Saturday, 26 December 2009

Merry Christmas - Turkish Airlines Style


I was supposed to land in Cape Town at 1200hrs yesterday (Christmas Day) but thanks to Turkish Airlines I only arrived today.

Here's what happened:

Christmas Eve - Check in at Heathrow for a flight to Cape Town via Istanbul with a 2 hour connection.

Get to the gate and sit, and wait, and wait. Finally we are told that there is a technical fault on the plane and that there will be a delay. Then nothing for about an hour. Then we are told that the flight will be cancelled. Chaos ensues for about 20 minutes until we are told that the flight will actually now depart for Istanbul and that all connections are guaranteed. Happiness fill the room.

The flight is good and I even got an emergency exit seat. At Istanbul all of the passengers for South Africa are met in the terminal and told to wait with the member of staff. We can hear the final announcements for the closure of our flight so we think that we will be escorted to the plane. But wait, we are actually escorted to the Turkish Airlines desk and told that our flight has departed. More chaos and a bunch of 25 or so VERY upset South Africans.

We are told that we will be given hotel accommodation for 2 days until the next flight to Jo'burg and Cape Town. Not a good move by the staff at the desk as a full scale riot breaks out! Eventually order is restored and we arrange to be flown back to Heathrow and then onward to SA the next day. One demand is that we are flown in first class! We are put in the first class lounge at Istanbul Airport whilst the staff deal with the bookings and our passports. We all abuse the hospitality and drink and eat as much of the freebies as possible!

At 0800hrs the next morning our weary group board our London bound plane and seat ourselves in our lovely first class seats. Bliss!

4 hours later and we are back in Heathrow, on Chistmas Day, 16 hours after departing for the first time! We have been booked on a British Airways flight that evening and so make our way straight to get our boarding cards. Amazingly every desk (24 of them) at the airside customer service point is manned and we are dealt with very efficiently, though there is predictably no room in first class!

Now to return to the Turkish Airlines staff to see how they will entertain us for 9 hours on Christmas Day. Very well as it happens, SAS are their partner airline at Heathrow and they put us in their fabulous lounge in Terminal 3. We spent the day drinking Champagne, showering, taking free massages and eating fancy food! Spending Christmas Day with a great bunch of strangers, who are now friends, is no compensation for missing Christmas with Elaine and her family but at least it helped to pass the time in a fairly enjoyable manner.

Finally we were ready to depart and BA didn't disappoint, we departed on time and touched down in Cape Town a little over 11 hours later. Our weary band bade each other fairwell at the luggage reclaim and headed off to meet our loved ones. Elaine was waiting right by the exit. What a sight for sore eyes. Next time it's direct flights all the way!

Merry Christmas!

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