Short trip to Brussels

…and I mean really short: arriving to Brussels at 15.00 on Monday 21/12 and leaving at 15.o0 on Tuesday 22//12 – but the customers insisted on this meeting and flight tickets and hotel were paid by them so I only had to prepare myself and spend two days away from home.

Preparation

I was thinking of packing only my hand /cabin luggage: it has plenty of space for a two days travel and fits in the requirements of most airlines. All clothes, snacks (for the munchies at the room) and liquids, along with a pretty large box – gift from the company to our customer went into this one. However, I also needed to pack my 15-inch laptop and charger for working with the client as well as my WinTab for working on the plane (it was a long flight). The laptop would not fit in my small laptop case, so I had to go for my casual backpack; it didn’t fit there either (in the padded compartment) so I had to use the main one, reducing the space available for other stuff. I ended up with the suitcase and a packed backpack but thanks to Turkish Airways I didn’t have any issue.

As there is no transportation at all towards the airport early in the morning, I had to arrange a taxi pickup at 05.00; I have found that Asteras Radio Taxi is a reliable and relatively cheap option – and there are plenty of them.

The trip

I was flying from Athens to Brussels through Istanbul, with Turkish Airlines. For less than 200 euros – it was even cheaper than Ryanair at the point we booked the tickets a few days before the trip. The trip was a long one; I woke up at 04.30, got prepared by 05.00 and got the taxi – for something like 15 euros to the airport. I am no longer a Golden Miles+Bonus member of Aegean, so I could not access the lounge – I went directly to the gate, which was boring and challenging; no power outlets and for some strange reason, I could not connect to the free WiFi of the airport using my Windows 10 devices (Lumia 735 and WinTab). I got bored.

The plane was full but I managed to find a space for my cabin luggage. I spent some time reading material about the customer’s organization and the work we have already done for them. After having a nice breakfast (but only consisting of fruits, crackers, jam and butter, among others – I thing Aegean has the best breakfast with hot pies/crepes etc.)  I started feeling tired. The flight was short and I soon found myself at the Ataturk Airport.

The Ataturk Airport is big and crowded but still you can find some quiet spots with power outlets so that you can work or watch movies; however, there is only a 15 min free wifi option, which is appropriate only for connecting, sending and receiving emails and maybe checking in on Foursquare. It is a good thing that I have learned how to work offline during my trips so I stayed productive during the long transit time. I did not find any free water sources but I enjoyed the multicultural travelers, raging from north Europeans to Mongol-like Asians, with their colorful outfits.

As soon as I got to Brussels airport, I found my way to the bus line 12 which would drop me off at Schuman station; however, the telematic screen was apparently misconfigured so I found myself at the previous station, something like 25 mins on foot from the hotel room. I didn’t feel like using metro for a couple of stations and I wanted to take a walk seeing a bit of Brussels so I walked to my hotel room. I managed to get there on time (about 30 mins before my meeting with the client), checked in, got  bit refreshed and got prepared for the meeting – managed to be there on time as well. The meeting was long, I got exhausted and needed some rest.

Life’s hard for the business traveler sometimes 🙂

 

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Turkish Airlines…flying many years back

To make a long story short:

1. We were supposed to take the Turkish Airlines flight of 13.00 from Izmir to Istanbul, so we reached the airport before 12.00. The flight was cancelled for reasons unknown to us. After that, we had booked a connection flight (Turkish Airlines again) to Athens at 17.00 from Istanbul to Athens.

2. We had our ticket changed to the flight of 15.00, and assured by the Turkish Airlines representative in the Izmir airport that we would have no problem catching the connection flight to Athens.

3. We had a really hard time trying to communicate in English with the Turkish Airlines employees at Izmir airport… only the basics and then we needed the intervention of someone more fluent.

4. The flight of 15.00 was delayed for 1.30 hour. In order for us not to miss the flight to Athens, we changed these tickets to the flight of 22.40 from Istanbul to Athens. No discussion about compensation (e.g. food/drink coupons).

5. We finally managed to fly from Izmir at 17.00 (2 hours of delay). We reached Istanbul at about 18.00 and at about 18.30 we realized that the flight to Athens was delayed by two hours!

6. We reached the desk of Turkish Airlines and asked to have our tickets changed to the delayed flight. We were told that the passengers’ list was closed, so we couldn’t be transferred to this flight.

7. We contacted the appropriate desk of Turkish Airlines in order to ask for some kind of compensation (we have been on the road for 6 hours and had already spent some money on food and coffees while waiting for their flights to take off). They refused any kind of compensation.

