[Cancelled Flight] Turkish & United Airlines: Poor Customer service

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Dec 6, 2018
I'm writing this on behalf of my mother passenger on turkish airlines. My mother was traveling from San Francisco to Mumbai on Nov 30th, 2018 with Turkish Airlines with Raipur being the final destination via Indigo. The boarding on flight 80 was scheduled for 5:45pm but was delayed until 7:15pm. At 8:30pm, nearly 3 hours after boarding, an announcement was made to deboard the flight because of technical problems with the aircraft. At 10pm, Turkish airlines representative made the announcement that flight is cancelled and told its passengers to contact Turkish airlines helpline to schedule a different flight. Also, were asked to fill out a contact information card so that airlines can update us about aircraft situation or available flights. However now five hours later, my mother was told that accommodation request had been denied and everyone needed to collect their luggage and go back home. My mother called me at 10:30pm detailing me about the situation. I went to San Francisco airport 50 miles away from my home, which takes me 4 hours round trip not to mention the several parking tickets for the several trips to the airport/SFO just so that my mom can fly home to India safely. I saw my mother stressed, tired and helpless. I called the Turkish airline helpline as was recommended earlier. On the helpline, I was told that Turkish airline won't be able to help since they don’t have any information to offer me. My mother had no more energy to deal with the situation at this point and the airline was not considerate of any of her travel needs. She was simply told to go home with no clue on how she would get back to India, not even a comforting ‘we will let you know as soon as we figure out about your next flight’ from Turkish airlines. And at 12am? now 8 hours since my mother arrived at the airport, she had to ride back with me for another one and a half hour to stay for another night.
The next day, I called the Turkish airlines helpline to get an update on the situation but was told that I'll have to speak to a representative at SFO airport directly. I called SFO airport to get contact details of Turkish airlines but was told to come in person to speak to a representative. My mother and I reached airport around 10am. There was no one available from Turkish airlines and SFO airport personnel told me to use the white callbox to contact their office. I tried the phone, but no one answered. We were again helpless and didn't know what to do. I checked my mother's ticket on Turkish airlines website and saw that a different flight has been scheduled with United airlines. No one from Turkish airlines had contacted us regarding this updated information. Furthermore, I was given multiple inconsistent answers as I was instructed to reach out back and forth between Turkish airline and United.
Finally, I took my mother to United airlines to check in. The representative asked us to check in at the kiosk. We were going through the check in process and were told that only one check in luggage is allowed with United. I told the United airlines representative that we were only re-assigned to United and we had two free checked luggage with Turkish airlines. Since this was a rescheduled flight, we do not think that we should be charged for extra luggage fees simply because my mother was now flying with a different airline. Then I was told that they will not process my check in unless i pay $100 for my mother’s second checked luggage. What could i have done at this point? Not letting my mother fly home? After paying $100 I was able to proceed with my mother’s check in. I had booked aisle seat for my mother on Turkish airlines and had requested the same for united, but United reps told me “there’s nothing we can do”. My mother and I decided to check for other flight options, because for her age and height and especially for 12+ hours international flight it can be very cumbersome for her on the flight. It’s the basic duty and responsibility of airline representatives to take these things into consideration for their customers, however, both Turkish and United had failed at these basic tasks. I called Turkish airlines customer care for help and was told that all booking changes can only be made by united airlines and nothing can be done by Turkish airlines. There again, we got another answer with a ‘there’s nothing we can do for you’.
My mother and I stood in the check in queue waiting for our turn when an united airlines supervisor Fariba Tabrizi told us that we are already checked in and should go to bag drop directly. Before I could explain the situation to her, the United supervisor pulled us out of the queue. After struggling for few minutes to explain to her, she eventually understood that I wanted to check for other flight options and told me to go to the end of the line while i was already the next person to be helped. Finally, as I was explaining the situation to United airlines representative at the check in counter trying to find other flight options for my mother, the United supervisor told the rep that was helping me to charge me a minimum $300 and to give me no fee waiver for making changes. As frustrating as the situation already was for my mother, this United airlines supervisor made it much more worse. Later when I confronted the supervisor, she told me that ‘you’re not even our passenger. your mother was transferred over by Turkish’.
We felt more helpless, disappointed and tired because of the poor customer services from both Turkish and United airlines. My mother decided to take the flight even with a middle seat and no meal services as previously planned with Turkish airline, because she’s very tired physically and emotionally. At this point, she just wanted to get home to India safely with no more delays. About the meals she was supposed to get during her flight, my mother went to the united airlines representative at the gate to confirm her meal preferences and the reps told her ‘you won’t have any meals during this flight’. The representative told her there won't be any meals served to her since meals have to be selected 48 hours before the flight. But my mother has only found out about her rescheduled flight just hours before the plane takes off. The representative did not even try to consider my mother's situation knowing that she had a cancelled flight and had a last-minute flight notice. And with her dietary restrictions, there aren’t any food choices for her to get at the airport. How much more should your airlines frustrate your customers? Instead of being considerate, my mother was rudely told to buy meals at the airport and take care of the meal herself.
Besides going back and forth the airport three times (12 hours total travel time) for this flight, endless waiting hours, extra luggage fees, parking fees and meals, i also had to cancel my mother’s connecting flight from Mumbai to her hometown Raipur and pay for a new flight for her back to Raipur her final destination.

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Forum Moderator
Dec 27, 2014
New York
Your issue is with Turkish Air, not United. United can’t provide meals if they don’t offer them. They can’t provide the seats she had if they are already taken by people who were previously booked on the flight. They are under no obligation to honor Turkish Airs bag policy. They did Turkish a favor by allowing them to put your Mom on their flight at what she paid Turkish.

We have company contacts for Turkish. Go to them with your complaints but you must cut your letter in hand and only speak facts, no emotion. Use bullet points with these facts. They don’t need to hear your Mother’s needs weren’t being accounted for, she was stressed and tired, etc. Facts only.
Sep 19, 2015
Imra I am sorry to hear what an unpleasant trip your mother had.

I agree that this is all on Turkish Airlines. They cancelled the flight.

Turkish publishes a list of customer rights but may claim extraordinary circumstances for mechanical:


Turkish should pay for the luggage.

United did not have time to order a special meal. For all customers they need 48 hours even with those that book with them.

And United could not take a seat from one of their own customers to accomodate a Turkish airline passenger.

Your mother was treated poorly and the lack of communication was very bad.

When you write, say that you are writing for your mother (if she does not use email mention that or if she is not comfortable writing in English mention that) or write it for her; ask for reimbursement of the baggage fee as well as transportation to and from the airport and such.

Investigate what passenger rights are for Turkish Airlines. There are reports that the Twitter team is active and helpful
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