Krzysztof Filla Photo Gallery
"I'm not a terrorist, photography is my hobby"
BEFORE YOU FLY WITH THE TURKISH AIRLINES
I have no doubt, that there are hundreds or thousand of satisfied customers of Turkish Airlines but the fact that I was treated in this way and met other travellers during the trip who had had similar experience should be a warning to you and at least should turn on the flashing red light before you click and send the complete details of your credit card.
As the proverb says it “the devil is in the details” and indeed I recall the “devil” in this testimony I will also try to describe all the necessary elements of the puzzle that will reveal as much of the picture as possible to give a clear view and understanding of my indignation. The article may seem long but the puzzle has many blocks.
In January 2018 I was to fly with another airlines to Panama but because of my health conditions at that time I had to alter my plan until relatively full recovery. In September 2018 I have purchased another flight from Berlin to Panama with a short stop (over 2 h.) in Istanbul. The entire journey to Panama City went through without objections. There wasn't anything unequal with another airline. So my story begins at the Tocuman airport when I got out of the plane on Wednesday, 31th of October 2018.
The following Friday I spent all day sitting in my room waiting for the door bell which would announce the arrival of my backpack. My confidence in the delivery was gradually faltering until the next morning when all my hope was exhausted and I decided to go to the airport to find out why my stuff did not arrive. In the airport I learned that Saturdays the Turkish Airlines do not land or take off from Panama, therefore non of the staff is working and nobody in the port could provide any information about the missing luggage. I was advised to return tomorrow on Sunday and talk directly to the T.A. employees. So I did and once I showed up in front of the check-in desk I introduced myself and one of the staff took me aside saying he knows all about it. He told me not to worry and for sure my baggage will arrive with the next flight on Tuesday. Well, I replied, I was told exactly the same on Wednesday when I landed in Panama. In response, he said, rest assured that this time everything is under control, he and his colleague will deliver my luggage in person directly to my place. For me this declaration was not very satisfactory especially, that today is the second time after my arrival they flown to Panama without my backpack. I needed to know more and asked why my things had not been on with the last two flights. The Turkish Airlines representative replied that the reason for this situation is that the aircrafts were overloaded. I could not find words to comment and preferred to bite my tongue, so I thanked him for all the information and departed anticipating next Tuesday.
When the day came I sat in front of the main gate of my hostel and literally listened to every slowing car and approaching footsteps. This was more than an ordinary person can bear and at 5 pm. I phoned a number I had received from the Turkish staff. I was told that it is impossible that my bag would arrive today, because the Turkish Airlines does not operate in Panama on Tuesdays. There are 3 flights a week: Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. At this moment the entire amount of misinformation was pathetic and outrageous. It would be more acceptable and understandable if they simply said. “sorry we do not know what happened to your luggage” or “by accident it has been sent to another country, we are working on it” instead of pulling the wool over my eyes. The next day I barged in to the airport and the familiar face with a broad smile informed me “Mr. Filla, I have a good news, your backpack is here!”. Once I physically got hold of my backpack and signed a paper I asked Mr. X since he doesn't have to deliver it any more to my place perhaps his employer could pay for a taxi or other swift transportation, because once I have my backpack I have an enormous amount of work and preparation before I hit the road the next morning. Taking the public transport may take a few hours to reach my destination depending on the traffic and connections. He said, I could pay for the taxi and ask for a refund on line (it's about 25$). At this level having serious doubts as to the credibility of their assurances I preferred to take a bus. A couple of days earlier, I also informed about the situation the travel agency where I had purchased my ticket. They sent a query to Turkish Airline in Istanbul about my missing baggage. As far as I am aware there was no reply. The importance of my bag except the usual inconvenience of lacking the personal belongings or moldy food had a special meaning at that particular time. As I have written earlier because of my health conditions I had gone through many medical tests, treatments and examinations to identify the cause of relapsing ill symptoms. After 9 months of my struggle the major cause was diagnosed and adequate pharmaceutical treatment prescribed. The flight to Panama took place exactly in the middle of my antibiotic therapy. Some airlines do not allow drugs in a handbag, so to be on the safe side I put everything into the main luggage hoping that a day or two would not make a difference. Unfortunately I was without my medication for 9 days, that put the whole carefully planned 5 months journey in jeopardy of early termination in case the symptoms reappeared. Luckily enough I didn't have any major health difficulties during the venture.PART TWO
