Stupid Article of the Week: What do you mean this isn’t Senegal?

Ok, so this isn’t really about a stupid article as much as about stupid people, and several “journalistic” outlets who have not done their job of skepticism.

The story, widely reported but originating in the Los Angeles Times,  is as follows:

Self-described “experienced travelers” call Turkish Airlines to book a flight to Dakar, Senegal.
They book said flights.
They go on said flights.  LAX to Istanbul, no problem.  About halfway through their second flight, they realize they are going to Dhaka, Bangladesh, instead of Dakar.
They blame the airline.  The airline flies them from Dhaka to Istanbul to Dakar, at no extra charge, but it takes 9 hours for them to figure this out.
They rant and say they should be given refunds, oompa loompas, and snozberries. Now.
They claim that the agent put in the wrong code — DAC for Dhaka instead of DKR for Dakar. 

There are a number of problems here that make me far from sympathetic for the traveling couple:

One, its not so clear the agent “put in the wrong code,” as no one has reported hearing the call.   It’s very possible that the passengers had an accent or were otherwise difficult to understand.

Two, I have never in my life received a ticket confirmation or boarding pass, destination screen at an airport or boarding gate that only has an airport code.  It will usually say the full city name, if not the city name and country.  I googled the complaining passenger.  Her job? Academic Counselor for, I kid you not, “International Development Studies and Global Studies.”  And you’re admitting you didn’t know that Dhaka and Dakar were different places???

Three, the passengers said they only heard Dhaka from the Flight Attendant, and assumed it was how you pronounced Dakar with a Turkish accent.  Really? At check-in an American resident agent didn’t say “Flying to Dhaka today? Your bags are checked all the way to Dhaka?”  The agent at boarding didn’t mention Dhaka?  Allll these people had strange Turkish accents that didn’t make you think twice?

Three, they acknowledge  something seemed wrong because everyone on the plane was Asian, not African.  Really?

Four, as often happens, people are overcomplaining.  Even if the agent made a mistake getting them to DAC instead of DKR, complaining it took “9 hours” to sort out isn’t a fair complaint.  Turkish Airlines IST-DAC flight arrives at 5am and leaves at 620am back to DAC.  This indicates that most of those 9 hours were the middle of the night in Turkey.  This wasn’t an easy problem to sort out.  Can you imagine the first line operator on Turkish Airlines:  “Hi, I got on a plane and landed and I realized this wasn’t where I wanted to go.”  Yes, that takes some time to rectify. And there are only flights from Dhaka to Istanbul once a day.

Is it possible that the agent got something wrong? Sure. It happens all the time.  What doesn’t happen all the time is passengers taking no responsibility whatsoever.


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