I’m Booked on Turkish Airlines With a 2-Day Stay in Istanbul, What Do I Do Now?

Oct 9, 2017

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The political climate across the world is tense — as a result, not much seems out of the question these days, but an entire nation closing its doors to US citizens certainly came out of left field for me.

Monday morning, we learned that effective immediately, Turkey has discontinued visa issuance for all US citizens. This includes visas issued at embassies and consulates, and even e-Visas and other border visas. In other words, unless you already have a valid visa, US citizens are no longer able to enter Turkey.

Within minutes, we began hearing from readers with flight and hotel reservations in Turkey, and I actually have a trip of my own booked early next month. Fortunately, I had yet to nail down a hotel, though prepaid rates are far better than refundable options, so had I booked a stay I may have been stuck with footing the bill. My flight is a different story, however — my particular Turkish Airlines fare is fully refundable, and there are no change fees should I wish to scrap the two-day stopover I currently have booked.

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We had booked the ticket through Amex Travel to earn 5x points with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, so I gave them a call right away to confirm that my ticket can be changed or refunded for free. It can, and if you booked a nonrefundable Turkish Airlines itinerary that’s affected by this change, the airline is currently offering free reservation and route changes through October 31, or refunds — including partial refunds for partially used tickets — for the same period.

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The Amex rep I spoke to explained that had my itinerary not included a refundable fare, he would have contacted the airline to request an exception, given the sudden visa policy change. In general, some airlines will issue refunds should a visa request be denied, though there are notable exceptions — from his experience, British Airways won’t waive refund or change fee charges in this situation, for example.

In this case I’m in the clear, but following this most recent travel development, going forward I plan to:

1. File for an e-Visa immediately after booking a flight, or prior to booking when traveling on an airline that does not issue refunds or waive change fees if a visa is not approved.

2. Wait to book any nonrefundable hotels or tours until the visa is issued.

3. Avoid long layovers in countries with a history of changing immigration policies without notice, especially when traveling with family or in large groups.

Bottom Line

There’s no question that Turkey’s tourism industry has taken a hit following last year’s attempted coup, and this latest move not only restricts most Americans from visiting the country, but also communicates potential volatility within the government — after all, if the country bans citizens of the United States, what would stop it from discontinuing visas for travelers from other nations as well?

Since the situation could change, I’m going to keep my flight on Turkish and book an alternative flight home with miles. While I shouldn’t have any issue finding a last-minute alternative flight from Dubai, I’d rather have something confirmed to fall back on, especially since I’m bound to be exhausted by this point, with this final flight home falling at the end of a whirlwind round-the-world trip.

Are you scheduled to visit Turkey soon? What do you plan to do?

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