Just a couple of days before I received back my missing luggage a friend of mine had told me I should buy new cloths, collect all receipts and then claim it back from the airline on the equivalent of up to 100 € of compensation. Well, I must admit, it was an inconvenience to wear the same clothes around the clock for one week. In my life I try not to be a consumer just for the sake of consuming. Secondly I was expecting the delivery any moment from my first day in Panama according to the promises. But at the end of the week I collected all receipts I could find in my room and asked the owner of the hostel for an invoice. I wrote down my story and tried to contact the airline. I emailed them a few times through their website and email addresses I received from the travel agency. The only emails I got from them were sent through auto-responder. They did not answer neither directly nor through the agency. In the face of permanent lack of response from the Turks, the travel agency offered me to contact their friendly organisation which helps to contact airlines on the behalf of passengers. I got in touch with the organisation on 26 of November sending them all the necessary and requested documents. About 2 months later the Turkish Airline responded to the organisation requesting/demanding (depending on the view) that I have to translate all the receipts from Spanish to English. My knowledge of Spanish language is very elementary but I followed their instructions and with the help of a dictionary I translated word by word the more important receipts. After I sent the translations, there were 2 months of silence from the organisation. On 20th of March 2019 I got an email from the organisation that states: “we would kindly like to inform you, that up to this date and after many urgent letters we do still not record the answer from the air carrier. As by lost/damaged/delayed baggage it is not possible to contact the relevant National Enforcement Body, we are forced to close your file. All the costs that arose in dealing with the event - administrative costs (telephone calls, translations, correspondence), the costs of experts, administrative staff are in our department. “PART THREE
Initially I booked my return flight from Panama to Berlin on 5th of April. During the extent of my stay in Central America I got a couple of emails about cosmetic changes to my return flight that didn't have any significant affect on my return to Europe i.e. they changed the departure time about 5 min. Three weeks before the due date I got an email from T.A. that they had cancelled my flight on the 5th and offered alternative departure dates. Actually it was a sequence of emails day by day cancelling flights they offered the day before and next day proposing new ones. After analysing the proposed dates, they completely didn't make any logical sense. For example, they offered me a flight from Panama to Istanbul on the 10th of April but the next connecting flight to Berlin on the 3th of April. All of the emails contained this glitch and non made a logical order. I got in touch with the travel agency to resolve the issue, so they would contact the T.A. in this matter. It took them exactly 11 days to fix new dates for my return flight. It wasn't so because the agency didn't bother to respond, it was because of the slack approach of T.A. The prolonged duration of establishing new return dates had its translation on my growing frustration for two reasons: Firstly, I felt stranded in that place because I was about to leave to another destination with no internet connection and stay there for a week or two. Secondly just 2 days before the confusing emails, I had booked hostels and other relevant transportation corresponding to the date of 5th of April. In this situation it was a priority to change all bookings before moving on.
The new departure date was finally set on the 10th of April and this is the day when I leave my hostel in Panama city and head to the airport. Now after some investigation I believe that partially there was the devil behind my misfortune. Speaking more precisely it was a former company called in Spanish “diablo rojo” which means “red devil” which is operating illegally in Panama city. I got into one of the old buses heading to Tocumen Airport. I spent about 1 hour in the bus observing the high skyscrapers while the bus was meandering in the downtown. Then, there was something wrong with the bus and all passengers had to leave the vehicle. With a help of another bus and taxi I arrived to the airport at 11:20 am. one hour before the take off at 12:20 pm. I slammed into the main departure hall and asked the first encountered airport attendant which way to the T.A. check-in. He looked towards the direction and said that it is already closed. Without a second thought, I sprang up and dashed towards their office. The door was unlocked but without a person inside. Instantly I opened the next door office of another airline. A very nice person had full understanding to my situation and called the T.A. staff. On the phone I was told that I am late and can't go with this flight and I should come back to the office after 1 pm when they return once the plane is off. I simply couldn't believe what he was saying. On my watch it was over 50 minutes to the departure and according to my understanding there was enough time to get me through the security check in. In my life I had witnessed many situations when passengers went to the aircraft in the last minutes so why no 1 h before. The nice girl from the next door office tried to ask some airport manager for authorisation to enter the gate zone and plane but unfortunately the answer was negative.
