Holed up in a Mumbai hotel since Saturday, a Texas-based Indian family bought flight tickets worth approximately $1,600 (Rs1.09 lakh) to go home.
The Shahs were among thousands stranded in different parts of the world after heavy snowfall in Turkey, particularly Istanbul, froze air traffic over the past four days.
According to Sushma Shah, her husband, son and daughter were booked to travel on Turkish Airlines flight (TK 721) from Mumbai to Istanbul early morning on Saturday and catch a connecting flight (TK033) to Houston.
But the flights were among 989 flights cancelled by Turkey’s national carrier until Monday evening.
“We made calls, sent emails, slammed the airline on social media over the past two and half days to get a status on our flight, but nothing helped,” said Sushma who is booked to travel on January 14.
On Monday, her husband went to the airline’s office at the Mumbai airport with 20 travellers.
With barely any communication from the airline, they decided to buy new tickets costing almost $1,600. The father, son and daughter will take an All Nippon flight to Houston via Tokyo on Tuesday evening. “We will definitely claim compensation and plan to sue Turkish Airlines after reaching home. At the moment, it is important for us to reach the US,” said Shah, adding that her husband who has a hospital job has got a warning to resume work. “We might have to go through a long procedure to retain my daughter’s school admission if we don’t get home soon.”
A Turkish Airlines spokesperson confirmed snowfall-induced flight disruptions. “Owing to the extraordinary weather conditions at Istanbul that lasted for four days, we acted responsibly in order to minimise nuisance to our passengers related to the compulsory flight cancellations,” read a statement sent out late in the evening on Monday.
It added, “In the meantime, we’ve cancelled 989 flights. We provided hotel accommodation for our 15,000 passengers, and offered them approximately 40,000 food packets during their wait at Istanbul Atatürk International Airport.”
Passengers unlike Shah who could not afford new tickets were unlikely to get home soon, said airport sources. “Most Turkish Airlines flights over the next few days are packed. There is barely any room left for the backlog,” said an official requesting anonymity. The official, however, added that a few passengers were accommodated on flights by Europe-bound carriers.