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If you’ve been following the whole saga of planning a family reunion with my relatives from Belarus, you probably remember my recent post on rescheduling their cancelled flight from Minsk to Istanbul.
If not, here is a brief recap. Due to war situation in Ukraine, their flight from Minsk to Istanbul (operated by Turkish) was cancelled. Fortunately, I called Capital One Travel and a friendly agent was able to reach out to the airline and get it rebooked on its codeshare partner Belavia. The whole process was relatively painless and took maybe 25 minutes total.
Of course, there was still a matter of waiting to see what happens to their return flight from Montenegro to Belarus (via Istanbul). But I figured if it worked out the first time, I would get it resolved in the same manner, without major issues. I was wrong.
The challenge of rebooking a flight that doesn’t exist
Since I’m a bit OCD, I was not only checking the Turkish record locator, but also whether the flights from Istanbul to Minsk are offered for sale for my parents’ return date. Lo and behold, a few days ago, this route has completely disappeared from schedule through the end of July. Weirdly, I got no notification of cancellation that day.
Last time, I got emails from both Turkish Airlines and Capital One within an hour. So, the flight doesn’t exist, yet it was showing as active in the reservation. I waited twelve hours and called Capital One to see if they can help me get it rebooked on Belavia. However, when the agent has reached out to Turkish, she was told that there is no problem. Hmm, where they planning to charter an airplane for just my family?
I’ve mentioned that it’s not offered for sale, and was told that it’s probably just sold out. Right, all the flights to Minsk through the end of July got sold out on the same day. Regardless, I was informed that nothing can be done until this flight is officially cancelled. And it was…three days later. This is one time I was actually happy to get an email telling me that the flight is cancelled.
Except, ten or so hours later, the record locator via Capital One Travel still wasn’t updated and showed the flight as being active. Since my parents’ trip is less than two weeks away, I figured I would call and let Capital One sort it out with Turkish. So that’s what I did.
The agent I got on the phone tried to make changes himself but wasn’t able to. I told him that last time the rep had to call as well, so no surprise there. Anyway, he puts me on hold and calls Turkish Airlines. I figured we would finally get it resolved, but nope. He comes back and tell me that Turkish rep has informed him there are no flights available, and that I can get a partial refund. Great.
I politely asked the Capital One rep to reach out to Turkish again and mention that we were able to get it rebooked on Belavia flight last time, under the same circumstances. I gave the details on the flight and pointed out that it’s for sale on Turkish website right now. No dice, second phone call was a fail also.
At that point, an hour has passed. I was seriously thinking about doing HUCA (hang up call again) thing, except this Capital One agent seemed competent and willing to assist. He couldn’t help the fact that he was getting crappy reps.
I was apologetic for this whole rigamarole, and asked nicely if he would be willing to call Turkish the third time. Maybe insist on speaking to a supervisor? To my delight, he agreed. We still didn’t get have success, though at least he was able to convince the Turkish rep to update the record locator on Capital One’s end and show that the flight is actually cancelled.
The Capital One guy then told me he was going to try something and put me on hold for 20 minutes or so. He came back and said that he managed to get my relatives rebooked on Belavia, at no additional cost. I felt like screaming from happiness. I asked him to transfer me to his supervisor, so I could leave him a positive feedback. It’s the least I could do.
In all, this phone call took two hours. What added the insult to the injury is the fact that our A/C broke that day and I called a repairmen. What do you know, he showed up while I was on the phone discussing various scenarios with the Capital One guy. I wasn’t about to hang up, so I would pause and mute for a few minutes to talk to A/C person. And vice versa. It was crazy.
This is such a relief for me because I was seriously dreading flying my family to Montenegro and having their return flight in limbo. Flying to Minsk right now isn’t a simple task, as only a few airlines operate this route. And as you can imagine, the fares are astronomical due to demand.
I’ve said before that any time you buy flights via travel agency, you get a middle-man involved. I still don’t know if this helped me or actually hindered the rebooking process. I’m inclined to think it’s the former. Still, you have to watch your flights, as the agency may not get the update on the status. As a result, you may show up to the airport for a flight that doesn’t exist.
In my case, I did need to use up the $300 credit from my Capital One Venture X, so that made the decision an easy one. But depending on the airline, you may want to book direct in order to potentially avoid the rigamarole I went through.
All is well that ends well
I still don’t know if our family reunion will actually happen, but we are tackling problems as they come along. Despite the nightmare of rebooking, I’m really glad I purchased their flights when I did.
If I waited even a week, I would have to cough up an extra $1,850 for five tickets when purchased through Belavia. Lots of things were up in the air at the time, including my dad getting tested for cancer. And of course, a month ago, nobody could predict if the war would spill over to Belarus territory. So, buying the tickets was a real leap of faith.
But, my dad’s cancer tests came back negative and we got rebooked on Belavia (on flights that actually exist for now). Maybe this trip will happen after all. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.