I had a flight to Djibouti on December 1st. Now... For more than 25 years, Djibouti has had VOA-Visa On Arrival for every country safe from three. And my two citizenships do not fall into that three. Before buying the ticket and also after buying it I checked with the Honorary Djibouti consul in Italy, I also talked with the French Consulate who issues the visas. They both confirmed that I didn't need to get a visa in advance, telling me I could get it at the Djibouti Airport.
Lo and behold... As my luck, or rather unluck would have it, Djibouti, out of the blue, with no prior warning, decided to cancel VOA-Visa On Arrival. As the consulates could not tell me “There is VOA now but it's going to be removed as of this date,” I was not informed of this change. Thus, for the first time in my life, I was denied boarding! And thus started my running battle with Turkish Customer Un-Care.
My ticket is non-refundable. Therefore, they couldn't reissue it to me at the airport. “Write to Turkish Airlines Customer Care,” they said. I wrote, to no avail. They keep telling me “Visa is your responsibility.”
I never claimed the contrary. “Sure, it's my responsibility of course,” I said. “And I have abided by my responsibility and got information from both consulates. They told me I didn't need to get a visa in advance, that I could get it at the airport in Djibouti.”
Turkish Airlines Customer Un-Care replies with the same chant: “Visa is your responsibility.”
Have I said “It's not my responsibility” that you repeat me “It's your responsibility”?
“According to Clause 13 of the International Civil Aviation Agreement (Chicago Convention), as international visa rules keep changing, it's up to the passenger to get up-to-date information by contacting the related country's consulates.”
Eh what did I tell you just now? I've said “I contacted the consulates and got information,” they tell me “You have to contact the consulates and get information.” !!!
I tried to explain them in another way:
“As I suppose you can easily ascertain, the VOA that has been practised by Djibouti for more than 25 years has been cancelled 12 days before my flight without any transition time,” I said. “If there was something on the world agenda like Qatar and the US, okay let me re-check. In fact, I had a flight to Qatar a couple of days after the crisis befell. The moment I heard about it on the news, I checked if there was a change in the visa practice, if there'd be any problems; there was no change and I went and came back without any problems. As there was nothing on the world agenda for Djibouti, naturally it never occurred to me that there'd be a change in the visa regime. There was nothing for me to suspect. How many times do we have to check the visa practice of a country? Every week? Every day in the last week?
Seriously... As passengers, how many times are we obliged to check visa practices? Where does our responsibility go, up to which point? Till the end? Even when going to a country that doesn't require a visa, are we really going to check the last week and the last day before leaving? What if they have decided to put a visa requirement at the last moment? What are we to do then? As we wouldn't have time to get a visa at that point, our tickets go to waste and we're supposed to go drink a glass of cold water and kiss it goodbye?
This goes beyond responsibility, it means fining us for things beyond our control and not our fault. And this is against the most fundamental principle of justice.
This means “In all possible mishap and affliction arising due to visa regime changes, the passenger has to bear all the brunt and burden. In such cases, the airlines are not obliged to provide the service for which they got money for.” I'm sure nobody accepts such liability or a fine for something out of their control. What's more, it is against consumer rights that airlines get the money for a service they did not/could not provide, and refuse to provide. (If that's not the case, it should be.)
I repeat the question:
Where does our responsibility go? Up to which point?
Seriously how many times was I obliged to check? Actually, on the last day, it occurred to me to call the consulate again and re-check. Not that it didn't. I even considered going and getting the visa, it's not a big deal, you go to the French Embassy, pay up, and they stick the visa. But I didn't do it. As I could get it at the airport, I didn't waste the time to go to the embassy. (Good for me! I've now wasted so much time with stupid Turkish Airlines Customer Un-Care and lost a load of money.)
