I'm a physics student and researcher who travels a fair amount to communicate with scientists in my field, and I recently booked a non-refundable ticket through Turkish Airlines to get from Boston to Geneva next week.
I was aware that Turkey was not the most stable region, but all travel warnings at that time regarded southeastern Turkey; my flight has a 16 hour layover in Istanbul, which is on the western side of the country. I was told recent events would not be a problem, both by Turkish acquaintances and service representatives of Turkish Airlines. However, that was when I booked the March 25th flight at the beginning of the month.
When the bombings in Ankara (central Turkey) occurred last weekend, I called Turkish Airlines to cancel my flight, suspicious that violence was moving westward. After four separate customer service calls, they finally gave me the following breakdown of my non-refundable ticket:
- $360.00 USD for fuel taxes (non-refundable)
- $129.00 USD minimum ticket cost (non-refundable)
- $96.76 USD refundable ticket cost
Which adds up to $585.76 USD, only $96 of which is refundable. I complained to their customer service representatives that the circumstances were such that I should not feel compelled to take a flight when there was a reasonable chance I would find myself in serious danger during my travels to Turkey (this was the only reason which would have driven me to cancel my flight). Their response was that they had no evidence of danger in Istanbul or Ataturk airport, and that I would be safe during my 16-hour layover. However, I was suspicious, and felt that this was not exactly a statement the Airline could guarantee.
Last night, I called again because the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul issued a travel warning yesterday (March 17), saying that U.S. Government buildings and tourist areas might be targets for acts of terrorism. I called Turkish Airlines again and complained; they redirected me to a Customer Care Relations form which I could fill out to request a full refund. I did so. The airline usually takes 48 hours to respond.
This morning, Istanbul was victim to a suicide bombing in a populated tourist area. At least 36 were injured, and five were reported dead. I am concerned that after hours of effort, I will not be able to obtain a full refund, even though there is now evidence of a clear and present danger in Istanbul. Given that I have had to book another last-minute flight through a safer region (Canada to Geneva), I would expect Turkish to at least refund the cost of my ticket, or provide me with a credit for future travel (although I am so concerned with the way they do business that I do not think the latter is acceptable anymore).
If they do not provide me with a full refund, my next step will be to go to small claims court. My question is whether there is a court precedent for my situation. Is there any chance I will get my money back in filing a claim?
In my view, the situation is like this: suppose you buy a cake from a bakery. You pay up-front for the cake, and are told that the purchase is final. This sounds reasonable, because you trust the business owner to provide you with a product which is, at the very least, safely comestible. However, when you stop by a week later to pick up the cake, the baker tells you that there is a reasonable chance the cake has cyanide in it, and that you would endanger yourself in the act of consumption. The baker then refuses to provide you with a full refund for your purchase. This situation seems unreasonable to me in the exact same way that my current situation does. What are your thoughts?
Thanks so much for your help.