Monday, 19 April 2010

Not going home - again

So, for the second time, we begin our final day in Istanbul. Simon worked most of the day, I ran errands - stocking up on essentials that were running out due to our extended stay, buying gifts for those who are helping out at home and getting laundry done.  Wandering with time on my hands I found some parts of Istanbul I hadn't discovered before, but also got 'befriended' by carpet salesmen. They are apparently also having a hard time as the flow of tourists has largely dried up.

A visit to the travel agent uncovered a daily coach to Athens for 125 Euros, and we also found a coach to Dusseldorf for an exorbitant 350 Euros that will leave as soon as it has 45 passengers booked. Do the maths. As the day went on, there was encouraging news from NATS - Scottish airspace is to be opened up in the morning and possibly English airspace later on tomorrow. We begin to get our hopes up that we might get home.

We met the Walters as usual and had dinner at the Harem restaurant opposite the Sapphire Hotel. We left with the hope that we would see each other next in England. But when we got back to the hotel and checked the BA website, which said that they would not be operating any shorthaul flights before 7pm tomorrow. We went into our booking and - sure enough - cancelled. Then the inevitable runaround trying to re-book. The website says call us, the call centre has a recorded message saying go online. The German call centre that serves Turkey advertises extended hours but the recorded message gives its normal hours. Finally, I get a text from BA - the first since the start of the problems - confirming that the flight is cancelled, and it gives an 0800 number where they answer quite quickly. Initially they offer us a flight on 29th April - a full two weeks after we were supposed to leave. Then we explore other options and Izmir comes up with a flight on 26th which we agree to. Then suddenly a flight from Istanbul becomes free on Saturday 24th, and we snap that up.

Apparently, they are not booking any seats before saturday, although it is clear that some people who were unable to fly out will have un-used return seats. We're advised to monitor the BA website for news and to call when the restrictions are lifted, as we may well be able to secure earlier seats.

We could take a coach or a train but if we do, we'll be out of contact for at least a day while in transit and then will have to find onward connections. Meanwhile, BA will pay for our food and accommodation and we have free wi-fi. Given what needs to be done at work, we feel we need to be in touch with the office and we can work from here, at least part-time.

The biggest problem is the lack of communication about either the flight status or our options. We don't know whether to set off, or in which direction, for the best chance of getting home, or whether to wait for a flight. The news talks of royal navy rescue ships and alternative transport being laid on by airlines, but nobody we speak to knows anything about it. And anyway, we are nearly 2000 miles from a suitable port. It's a mess.

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