This help request went nowhere, thanks to the sarcasm

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By | November 10th, 2016

Susan White has requested assistance in getting flights for herself and her husband rebooked from Turkish Airlines to another airline that is not based in a country under a warning from the U.S. State Department. However, this is a case that we are not going to take.

White’s daughter booked a vacation trip to Italy for her parents using Great Value Vacations. You would think White appreciated her daughter’s gift, but fyou would be wrong. As White put it when she wrote to us for help:

My naïve daughter purchased a vacation to Italy for us from Great Value Vacations in July. She never looked at the itinerary though and when I asked her for the vacation number, I discovered that we were flying on Turkish Airlines.

White doesn’t want to fly on Turkish Airlines because the country it’s based in, Turkey, has been the subject of travel warnings by the State Department. But the government’s travel warning does not say to avoid that airline, nor does it say to avoid flights that make a stop in Istanbul. That doesn’t matter to White:

Now I realize that this wouldn’t bother some people but I figured that an American company should have booked us on an airline that the country that did not have a travel warning issued by our State Department. We have a layover on both flights in Istanbul, I think, for at least an hour.

White called Great Value Vacations to complain, telling them that it was upsetting to her to be booked on that airline. She wanted to be rebooked on an airline based in some other country that is not the subject of a travel warning. The travel agency told White there was nothing it could do.

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She wants us to help, but we won’t for several reasons. First of all, we don’t think she has a case. When her daughter booked the trip she accepted the routing, whether or not she actually looked at the detailed itinerary. White may not like the itinerary, but that is what was ticketed. Saying later that you don’t like the selected airline or where the flight stops won’t get you anywhere with the travel agency or the airline.


Another reason is that it’s unclear whether the trip was booked before or after the July coup attempt in Turkey. When she first wrote to us for help, White said the trip was booked in July. But the story changed when she posted her problem to our forum.

In that posting she said that her daughter booked the trip in June. If the June date is correct, it seems unfair to try to fault the travel agency or her daughter when the coup attempt happened after the flight was booked.

Forum members who responded to her posting tried to alleviate her anxiety about Turkish Airlines and included suggestions to consider travel insurance that covers acts of terrorism. There were also pointers on things to think about when booking international travel. But none said the travel agency was in the wrong.

Further complicating the case is what White says is the $500 value of her claim. Round-trip airfare to Italy for two passengers for that price suggests that this was most likely a nonrefundable fare. In the Frequently Asked Questions section of our website, you will see that there are some types of cases we don’t mediate. Those include trying to get a refund for nonrefundable tickets. It would be tough for us to justify making an exception for White.

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There is one more reason: The sarcastic tone of her original complaint, in addition to calling her daughter a name, really turned us off. If she used that tone with the travel agency, it’s likely they would have been put off also. That kind of tone doesn’t help you. As our own Christopher Elliott wrote in a previous column:

Sarcasm may be a useful rhetorical device, when used sparingly. But when it comes to resolving customer service disputes, it’s almost always counterproductive, if not also destructive.

That’s something that we all need to remember when we want someone to help us resolve a complaint. White could have found other valuable pointers on our website on how to resolve a consumer dispute.

The only thing we will do with White’s complaint is move it to the Case Dismissed file.

Should we have advocated for Susan White?

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  • disqus_6gHRd4OpK5

    Maybe the OP’s original post was revised, but I couldn’t find the word “naïve” anywhere.

    Based on my experience flying Turkish Air to and from Greece via Istanbul a couple years ago, I found it to be an excellent airline with much better service that provided by American carriers (it is ranked as the 7th best airline in 2016 by Skytrax; no American carriers made the top ten). Also, I found the Istanbul airport to have a very high level of security.

  • Kairho

    There were two separate contacts. First “she wrote to us for help” appears to be email (above, with naive in it). The forum posting occurred later. To wit, “the story changed when she posted her problem to our forum”

  • disqus_6gHRd4OpK5

    Got it. Thank you for the clarification.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    how ridiculous are some people? Turkish Airlines is as safe as any other.

  • Annie M

    Nothing like looking a gift horse in the mouth. I bet her daughter won’t be booking her any more trips in the future.

  • AAGK

    This case serves as an excellent counterpoint to the article questioning the utility of gift cards as I sense mom is difficult to please. I agree her tone was unpleasant but it seemed suggestive of a larger disconnect or deficit. It would be impossible to help this person.

  • my dad’s flown Turkish airlines to visit my brother, who was living in Beirut at the time. Other than the minor annoyance of not being able to request a low-salt meal, he was perfectly fine. This was earlier this year.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    While sarcasm never helps, I would also be uncomfortable flying the airline of a country and landing in a country that not only suppressed a coup, but has since detained 2,745 Judges, suspended 15,000 educators, closed 15 universities and demands, without evidence, a Turkish resident of the US.

    Just as I wouldn’t fly into Russia, North Korea, or Iran because of their unpredictability (and North Korea and Iran currently hold US citizens hostage), I wouldn’t trust an autocrat like Erdrogan. That the rest of you are more willing to take that risk doesn’t undermine the legitimate concerns of the OP. I would note that Turkey currently holds at least one US citizen, a NASA scientist with dual citizenship, in detention.

  • Chris_In_NC

    To Ms White,
    Take the trip as is. Why work yourself up in a tizzy? I have flown Turkish Airlines before, and I would take Turkish Airlines over any US carrier. If you are connecting in Istanbul, you will stay within the sterile/secure area. You won’t really even be in Turkey!

