FFE Magazine

Check your boarding pass before you fly

Sandy Valdivieso and her husband, Triet Vo, were heading to Africa because a former colleague of Valdivieso’s had invited them to visit him in Senegal.

The couple boarded a flight in Los Angeles booked by Turkish Airways, intending to travel to Dakar, Senegal, in western Africa. Instead, they got off the plane in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in South Asia, almost 7,000 miles away.

At the heart of the problem was a simple three-letter airport code. The code for the airport in Dakar, capital of Senegal, is DKR. The code for the airport in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, is DAC.

When Valdivieso booked their December flight from Los Angeles to Dakar, via Istanbul, the $2,700 tickets issued by Turkish Airlines showed the itinerary as LAX-IST and then IST-DAC. The baggage-claim receipts showed their luggage was similarly bound for DAC.

Valdivieso and her husband are experienced travelers, but neither had ever been to Senegal or Bangladesh. They had no idea that DAC was for Dhaka, not Dakar.

The first leg of the journey went smoothly. The couple arrived in Istanbul jet-lagged but none the worse for wear. They had about four hours to kill at the Turkish airport. Then they boarded the flight for the second leg of the trip.

It’s fair at this point to wonder why they were unable to spot that they were getting on the wrong plane. Valdivieso said that, in hindsight, they probably should have done more to make sure all was well.

“I guess we were just going by the flight number on our tickets, and that DAC was printed on them,” she said. “You just assume that everything is correct.”

Even after they’d settled into their seats — 33A and 33B in economy class — they had no idea anything was amiss.

“When the flight attendant said we were heading to Dhaka, we believed that this was how you pronounced ‘Dakar’ with a Turkish accent,” Valdivieso said.

The couple quickly fell asleep. It wasn’t until several hours later that they woke up and noticed the travel map on the overhead video screen showing the location of the plane. They were over the Middle East.

It was only then that Valdivieso and her husband looked around and realized that the plane was full of people who looked Asian, not African.

“That’s when we knew a serious mistake had been made,” she said. Once on the ground in Bangladesh, it took about nine hours for the couple to remedy things with Turkish Airlines.

About 12 hours later, Turkish Airlines flew the pair back to Istanbul, where they caught a plane — the right one this time — for the six-hour trip to Dakar. There was no extra charge for the flight from Bangladesh, though It took two more days for the pair’s baggage to catch up to them.

After coming back to the US the coouple contacted Turkish Airlines asking the airline to compensate them in some way for all the hassle and inconvenience. After four months Turkish Airlines’ West Coast operations, acknowledged that the carrier screwed up in issuing tickets with the wrong airport code, then compounded the problem with insufficiently responsive customer service.

Turkish Airlines have offered  the couple  two free economy-class tickets to anywhere the carrier flies.

(Via Los Angeles Times)

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