Plus of course, as someone who has bumped into many an imaginary line and had ridiculuous visa problems, as someone who believes that everybody should be able to move freely on the world they are born, as someone who has devoted her life to the abolishing of visas, I am obsessed with visas. But I told myself: “Don't be a paranoid girl.” Obviously they want us to be paranoid! (Their senseless 100 ml liquid rule has made us, or at least me, 100 ml obsessed. Unfortunately, stupid rules have a way of reshaping our mentalities and society in an adverse way.) I should be glad that Seyschelles didn't decide to introduce a visa all of a sudden, our family vacation with a child would have been ruined.
Then, in order to explain to Turkish Airlines Customer Un-Care, I gave the example of the US. “Did you say the same thing to your customers who couldn't get a visa during the US-Turkey visa crisis?” I asked.
“... under extraordinary circumstances, ticket changes are considered,” they replied.
“Eh, you won't claim that a country who has had VOA for more than 25 years starting to require a visa all of a sudden is something ordinary,” I said. No answer to that, the same parrot answer.
“Visa is your responsibility... US has been considered because it was an extraordinary situation.”
I'm not a parrot like them but as they insist on not understanding, or rather pretending not to understand, I tried to explain the same thing in different sentences:
“Please...” I said, “I suppose you are not going to tell me that a practice that has been going on for more than 25 years is changed without even informing the related consulates in advance and that's an ordinary situation, that you encounter it so often. Please...”
As for my visa responsibility I actually should have said “Ah really?? I'm so surprised! I've gone to 140 something countries and I have not realized that visa is my responsibility. How interesting!” But of course as these institution's employees don't seem to understand even plain Turkish, I didn't expect them to understand sarcasm; so I didn't do it. I openly asked them “Do you think I've been to 140 something countries without knowing visas are my responsibility?”
What was the answer? Do you think I got an answer? Of course not. The same old chant:
“It has been established that you have been denied boarding due to not having a visa during the checks before the TK 1864 Rome/Istanbul flight on December 1, 2017. It's in the passenger's responsibility to meet/fulfill the rules for the country they are going to before their trip...”
At this point I asked them “Are you pea-brained?” But they had deserved it. They had deserved it till the end. Always the same parrot answer. “Don't dare tell me the same things again,” I threatened. “Please, don't tell me the same things again, please,” I begged. To no avail. “You are driving me crazy. You'll be responsible for the small child I'll be leaving behind when I end up in a mental asylum,” I declared. Again no avail, same answers. I said “If somebody keeps repeating the same thing with no regard to what you have said and no answer to your questions, you don't even ask 'Is this guy crazy?' you just say 'This guy is crazy.'” Again the same parrot answers. This is Turkish Airlines! If it was somebody else, I'd just say “This guy is crazy” and walk away, but this is Turkish Airlines! The flag-carrier of Turkey, the airline which claims to fly to the most countries in the world.
I know what you are thinking. You are probably saying to yourself “There is something wrong with this woman too. It's obvious they're not going to do it. She's telling them they are idiots. It may well be so. But obviously she is not that smart either.”
Yeah I know. No, I'm not that smart when it comes to insisting on things I believe in (to be true.) I do not give up so easily. I saw this as a challenge to test human reactions, as a case study to understand them.
What's more tragi-comical, I seriously do not know if I should be crying or laughing, Djibouti authorities changed the visa regime once again and went back to VOA on 4th of December! The French Consulate which issues the visa here said “Their minds is probably mixed up there.” So my “fault” is that my flight fell in between the 17 days of change in the visa regime practiced more than 25 years! (I actually found out later that somebody got in with the VOA on November 30th. Which of course upsets me even more. There actually were THREE, sorry but only THREE fucking days where the VOA of 25 years was repealed and Turkish Airlines says I have to pay the price for that!)
Yes, visas are the responsibility of the passenger. But in this case, I do not accept any fault or blame, or lack of responsibility thereof. What have I done? Did I try to fly without a visa to a country which normally required a visa? Or did I try to fly with a visa that had expired? Or did I go to the airport without bothering to check the visa practice at all? Or did I apply for the visa and was denied a visa because I did not meet the requirements?