  • taxed2themax

    I agree that her concerns, however logical or not to the rest of us they may or may not be are hers.. and I think it’s fair then to say that she’s within her rights to want to act on them.. I guess where I have some… shall I say ‘pause’ is the logic or connection to using a benchmark of “… suppressed a coup, but has since detained 2,745 Judges, suspended 15,000
    educators, closed 15 universities and demands, without evidence…” as the basis for my airline choice..

    I do think that there may be something to be said for countries that detain persons indefinably, without trial or without formally bringing criminal charges, that may give one pause, but I personally think that it is a stretch to then take that as an mitigating factor for my airline choice when going from point A to point B with or even without a :60+/- airline transit stop.

  • PsyGuy

    Sorry, but the LW is a nut job. It’s an airline not the country, businesses can and do operate very differently from political parties.

  • PsyGuy

    I’m with you, I like Turkish air, and the airport is rather nice. I also agree that the flight would be likely more enjoyable than flying an American airline.

  • KP

    Turkish is one of best airlines in Europe…
    It is a pitty that someone over-acting on a semi-related warning and thus he stops enjoying the gift received from his family.

  • michael anthony

    Well, using that kind of litmus test, you’d find yourself crossing off about half of the world’s airlines. In addition, the US is one of only a few countries that carries out executions for crimes, even when there is doubt about guilt. So, we share that dubious distinction with Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. I’m sure some would then be uneasy flying US carriers for that very reason.

  • cscasi

    I respect your thoughts, however I feel just the opposite. As others have pointed out, flying on Turkish Airlines is just as safe as any other airlines over there. Also, U.S. airlines operate into and out of Istanbul, so it is thought to be safe. Terrorist acts can happen just about anywhere these days. It is a sad fact of life.
    Guess what, if there is an “incident” at the Istanbul airport, it could affect more than just Turkish Airlines, depending on what happens and where it happens on the airport.
    By the way, has everyone quit flying into and out of the Brussels airport at Zaventem? Remember, it had a terrorist act inside the airport not too long ago.
    I agree, I would not fly into Iran or North Korea. but flying into Moscow would be just fine with me.

  • cscasi

    Just because a person does not want to fly into a country like Turkey, which has has terrorist issues, does not mean he is a nut job. He may or may not be. But, since you obviously only know him by what is written here, I do not see how you can make that call.

  • just me

    “naive” is not an insult – it is rather endearing term. Anyhow I read the Abe’s analysis and justification. It is insulting to my intelligence and it is illogical. Sarcasm is always an art but it often can be misread and misinterpreted by bdifferent cultures and people with different life experiences. And for this reason it is better to limit or avoid it in the court of law. But sarcasm being a disqualifier for advocate help – it is like not giving food to a toothless person.
    I can understand the reason for not flying into Istanbul airport – it is in Turkey and indeed there was a suicide attack inside that airport validating pax’s request. There were sufficient number of various level attacks on the streets of Istanbul and every logical analysis indicated that the airport was a ripe prime target for many reasons at that time and still is.
    Pax’s request was reasonable and the sarcasm, as often, was a self defense mechanism of the narrator.
    You want an example of the dangerously naive statement as proven by the suiside bomber inside the Istanbul airport – here it is: “But the government’s travel warning does not say to avoid that airline, nor does it say to avoid flights that make a stop in Istanbul.”

  • Tricia K

    As one who grew up in a NY suburb, I speak sarcastic really well (and had to change my ways when my 4 year old said “that’s sarcastic, isn’t it?” after something I had just said). It has it’s entertaining features and can be a stress reliever, but I’ve found there aren’t many who see it as sarcasm in the written form. The spoken word has tone attached to it, although it would likely be my last resort if I am trying to get a company to refund anything, let alone a generous gift given by my daughter.

  • LonnieC

    Sorry. I must be missing something. Referring to her daughter as “naive” hardly qualifies as sarcastic. Had she used the word “young”, or “inexperienced”, it would have had much the same meaning, and I doubt she would have gotten the same negative response. “Sarcastic”? I just don’t see it.

    Now, her concern about flying? That’s different. There seems to be little greater risk flying through Turkey than through many other countries. She’s not likely to be very successful, I’d think.

  • joycexyz

    Right! Very ungracious and unappreciative. Makes me think the daughter is trying to buy Mom’s affection–to no avail. If Mom were truly grateful, she would quietly change the reservations herself, at her own expense, and not mention it at all.

  • joycexyz

    Could be the “naïve” daughter is middle-aged, but Mom doesn’t respect her judgment.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    My concern is not terrorism, because that can happen anywhere. My fear is of the Turkish government itself, which controls the airport in Istanbul.

    For the Nasa scientist, the articles make it sound like the Erdrogan government either thought he was associated with the coup or the CIA, but I don’t know if there has been a resolution of this yet. See, e.g., https://aminewswire.com/stories/510996151-american-nasa-scientist-held-by-erdogan-turkish-media-says

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I’m not necessarily afraid of flying the airline, just going into the hub. That is, I might take a Turkish Air flight from NY to London, but I wouldn’t stop in Istanbul. I agree that I could understand, especially now, how some people in other countries might be afraid to fly in the US.

  • LonnieC

    “Could be”. I just thought we were all very quick to see sarcasm where there may have been none intended; just a reference to a lack of experience.

  • PsyGuy

    Have you seen who the US president is, we have terrorist issues.

  • cscasi

    Meaning what? Our President has nothing to do with the terrorist activities outside our country. And, as you will note, ther ehas been no issues at the airport in question since that terrorist attack.

  • PsyGuy

    I meant president-elect.

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