’s flight we would have to pay €800. We did not lose our cool. However, we replied firmly that we would not be paying €800 for a ticket that we had already paid for.”
He says this staff member then “lost her temper and started screaming at us”.
“Then another man approached us and said they could not change our tickets on to our original flight as our tickets were ‘non-transferable’. At this point I had had enough and asked the man how could he possibly say our tickets were non-transferable when Turkish Airlines had transferred our entire journey from one day to the next. The man went back to his computer and a few minutes later gruffly said to us ‘passports, passports’, before issuing boarding passes for that day’s flight on to Dublin. After such an amazing holiday to South Africa, it really did leave a bad taste in the mouth and I will never travel with the airline again.”
We contacted the airline, which disputed our reader’s version of events to a significant degree. A spokeswoman said the original booking was made in January last year, with the return flight due back to Dublin on a Sunday morning. Two months later, the airline dropped the Sunday-morning flight from Istanbul to Dublin. She said the customer was informed and offered a later flight on the same day. As it would have meant a layover of eight hours in Istanbul, she told us, the offer was rejected and the flight was booked for Monday morning instead.
“The customer states his reason for needing to be on the Johannesburg flight was to get home for work on Monday morning. This would not have been possible, as they had changed their booking in November to travel a day later, which had them arriving into Dublin on the Monday morning,” she said. The reason he was denied boarding on January 11th was because his booking was for the following day, she says. “This is also the reason they had no ticket to fly then from Istanbul to Dublin on the 12th, as they had changed the booking to fly on the 13th.”
She said that if our reader “would like to speak to us in the Dublin office about his experience in Istanbul we will investigate the complaint in detail officially.”
EARLIER CHECK-INS INCURRING A CHARGE
A reader named Tom got in touch about Ryanair. “Until now you could check in from 15 days before a flight, without a charge,” he writes. “This meant that before leaving home on a trip of a fortnight or less you could check in for outgoing and return flights and print your boarding passes free of charge.” Things have changed, and you can now only check in without a charge from seven days before a flight. “Earlier check-ins require payment ‘for seats’. This means that if you are going away for a week or longer you can no longer check in and print boarding passes before leaving home without incurring a charge.”