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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Turkish Airlines has finally become a truly European enterprise

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Flying Dutchman
For detailed biographical information, please check the very first article of this blog. Thanks!

First of all I would like to point out how extremely lucky I feel to be back in Taiwan from Europe without long delays. I arrived last Tuesday, just one hour later than scheduled.

This is especially the case after hearing the horror story of somebody who got trapped in Istanbul for four days on his way back to Taipei from the Middle East, due to the massive cancellation by Turkish Airlines of very low occupancy flights.

But even before that I had realized that the Turkish national airline, which not long ago enjoyed a quite good reputation and I had previously used twice, has considerably lowered its standards to finally qualify as a truly European enterprise.

The fact that this company totally lost its mind during the first phase of the COVID pandemic, closing down its customer center completely and making bizarre demands for pet transportation, will be the subject of a separate article and isn’t relevant for this one.

The growing similarities with the shitty “service” passengers have had to endure on the Old Continent for a few years now started during the endless check-in at the airport in Madrid.

I encountered a humanoid Spanish Iberia employee, apparently helping out at their Turkish competitor. This middle-aged female hardly showed any visible emotions, and had probably laughed for the last time 30 years ago and then by error.

The moment I saw her behind the counter I knew I would be in trouble if I had to deal with her. When she first continued to speak in English to me after I said “Good afternoon!” in Spanish this feeling only increased.

Unfortunately, my sixth sense didn’t betray me at all: this robot-like lady couldn’t find the expiry date of my permanent Formosa alien residency permit (ARC) and became suspicious of it.

As she wouldn’t listen to me anyway, I refrained from explaining to her the meaning of the word “permanent” and prompting her instead to consult another staff member, who confirmed the ARC’s validity.

Due to my innate lack of technical understanding, I had failed to make a screenshot of the bloody health declaration required by the Taiwanese government to enter the country.

Somehow the document disappeared from my phone the second I wanted to show it to her, so I had to fill out the form again, further delaying the whole procedure. At least that’s something I can’t blame HER for!

The icing of the cake turned out to be her total inflexibility regarding the excessive two (!) kilograms per big travel bag, especially as the whole process had already taken about an hour, at least four times the average time.

A luggage allowance of 46 kilos on this flight must be called generous, and I admit that I was overconfident to get away with a little extra weight. Nevertheless, I still find it outrageous that she charged a whopping 108 euros for that.

Well, this very unpleasant person actually put the blame on her temporary employer, as if technically and above all miraculously, she wasn’t part of Turkish Airlines when she decided to give others the chance to rob me.

I had to leave the first cue to line up at another to pay directly at their office, where a friendly, though also adamant guy told me that nowadays people don’t even get away with a single kilogram…

Most likely this old spinster never wasted a thought about the possibility that passengers being treated like this will never fly Turkish Airlines again and in consequence she might be the first to be sacked if business declines further.

Though most laughable was her theatrical performance while dealing with the object of her pettiness: to both of my bags she attached one large orange sticker, the color resembling that of American prison uniforms.

It showed an extra XL warning label in Turkish and English, with the number 25 written on it, as if she would be handling heavy machinery. I felt like having committed the ultimate sin…

Afterwards, that scary figure was finally out of sight and I went through a rather smooth security check. Having arrived three hours before departure time, I reached the boarding gate just 15 minutes ahead of time…

During the flight from Madrid to Istanbul the food wasn’t bad, with the exception of the bread, which is always lousy. The sour cherry juice also turned out to be a really nice surprise.

However, the crew still managed to ruin the experience: when I asked for a blanket, I wasn’t told straight away that they weren’t available (on this rather short) route, but was first mislead, then ignored and ultimately lied to.

I managed to see a movie that I had heard of before: The truffle hunter with truly unique actor Nicolas Cage looking for his stolen pig. Subtitles were provided, something that KLM doesn’t bother to do, even while including Dutch movies in their selection.

At Istanbul I received the bad news that my connecting flight would be delayed for over an hour, something that I had never experienced before on my way back home to Asia.

I took it like a man, smoked a little, cheap Spanish cigar and then started to read an article about Taiwan that my cousin in Berlin had printed out for me.

When I went to get the new departure time confirmed, I run into an unfriendly and unmotivated girl who looked like a cheap hooker. On top of that, the information she provided was simply incorrect.

During the second and last check-in we received very contradictory instructions by Turkish Airlines ground personnel, standing just half a meter away from each other, about the papers we had to provide to be allowed to board.

After all, there was no further delay, but on the plane an older Taiwanese lady was rudely ordered in English to show her PCR test by a nervous flight attendant speaking Turkish on the phone.

The guy from Ghana sitting next to me and myself were wondering how that grandma could have made into the cabin without presenting that report in the first place. The whole action simply seemed absurd.

Although the Boeing was more than half-empty and whole rows of nine seats remained almost unoccupied in the back, they put most of us together in the front part.

This careless distribution of weight surprised me. On the other hand, plenty of free surgical masks were provided, unlike on the trip to Europe with KLM.

Again, the meals were quite tasty. Too bad the halfhearted, middle-aged crew hardly put on a smile during the entire journey and doesn’t seem to know that no toothpicks are included anymore in the salt and pepper set.

So for the first time ever I didn’t reply to the farewell greetings while exiting the aircraft. I had very ambiguous feelings about the quite distant behavior I had just witnessed.

Seeing toilet paper stuffed behind the seats reserved for the flight attendants, the now available blankets thrown under the seats and the restrooms being sealed before landing didn’t contribute to creating sweet memories of this voyage.

All in all I’m thankful to merely have been annoyed by Turkish Airlines. Regardless of that, I will try my best to stay on the ground until early 2024 and watch the travel chaos predicted for this summer from afar.

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