I returned to the office according to the instructions. The office was full of people all in the same uniforms. I explained to someone that I had been told to come back after 1 pm. to reschedule my flight for a next day available. Someone told me to wait outside where I spent another 45 min. trying to draw attention of the staff. After a few attempts somebody approached me and said that they are busy at the moment and handed me a tiny scrap of paper with a phone number and email address I should contact to change my flight date. It was all they could do for me almost after 1 hour of waiting in front of their office. As soon as I got back to my hostel I phoned the given number. I regret to say but after choosing English speaking option, this poorly English speaking guy was the most unpleasant fellow I recently spoke with. He was so impudent and interrupted me systemically in the middle of my sentences. He was asking about something I was just telling him. It was impossible to maintain any level of civilised conversation (welcome to the world of Turkish Airline). I had hoped that making the telephone would be the fastest option to rebook my flight to Friday. The second alternative was the email in which I described my situation. The reply brought no relief to me. They want to impose a penalty for me if I want to rebook the flight, let me quote it for you: “We do a quotation for the next flight, this Friday 12 and it would be 1,583.60 USD for the change. This price includes ( Fare difference, penalty and taxes). Note: This price will be able only for 24h. after this, the price can varied. “ Well, speaking ironically, it sounds almost like a special offer and if I do not hurry up it may be even more after 24 hours :) Honestly I admit, that yesterday when this man told me to come back to the office after 1pm to rebook my flight I didn't have the slightest idea about such hefty penalties, but I will come back to it later at the end of my story.
I thought this can not be for real and it is some sort of mistake. There has to be a way of rebooking it without the king's ransom. After all this I had gone through with them asking me for almost 16 hundred dollars is a question, to put it lightly, at least improper. I made my way to Panama branch of T,A, to discuss the issue in person, face to face. The next day on the 12th I created a banner with a message on a cardboard and went to the aerodrome. I started my new way of communication with Turkish Airline and at the same time my DAY nr.1 of protest against their misconduct from the time when I arrived in October to the present day in April. I stood in front of the check-in presenting my first message to them. As I had expected there was no much reaction from T.A. staff, nobody approached me and all their contact with me was limited to occasional cast of sidelong glance full of discontent and contempt. My previous way of email contact with them as I described earlier gave me the sensation as if I talked to an inanimate brick wall. Here I had the occasion to meet them face to face, real people who may not use their mouth to speak to me but their body language manifested a real meaning to me. The airport security quickly forbade to present my message. It was the security man who induced the shift manager to speak with me. With certain reluctance Katrina approached me and on a side we chatted for 30 min. I told her the most important parts of my story. She expressed full understanding to my situation and promised to intercede on my behalf by discussing my case with board of directors. She took my email address and promised to let me know the outcome of the talks. I do not consider myself a gullible person, it was very naive to think she would email me.
DAY nr.2. Sunday 14th I arrive to the departure hall, stood up with my message and after while I was surrounded by a few members of the airport security and police. They took away my board and let me know, that if I do not stop I would end up in a jail. Since I was deprived of my board I decided to stand in front of the check-in with my arms up showing a sign of victory. I was standing there until the last employee left the post. When I passed next to their office I met the staff who, as he said, was one of the members of the management. The first question he asked was, what do I want from them. I would think this was pretty obvious since I was standing in front of them for 45 min. with my message written on the board which would directly answer his question. I have the tendency to be clear and explain things even if I have to do it a number of times, I politely answered 'to take me home'. When he heard this, he burst into mocking voice saying:” So you simply want the Turkish Airlines to give you a present of 1600 $.” I replied that I had paid for my ticket. In response he uttered that I didn't pay them anything because I had paid to the travel agency. It is true, I did pay to the agency but somehow I obtained my ticket from them. He and others before used always the same excuse, that if I had bought the ticket directly through their website they might help me but because I'd purchased it through agency they can not do anything. I do not think I can carry on conversation with this sort of logic. They simply want to wash their hands and walk away. At least, I appreciate the honesty of the staff, when I described some of my perturbations with them like my missing luggage and the rest of the story until this day. He commented it in this way, he does not have any sympathy for his customers. He heard so many accounts why people were late for their flight, so after 7 years of working there he had to become immune and turn off any empathy.
