I was flying home last night and the journey home took me through Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. I have flown to and through that airport an easy dozen times or more in the last year and always enjoy doing so because one of the best business class lounges in the world is located in the airport.
Yesterday, I was only scheduled a mere 80 minutes from the touchdown of one flight to the takeoff of my final flight. After a late landing due to heavy rain in the area, it was down to about 40 minutes. That still gave me plenty of time to run in and grab a nice plate of food and connect to the internet to grab my e-mail and messages. This all went fine and I had not problems there. I looked at my flight on the board and saw that it was on schedule for a 6:35 take-off but the gate was one way at the other end of the airport so I took off.
I made it to my gate quickly, despite the extremely packed terminal. Once there, I found an empty seat and sat down to wait for the boarding process to begin. I really do not like boarding airplanes from buses, but that is how many flights from European airports are done to other European destinations. The trick is not to rush to board the bus as the first ones on are often buried in the center of the bus when it comes to disembarking for the plane. But, you don’t want to wait until last in case they close that bus up and you need to wait for the next one. It is a little bit of strategy!
The Delays Begin
Anyway, while I sat there plotting my strategy, an older couple got up and mumbled something about having to switch gates. I turned to look at the display and saw that they had changed our gate to one that was very near the lounge and takeoff was now delayed 10 minutes. I looked at my watch and saw that we had 20 minutes before takeoff, so I jumped up and hurried down to the other gate which I knew meant we got to board by jetway now so it wasn’t as important to be there at the right possible second. Still, I didn’t want to board in the middle of the process as overhead space is precious so I did do the airport jog down.
Once I got to the new gate, I saw the display there now called for a 7:10 departure – a 35 minute delay. That gave me time to pop back into the lounge to message my wife about the late flight and went back to the gate. And this is where the no news part turns into not good news. There was an agent at the counter who was busying herself with a few things but not answering questions about when boarding would start (we could see our airplane at the end of the jetway so it was here) but instead walked away shortly after I entered the area. We would not see her again for 70 minutes! In fact, we would not see anyone for 70 minutes and during that time, the flight board eventually changed to say that our flight had departed and now said that the gate was closed. This made many people quite anxious. I took the fact that they still had an older passenger in a wheelchair right at the boarding door as a good sign that the screen was just being updated automatically by scheduled times.
No News Is NOT Good News
Still, we all were wondering what was happening – was the plane leaving tonight, had it actually changed gates again and we missed it, were we going to have to wait another hour? Finally, the agent came back accompanied by the smiling crew who quickly boarded the plane. While we stood there, another crew boarded the plane. After 5 minutes, the second crew disembarked laughing and went away. Now the agent began to walk around to check out passports and stamp the boarding passes (why didn’t she do this during the long wait?). She still did not answer questions about when we were leaving, what was the delay, etc. The board was still black and not showing any flight details at all. Even TripIt was not showing any other information about the flight and they always have the flight info. Finally, after two hours of a delay in which we received no news at all, we boarded the plane where we sat for another 20 minutes.
Thanks to the delays, we arrived back home over 150 minutes late and, of course, my bags never made if for some reason! Not a one! But to me, the bigger problem was that we had never received any news along the way of what was happening with the flight. While we may not be happy with delays and the way times get pushed back on US domestic flights, at least we almost always have an agent there that we can pester and we can see the time rolling backwards on the board. 🙂 Not so much here! I just kept thinking that whoever said “No news is good news” had not been waiting for a Turkish Airlines flight! The worst part had been that I had to sit in a plastic chair staring at a blank board instead of sitting the beautiful Turkish Airlines lounge waiting – all because we had no news on the flight and the delays.