On second thought, maybe that stopover in Istanbul wasn’t such a good idea.
After months of turmoil, violence and cancellations, that’s what a lot of travelers are telling us, including Kristin Luna.
Last year, Luna booked a $30,000 Danube cruise to Hungary and Bulgaria on Ama Waterways, for herself and her family. The international flights on Turkish Airlines, booked separately, set her back $8,500. They included a stop each way in Istanbul.
And you know what happened next, right? This summer, the Istanbul airport was the target of a deadly terrorist attack. A short time later, Turkey became embroiled in an attempted military coup, which left hundreds of people dead and injured.
By the way, Luna is a friend of this site and one of our colleagues. When the case arrived through our help form, Chris recused himself and deferred to the advocacy team. Although we couldn’t fix Luna’s problem, we think her case is worth highlighting in order to prevent this from happening to you.
After the attempted coup, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily banned flights into and out of Turkey. Luna and her family were understandably afraid to fly into a dangerous area, just weeks after the terrorist attack and the attempted military overthrow of the government. Luna wanted to cancel the Turkish Airlines tickets and obtain a refund, so that she could book flights that didn’t route through Turkey.
Turkish Airlines denied Luna’s refund request because it had established a refund policy only for flights into, out of or through Turkey between July 15 and July 20. Luna’s flights were in August.
Turkish Airlines would only allow Luna to rebook the tickets within one year of the date of issuance, after paying a change fee and any fare difference. These fees ranged from $100 to $405 per person. Ultimately, Luna paid a penalty and booked new flights through a different airline. If Luna rebooks the canceled tickets within one year of the original date of issuance, she will pay again.
Because Turkish Airlines wouldn’t issue a refund, Luna filed a claim against her travel insurance policy. She had purchased travel insurance through Expedia.com’s Travel Protection Plan. But her claim was denied because terrorist acts were not a covered event.
Expedia.com’s Total Protection Plan discloses that it does not cover losses from “declared or undeclared war, or any act of war.”
Luna’s experience is a wake-up call to all of us. Her misfortune could have happened to anyone flying internationally, at any given time. As hard as it is to acknowledge, we live in world of increasing political terror, both in the U.S. and abroad.
The State Department warnings for Turkey were scary — indeed, still are scary. There’s no doubt that Luna and her family, which included her disabled father, would have been traveling through Turkey during the period when the U.S. advised Americans against traveling to Turkey. Plus, it would be during a period of time in which Turkish authorities still had a public emergency declaration in effect.
It’s difficult to have to plan travel based on travel advisories, warnings and governmental unrest, which already exist. And it’s inconceivable to plan travel based on travel advisories, warnings and governmental unrest that don’t yet exist — but that’s exactly what we have to do. And, that’s what Luna’s experience taught us.
Our advocates contacted Expedia.com and Turkish Airlines on Luna’s behalf, but were unsuccessful in changing the outcome.