Getting to Turkey was a flightmare. This is what I wrote in the midst of it all:
It’s too late to be poetic. This post is factual. And by the time you read it, the outcome will have already unfolded. But now, sitting here writing this, things are still uncertain. And I’m really frickin’ tired.
Minutes before I left Shubhangi’s house for my 10:45 pm flight from Mumbai to Istanbul via Muscat, I got a text from the airline saying my flight had been delayed until midnight. I took the cab regardless, figuring it was just as well to wait at the airport as in the empty house.
When I checked in I asked about my connection in Muscat: Fine. Even with the delay I’d still have an hour to make the transfer, which seemed do-able, both to me and the Jet Airways agent. Jet Airways even stroked its passengers’ bruised timetables with a little dinner on the house, and I wrote this blog, feeling sunny:
It’s official. Jet Airways earns the gold star for coolness. First off, my flight out from London Heathrow to Mumbai was priceless and worth every (very slight) inconvenience of the layover in London rather than taking Air India’s direct flight from New York JFK. Featured as one of their in-flight amenities when you check the Jet Airways website, their ‘foot hammock’ really packs a bang in the realm of comfort for such a little thing. In addition, economy class seats give far more leg room than any other airline I’ve flown with. (A product of the fact that they’re an ‘upper level’ airline or because they’re made for long haul flights while most of their competitors fly predominantly shorter distances?)
The flight from LHR to BOM was probably only half full, allowing me to have three seats to myself and almost lay down fully to sleep. Overhead compartments could very well store checked luggage they’re so roomy, and flight attendants handed out ice cream bars for dessert. Yeah. Screw you, Airline Food!
Movie selection was top notch (and much more user-friendly than Virgin Atlantic, who lets you choose your flick but not when it starts running. Not cool for those of us who prefer to read a bit or take a nap between movies, rather than go one flick to the next straight away.)
I flew Jet Airways on the first leg of my trip out of Mumbai as well, the short leg from India to Muscat. The plane was delayed and about the time passengers should have started boarding some crew rounded up all the travelers outside the gate and ushered us to an in-airport restaurant for a free dinner as an apology.
Ok, so Jet Airways didn’t give me the cool travel pack I got from Virgin with a malfunctioning pen and smartly-decorated sleep mask. But they totally win the prize for service and amenities. Now, if they’d just suck it up and join a codeshare alliance I’d be the happiest passenger on the block.
But that was before the rest of the flightmare. Back to this story.
Midnight turned into 12:20 and then 1 am. After four and a half solid hours at the airport I brought the issue of my connection up to the desk agent at the boarding gate. And it’s a damn good thing I did.
Turns out Americans (and most everyone else) need a visa to enter Muscat, and airline stop-overs are limited to six hours. Also turns out there’s only one flight on from Muscat to Istanbul, and that flight was going to be my flight at 2:20 in the morning, which I was going to miss thanks to the delay. So, basically if I boarded my delayed flight with Jet Airways I was going to find myself in the Middle East illegally. Not really how I wanted to spend the wee hours of the morning.
So… options? Well, option one was to get booked onto the same scheduled route the next day. But after all the schlepping and all the Turkey build-up that’s really the last thing I wanted. I didn’t want to go back to Shubhangi’s and be a burden to her family and Jet Airways wasn’t feeling like putting me up in a hotel.
I found myself stranded with two Swiss nationals who’d been trying to get home since the 17th and were still unsuccessful because of the volcano. Option two, which we all decided to go with, was to get booked onto Turkish Airways direct flight from Mumbai to Istanbul. But Turkish Airlines was quoting upwards of $700 USD for a ticket and didn’t have a credit card machine, so they were only accepting cash.
After some finagling, the desk agent found a travel agency at the airport which was quoting slightly less than that and would take credit cards. And thus began our trek back out through immigration (Hoops? Does anyone like to jump through hoops?) to purchase new tickets for the 4:50 am flight to Istanbul. My passport now holds a big stamp that says CANCELED over my Indian immigration stamp, which has already raised eyebrows.
Turns out the travel guy was about as awful as Turkish Airlines price-wise, and I purchased a new ticket for $780 USD. Do I have $780 USD? Fuck no. Did I buy the ticket anyway? Yeah, I did. It’s just money, I’m telling myself, and when I get a Jet Airways staff on the phone you can be damn sure I’m going to do everything in my power to have them reimburse the difference in ticket prices in exchange for my pain and suffering. I have to go back through Expedia to get my first Jet Airways ticket refunded, which I can only imagine will be a piece of cake… Yeah. That was sarcasm.
I made the desk agent, who, at this point had carted my ass and the asses of the two Swiss all over creation, buy me a water, as I figured this was the least Jet Airways could do for the bullshit I was dealing with. (Incidentally, the Swiss couple couldn’t book the new tickets because his bank card was declined and he needed to get someone to wire money from Switzerland because this was the only card that worked in India. I was really afraid the lady was going to start crying again when her husband told her the news, but she seemed to hold it together… at least while I was there.)
Then I retrieved my bags, and completely re-checked in, passing through immigration and security again. At that point the new Turkish Airlines flight was delayed by a half hour. (Post Script – In the end it was delayed by two and a half hours.)
I spent a few hours of the wee morning chatting with the poor desk guy over chai and now am sitting at the gate, another hour to go until boarding. It’s late. I’m tired and I want to brush my teeth again. I did manage to get a hold of Selma, who I’m staying with in Turkey, via SMS sent from the desk guy’s phone, and let her know I’d be getting into Istanbul around 9:45 rather than 6:30 am. We’ll see if I can get phone credit, if my Turkish SIM even works, if the phone’s got juice, and basically if the Evil Eye has befallen me or not once I get there. So far every flight I’ve taken either into or out of Turkey has been cursed in one way or another. This one has proven no different. More updates to come once they’ve all happened and I can get me some internet to post this blog. In the meantime, I think I’ll just nap sitting up.
** Final Post Script **
I left Mumbai after 11 hours in the airport at 7:10 am. Since arriving in Turkey things have been nothing but sunshine. Red tape awaits me regarding my messed-up fight with Jet Airways. I’ll just add that to the list, right behind getting my money for my lost luggage back in November.