I'd like to start by stating that I know you don't deal with personal issues, this letter refers to a loophole in your rules and regulations.
In your “Core Principles on Consumer Protection” you state “Legislation should be clear and unambiguous.”
Yes, it definitely should be.
On December 1st 2017, I was denied boarding due to an unforeseen abrupt change in the visa regime of Djibouti. My ticket was "no changes allowed" and Turkish Airlines has refused to reissue it repeating the mantra “Visas are the responsibility of the passenger.”
Sure, it is! As someone who has been to more than 140 countries nobody needs to tell me that! Not even once, let alone repeatedly. I have abided by my responsibility; contacted the competent Embassies and Consulates. I got direct official information from both the honorary consul of Djibouti here in Italy and the French Embassy which issues the visa. They both told me I didn't need to get a visa in advance, that I could get it at the airport in Djibouti.
Djibouti has had VOA (Visa on Arrival) for more than 25 years. What's more, there wasn't anything on the world agenda like the Qatar crisis or the US-Turkey crisis that could have made me suspect that there might be a visa regime change. What's more, making things worse for me to accept, this visa regime change lasted only three (3) days! I know of someone who got into Djibouti with a VOA on November 30th. My flight was December 1st. And Djibouti has gone back to VOA on December 4th. So it was only a matter of a very unfortunate, a very extraordinary situation.
Turkish Airlines affirms that under extraordinary situations, ticket changes are reconsidered even if they are "no changes allowed". However, they deny, without expressing it explicitly, that this was an extraordinary situation. When I ask them to explain me how this abrupt visa change is not extraordinary, -because it obviously is! As no change in a 25 plus years visa regime can be ordinary, let alone such a short-lived one-, they do not (or rather cannot) answer; so they turn on the parrot mode: Repeating the same thing about visa being the responsibility of the passenger over and over again ignoring the fact that I have contacted the embassies and got information.
If Turkish Airlines denies the reissue of my ticket on the grounds of visas being my responsibility, they need to prove that I have been irresponsible. 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? I refuse any accusation of irresponsibility on my part.
There is a reason and logic behind rules. That rule is put there for the manifest reason that airlines cannot be expected to follow the visas of every passenger and it would be unjust if their services were disrupted/hindered by irresponsible passengers. That's self-evident basics. On the other hand, I suppose that rule is not put there to punish passengers in case of a last-minute unforeseen visa regime change. That would go beyond responsibility, it would mean fining us for things not within our control and not our fault. And that would be against the universally accepted fundamental principle of justice let alone awful customer care.
Furthermore, I suppose that rule is definitely not put there to give the airlines the right or the opportunity to pocket money without giving their customers the service they promise to provide.
If I am wrong in my suppositions and if the above is not the case, it should be written explicitly, not implied. Write it out in your contract of carriage: "In case of a visa regime change, passengers pay the price." Spell it out. So that we passengers know what we are getting into.
If, on the other hand, my suppositions are correct, please put that clearly too: making airlines obliged to reissue or refund tickets in case of extraordinary last-minute visa regime changes. (Just like you did with the case of coupon-sequence.*) Spell it out so that when faced with incompetent customer uncare like Turkish Airlines we passengers do not need to go through so much hassle and waste our precious time and energy. I really want a compensation for all the stupid time I had to spend after this stupid ticket issue.
As I take it that the Contract of Carriage is suggested by you (Please correct me if I'm wrong and forward me to the institution in charge), I would consider it as your duty to remove the lack of clarity in your legislation, so that your members and their customers can benefit from a clear legal framework.
Despite my constant efforts to explain the situation, Turkish Airlines pretended not to understand and denied my ticket reissue request. Two other items in your Core Principles on Consumer Protection are:
“Airlines will establish and maintain efficient complaint handling procedures.”
“Passenger entitlements enshrined in regulations should reflect the principle of proportionality and the impact of extraordinary circumstances.”
Turkish Airlines has failed at efficient complaint handling procedures. And they have denied the impact of extraordinary circumstances. I therefore, demand sanctions against Turkish Airlines for going against your core principles on consumer protection.
Gülin De Vincentiis
* In your “Coupon Sequence and Use” you give an example of a case where this requirement can be waived and state that “The industry recognizes that unforeseen circumstances do occur and has made arrangements to accommodate passengers in such cases.”
Similarly, passengers should be accommodated, i.e. reissued tickets, in unforeseen changes in visa regimes. And this should be explicitly written in the Contract of Carriage.