DAY nr.3. Today is Wednesday 17th I arrived with a new message on a board. Katrina immediately called the authority squinting her eyes when reading my message for them on the phone. This time after 5 min. I was surrounded by 7-8 policemen and 2 airport security. Two other men in suits showed up introducing themselves as the management of the airport. Although some other day I was told, they were the heads of the security in the airport. They were not happy seeing armed guards and me in the centre with my arms up protruding above the crowd. I told them that yesterday I booked the return flight with another airline but until then I am going to continue my protest and introducing my messages to the T.A. One of the men in suit went to the check-in and after 15 min. of talks they decided that T.A will cover all expenses of my return flight. Well that sounded fishy to me but if they say so, I am happy enough. So, this information was sufficient to me to leave this place. DAY nr.4. Today my message on the board is to confront the credibility and truthfulness of their alleged commitment from last time. The words run thus: “TURKISH AIRLINE. Mr. Luis Villarreal told me, you had committed to cover the expenses of my flight to Europe. Was it a declaration or empty words??? I am standing here 4th day only due to your unprofessional approach.” Of course there was nobody to answer the main question from the board which was just another lie created to get rid of me from the airport. For them, both the T.A. and the airport management I am like a dirty stain on their nice suit that spoils their gallant image. But my presence and action were the direct result of their disrespect, how else can I call it? Let's put aside all the lies, ignorance, rudeness etc. just telling me to pay 1600 USD is a sign of disrespect of their customer. It is humiliating to me and I felt as if they had a fool in front of them. This is what I was trying to tell them on the DAY nr.5 of my protest.CONCLUSIONS
Some people in this story didn't have guts to introduce themselves and refused to tell me their names in fear that I could write something negative about them, although they new my name and even photographed my passport, this includes both the team of the T.A. and the airport management. After the incident, I flew from Panama with another airline. I bought a return ticket and one day before the due return to Panama I emailed them that I can not fly. In reply, they said I can change my return flight to another date but because of the nature of my booking I have fixed dates and to change it I have to pay a penalty of 180 $ (Come on it is 9 times less). I phoned and emailed the other airline and the standard of response was first class, something that is even hard to compare with the Turks. It is worth mentioning, that their closing check-in time was 40 min. before the departure not 60min. For all my emails I wrote to the T.A. they (the panama office) only replied at the end when I wanted to change the dates. The reason is rather obvious 1600$ might make a nice contribution to the bonus with next salary. Turkish Airline does not take any responsibility and care for cancelling a flight and all the negative repercussions it creates. It does not matter that some people have to go back to work or have other important plans afoot. I was told by the agency that T.A. is happy to make a refund but only for half price. Then their problem is off their mind and you are on your own. My return happened around Easter and many other airlines were full or inflated their prices to maximum knowing, it is a busy time. I had been in a similar situation years ago when I flew from Singapore. The airline couldn't fly that day so the customers were shifted to another airlines. I call it respecting their customers. T.A. does not. Over. T.A. has created to me a lot of stressful situation, I wasted so much time writing emails or waiting for their response, they thwarted my plans during my travel and ruined my project because I haven't returned on time. They humiliated me, ignored both through electronic correspondence and in real life when addressing them face to face, intentionally lied, showed a lot of incompetence in handling some situations, they treated and looked at me as if I was a pest or a dirty, stinky rubbish. As a corporation it showed how greedy it is. All this happened when I was their customer. What is interesting as well they never said we are terrible sorry, except one guy from Panama Airport although I do not know how genuine it was. I do not count those learned forms of addressing customers or 'ready to send phrases' something like this “We are sorry for the inconvenience you may experience “ One thing is certain I will never spend any money where T.A. would benefit from this directly or indirectly despite how attractive their offer would be.
Text: Krzysztof Filla
Tocumen Airport, the day of departure.
Day of protest nr.1
Day of protest nr.3
Day of protest nr.4
Day of protest nr.5
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