When do you check the visa requirements when making travel plans? You check it in advance so that you'd have time to get the visa and have everything in order. In my case, I have checked when buying the ticket, about 6 weeks in advance. I checked once more 3 weeks in advance. What else was I supposed to do?
Where does our responsibility start and where does it end? While talking to the TA check-in operations manager in Rome, I asked the US crisis to him too. They are the ones dealing with the crisis when such things happen, they know. One had said “They made a mess here.” Yes, governments make a mess with our lives, play with our time and monies without giving a damn.
In the case of Rome, there were Americans stuck here in Italy. They didn't need a visa while transiting Istanbul on the way up, but now all of a sudden, on the way back, they needed one, and sure enough, did not have one.
The check-in operator said “In their case, we triggered the clause applying the visa requirement at buying of the ticket.”
Aha! That's the thing they should do for me. Reissue me the ticket considering the VOA valid at the time of booking.
But they won't do it. “We are sorry that circumstances of our practices have upset you,” they say. They are not sorry at all. They are just paying lip service. Turkish Airlines is not acting like a respectable company to serve customers, it is rather behaving like a child who claims his beads when his opponent gets kicked by a third party. Turkish Airlines is the capricious child who victoriously screams “The rules are on my side, I won! I've got your beads. You are responsible, ha ha ha!”
Even though they know very well that I have obliged by my responsibility and checked the visa regime, they pretend not to understand. They also know very well that under the circumstances I should not be liable for the whimsical changes the authorities made, that it's not fair to punish me for this.
They want to keep the beads. Let them keep the beads. They have lost a customer. I'll try to see to it that they lose some more customers by promoting their customer non-services.
CYA Contract of Carriage
As the Business Travel Columnist Joe Brancatelli writes in “Who's Sorry Now? Not the Airlines” (Mar 14, 2012)
“The history of the contract of carriage is long and, frankly, boring. Suffice it to say that it has developed over the decades as a classic CYA document that virtually ensures an airline isn't responsible for any implied or explicit service promise it makes.”
CYA, for those who do not know, is Cover Your Ass. Airlines, sorry for the expression but, cover their asses by buying and using Timatic which updates the visa regimes. Nowadays everything is machine readable. Airlines automatically scan the passports and it pops up “Visa OK” or with a “Visa necessary.” In case of capricious visa regime changes, we passengers are, again sorry for the expression, are fucked.
Now it's our turn to demand a COA. Cover Our Asses too!
Or better yet... CTA- Cover Their Asses too.
Abolish This Stupid Visa Game
Yes, Cover Their Asses too. The asses of migrants who die because of visa regulations. If they were Turkish Airlines passengers, Turkish Airlines would issue a message to them saying: “We're sorry that circumstances of our practices made you die.” !
In her book “A Room of One's Own” Virgina Woolf writes:
“Here I was actually at the door which leads into the library itself. I must have opened it, for instantly there issued, like a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library only if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction.”
So she has been refused entrance into a library! She needed to be accompanied by a man or have a letter of invitation. How this reminds of the visa practices of today. “Bring us a letter of invitation,” “Bring us such and such papers...” If not, you are barred.
I would have been accepted had I had an invitation letter. That's what they asked of me to get me on the plane!
Virgina Woolf continues:
“That a famous library has been cursed by a woman is a matter of complete indifference to a famous library. Venerable and calm, with all its treasures safe locked within its breast, it sleeps complacently and will, so far as I am concerned, so sleep for ever. Never will I wake those echoes, never will I ask for that hospitality again, I vowed as I descended the steps in anger.”
Similarly, that a famous airline has been cursed by a woman is a matter of complete indifference to the famous airline. I know that. I wish other people took notice and we could pressure them to act. But, I am now aware how people are only concerned about their “own world”, how the most they do is go after what the media feeds them. They take sides, fake sides created by politicians to keep this stupid game going. They stay a part of the status-quo, keeping it going. I have accepted this fact of the world, the uncaring, the un-interest of people in a mission for a borderless world.
Even though nobody may answer my call, I still send out this echo out there:
Abolish this stupid visa game. Do away with visas once and for all!