Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Travel Day Debacle

I was supposed to fly from LAX to Istanbul on Sunday morning at 6:14 am on United Airlines via JFK. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I checked in online and when I arrived at LAX , the United kiosk couldn't find my reservation and made me see an agent. I moved to a different line and waited for about 25 minutes before an agent helped me. By this time, I had 30 minutes to catch my flight. Well, they wouldn't let me check my bag at that point. I was pissed and the supervisor was arguing with me that I wasn't in line in time. Had it not been 5:45am, I think I would've been more combative. At that point I just wanted to get on the plane. That did not happen. They couldn't change my ticket because it was a Turkish Airlines ticket with United code-share. After waiting in another line for another 20 minutes, they said they couldn't help. So I called Turkish to change the flight. This took a very short time. I was then booked on a flight later that evening at 5:55 pm. So I went home because I wasn't going to stay there for another 12 hours.

At 3:00pm, I arrived at the intenational terminal to check-in and get my new flights. I soon ran into more problems. The Turkish Airlines people couldn't change my ticket from the original even though they had done it over the phone. I had to call the travel agent who booked my flights and they said that only Turkish could change my flights. I was getting the run around and I was on the phone and in line talking with supervisors for close to 2 hours. It was insane. After some work, I was finally assigned a seat and given boarding passes for that flight and the connecting one. When I got on the plane I realized that I was given a middle seat in the middle section of the plane, but at least it was a bulkhead seat with tons of legroom. But then a woman came on the plane with the same seat assignment. She asked one of the ground crew about it and he said that he could move me to an aisle some rows back. It was actually a much better seat, so I didn't mind. It was the last row in the section so there wasn't anyone behind me to grab or kick my seat.

Even though I had the awful experience at check-in, which wasn't entirely Turkish's fault (it was United's), Turkish is my new favorite airline. The 777-300ER was brand new and even the lavatory has motion sensors for the sink so you don't have to touch it. The food was really good and the entertainment system was awesome. The flight was a short 12 hours and 20 minutes and it was 5:00pm when I landed in Istanbul. It's so funny to me that European airports have a certain smell. I don't know what it is, but they all smell the same. I had to stand in line for a visa-on-arrival with the rest of the plane, but it went quickly. Then another queue to get through passport control. After that it was off to the domestic terminal which is connected to the international one by a covered walkway. Changing planes here was very easy.

Once I was through security in the domestic terminal, I waited by a Burger King for my flight to board. This time I was on a small 737-800. We were bussed from the terminal to the jet, which is fun because I got to walk up stairs to the plane. The flight to Ankara was 45 minutes and they served a full meal and drink service. It was crazy...that would never happen in the U.S. I had my turkey sandwich over the air of Turkey. I thought it was hilarious. I found Hertz at the airport and signed papers. I was given a Hyundai Getz, which is ironic because it Getz nothing. It's a piece of junk with a terrible radio. I had to navigate the Turkish highways and tollroads for 2.5 hours to get up in the mountains near the city of Bolu. The conference is at the Buyuk Abant Oteli, which I think means Big Abant Hotel. It's not that big but it's the only thing out here besides Lake Abant. The road to here from the highway is 2 lanes and is pitch black. It felt like I couldn't possibly be going the correct way. But sure enough after 22km and no sign of human or other life, I arrived at the hotel around midnight. I got my tiny room, showered, and passed out.

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