Teleporting would be nice

Years ago, I was recounting a traveling incident to a friend when he said he would never travel with me. Another friend wrote that maybe I should stop traveling. I think that the more you travel, the more extraordinary experiences you have, and I travel a lot.

In the absence of the power to teleport, I often fly between destinations. On a recent Turkish Airlines flight, I was less than thrilled with the experience.

My flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul was uneventful, except for the fact that we took off late. I enjoyed taking to the lady sitting beside me (a journalist from Beijing) and the time passed quickly.

As we were waking from the plane to the connecting flight area, we noted that there had been no information about connecting flights given neither on the airplane nor on disembarkment. We looked at the time and  noticed that we had little time to make our connections; she had 10 minutes and I had 30. We pushed our way through the long line at security and I rushed to my departure gate. The flight was scheduled to leave in 15 minutes but the gate was deserted except for cleaners going about their work.

I trudged back to Turkish Airlines customer service desk. After passing one unmanned desk, and a second with an unhelpful person texting on his cell phone (I don’t know if be worked for TK or was just hanging out in that chair), I found the correct desk.

The desk was well staffed, with two agents per client. There were many people there seeking assistance. I was on that long line for a while before I finally got through to be rescheduled on a flight about 11 hours later (it was already ~ 01:00 on July 2). Once I was issued a boarding pass, I was told to exit security and go to the hotel desk to be given accommodation. At that point, I remembered that a visa for Turkey costs $60 for Canadians.

I asked the agent whether or not there would be assistance for paying the visa. He told me no. I argued his response and he told me to find a reimbursement form online. To be more precise, he replied “website” and I deduced the rest. I asked what options I would have if I had no money or my card didn’t work (the system was automated and required a payment card, and my debit card did not work although my credit card thankfully did) and he said I could sleep in the airport in that case. I took the name of the two men down because I didn’t like their responses, but as they explained, they are only employees and bad policies and procedures are not their fault.

I paid the $60 grudgingly after complaining about it to the agents and headed to the hotel line. There was one person at the desk assisting a long line of customers. After 35 minutes, a second person came to assist, and then a third. By the time I got assistance, I had been waiting in lines for 2 hours, and was told to have a seat and wait for my name to be called. It took a further 48 minutes before my name was called to be taken to the airport. Everyone was kept waiting until the line of customers for hotel transfer was empty.

I didn’t count how many people were waiting but we occupied three buses to the hotel. Thankfully, the hotel was close and only took 18 minutes by shuttle. I was also lucky in that I was amongst the first 5 people to be issued a room.

I dragged myself upstairs and entered the room. I was surprised to see there was already a keycard in the slot to activate the lights. Further, there was a dress in the closet. I’m a little slow after hours of travel, but it was impossible to miss the 4 legs sticking out from the blanket on the bed (note to self: always use the security chain). I rushed out of the room, and downstairs for a new room assignment.

By the time I got to my room and got ready for bed, it was 4:21 and I was told to be ready for the shuttle at 10:00.  

I think it is time to replace these!

 In the morning, I had a quick breakfast and was ready to leave at 10:00. It was no surprise to me that the shuttle was 30 minutes late. My mind started wandering thinking whether or not I could miss my flight again. Thankfully, I did not and I hope no one on my shuttle did either!

I’ve flown TK before with no issues, and my friend recently flew them and was pleased. In fact, the rest of my trip went well with friendly agents and no mishaps. I sure hope that this experience was an aberration!

Please let me out

The first problem was being allowed into the Tel Aviv airport. Apparently I do not look like my passport photo (I concede that it is a bit scary). I pulled out a second ID which was my Japanese driver’s license which got more quizzical looks, and then my Czech residence card. As you can imagine, this lead to a barrage of questions about who I am, what I was doing in Israel, why I was flying to Japan and what I do in Prague. After several consultations with a supervisor, the lady tagged my bag, put a sticker on my passport, and let me in. The best was yet to come …

ok, so maybe I should make sure next time that my passport photo does not look like a mug shot

Check-in was painless despite my bag being 25 kg (I will be a light traveller someday). I confirmed that I had packed my bag myself, and I had no restricted items or weapons in any of my luggage. So onward to security. (It’s possible I went through passport control first; I can’t remember.)

Which of these is not safe as hand luggage?

At security, I follow the protocol and remove my laptop and liquids from by backpack. I get through the detectors without any horrible beeping noises (yay, no pat down) but my bags have a more difficult entrance. First, I had a file in my purse. I knew it was there and have travelled all over with it for at least three years so I thought it was fine. That was confiscated. Ok, stupid me, I can pay the price. But then my backpack is scanned several times and I am asked to open it. Out comes a stone that I bought with an Arabic calligraphy reading “Ya Baha’ul Abha” meaning “O glory of the All-Glorious”. The security agent tells me that this is a weapon and asks why I didn’t pack it when I was told I couldn’t have any weapons in my hand luggage.

First, I felt embarrassed, but also upset at a seeming accusation, and finally mortified when I started to cry. To compound matters, the agent asked me why I was crying and all I could do was stammer “I don’t know”. Although the crying was not deliberate, it was successful in saving my rock. The agent said that she could tell this was important to me and would get a box to check it in for me. She filled a box with bubble wrap and put the small box containing my souvenir in the centre, had me label the box and tagged it (after going to Turkish Airlines check in for the tag). I’m thankful.