8. Now the time is 21.00, we are at the Istanbul airport and we are waiting to get on the flight of 22.45 to Athens. We hope that there will be no more delays.

9. Due to the cancellation/delays of the Turkish Airlines flights, we will not be able to use any mean of public transportation (they stop operating at 23.15). Instead, we will be forced to take a taxi, increasing the amount of expenses that we were forced to make due to the delays of the Turkish airlines flights.

I personally consider the approach of the Turkish Airlines totally unacceptable and in no way appropriate for a large airline boasting about its quality and position in the market. I am going to send a complain form (http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/doc/complain_form/eu_complaint_form_en.pdf) and see what the official reaction of Turkish Airlines will be.

UPDATE 14/10/2011: Our flight was set for 03.00 and we reached Athens at about 04.00, after almost 16 hours on the road. We were informed that the problem was caused by the strike of the air traffic controllers in Greece. However, this does not explain the lack of information from the Turkish airlines as well as the cancellation of the flight from Izmir to Istanbul as well as the delay of the next flight by 2 hours… the only compensation we received was a sandwich and a refreshment at about 01.30, after many hours of waiting at the Istanbul airport and a significant amount of money spend on coffees and snacks…

How can a trip go bad…

  1. For once more, I didn’t have enough time to prepare for my participation in the project meeting. There were so many tasks ongoing and my participation to the Training Course during the previous week did not leave me any free time to work on the preparations for my trip to Izmir. I only slept 4 hours before the flight.
  2. Even though I live just 10-15 mins from the Athens airport, I still had to wake up at 05.00 in order to get a taxi that would lead me to the airport and catch the morning flight to Istanbul . There is no public mean of transportation operating before 07.00
  3. It was the first time I was scared during a flight: The plane from Istanbul to Izmir was shaking so heavily that I almost fell off my seat.
  4. When we reached Izmir, there was a heavy rain. It was raining so much that we couldn’t even walk at the sidewalk.
  5. We arrived so late, that we only had time to check in at the hotel and leave our staff before going to the Yasar University for the project meeting.
  6. Nothing was covered by the project meeting organizers (e.g. coffee and lunch breaks) so we had to organize and pay things on our own.
  7. I had to make a really big presentation the next day, which I had not prepared, and my colleague provided me with feedback/revisions at 23.30 so I had to work overnight to finish it. Another 4 hours of sleep.
  8. The schedule of the next day’s agenda was so changed, that I lost track… lack of sleep contributed to it as well.
  9. During the 2nd night at Izmir I collapsed, so I slept from 22.00 to 06.30. I missed the chance to go outside but at least I got some sleep! 
  10. . I was supposed to present a paper on Wednesday evening but there was not enough time so my presentation was moved to Thursday morning. I had planned to get some sleep on Thursday morning and probably see anything of Izmir (it would be my first time to go out of the hotel/university campus and see how Izmir looks like.
  11. . My presentation sucked big time: There was no way to see my slides apart from turning to the wall, while the microphone was located in front of me. A light was blinding me while I was trying to see the audience. Soon I lost the sequence of my presentation and I started saying nonsense. I wondered if anyone was paying attention to what I was saying.
  12. . The taxi driver that took us from the university to the airport apparently ripped us off, since we had to pay 68 Turkish liras for the trip.  I think he made a circle outside the city, only to enter it again after some kilometers. You cannot avoid such things if you are not a local. Taxi drivers did not speak English at all…
  13. . When we arrived at Izmir airport we were informed that our flight was cancelled and  we would be assigned to another one 2 hours later… damn, we forgot to check in last night from the hotel.
  14. . On the last morning at Izmir, I changed 50 euros to Turkish liras in order to have money for the taxi and the duty free (I dreamed of buying something for my wife). Unfortunately, for the flight from Izmir to Istanbul there are no duty free shop (domestic flight) and there will be no time to visit the duty free shops at Istanbul due to the change of the flight. My current chances to visit Turkey in the near future are less than zero so I will be stuck with some 50 liras in my pocket.
  15. . Izmir airport smells of smoke and some kitchen/cooking odor. I feel sick already.
  16. . The public means of transportation in Athens are on a general strike, so I had to call my wife to come and pick me up with my sick son. UPDATE: I will arrive in Athens so late (after 00:00) that my wife will not be able to pick me up.
  17.   The 17.00 flight from Istanbul to Athens was 2 hours delayed, so if we hadn’t changed the tickets we might have been able to catch the flight to Athens… who would have thought about that…