I love Turkey, I love Istanbul, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Turkish Airlines. That’s why I decided to take Turkish Airlines to Sochi, since, as it turns out, it is also the cheapest way there from Paris: Paris – Istanbul, Istanbul – Sochi. In fact, the flight last night after midnight from Istanbul to Sochi was about 98 percent booked by Formula One paddock people, drivers, team staff and media. So I’m not the only one who has discovered the Turkish Airlines way to Russia (with love).
But as it has been many years since I flew on Turkish Airlines, and I have my paces all set out for most of the other countries I fly to, and as I’m aware that of all of the world’s airports, Charles-de-Gaulle, in Paris is one of the most difficult ones for a musician with a guitar to pass through, I decided to check out the Turkish Airlines site for its baggage policy before I left.
I was also spurred on to doing this because I noticed that in my international flight on my electronic ticket, it said I could take 30 kilograms of baggage – which is wonderful, since I’d be well under 30 kilos even with the guitar in a hard case. But I then noticed that there was a special policy for lepers. Sorry, I mean musicians. It said that if you really wanted to take your guitar onboard – i.e., if the instrument exceeded cabin baggage size – you had to buy a seat.
This all seemed pretty absurd. So I decided to call up Turkish Airlines at the airport in Paris and query. They took my name, checked my ticket, and told me to wait, that they would look into it. Actually, no, they did answer one of my questions, which was, if I have 30 kilos of baggage, can I divide that into two pieces. They said I could divide it into as many pieces as I wanted, but that, oh, if one of those pieces happens to be a guitar, then I might have to pay an excess luggage fee.
Off the woman went, and when she returned, she confirmed that I would have to pay about 15 euros per kilo of that excess luggage. In fact, it was NOT excess luggage, it was just a guitar. I explained that with my main bag and the guitar – which would weigh 7 kilos, hard case included – I would have a total of 24 kilos in the flight, which is well under the 30 kilos allowed.
The woman told me that it made no difference, since one of the pieces of luggage was a guitar, I had to pay out of my nose for the privilege of taking it with me to Russia on Turkish Airlines, i.e., a minimum of 105 euros extra…and I’m not actually sure if I had to pay the 105 both ways, or if that covered the entire return trip. And I no longer cared, because 105 euros to take my guitar which is NOT excess luggage, for me was not just torture of a musician, it was also a sum I cannot afford.
One of my journalist colleagues, upon hearing this story last night at the airport upon arrival, reminded me that he had seen me singing and playing my guitar in Sochi last year, at a pub, and that I had sung Tom Petty’s, “I Won’t Back Down.” I was impressed with his memory, but I was suddenly less impressed with myself, as I said to him that this year, I had just backed down. I had backed down from Turkish Airline’s extortionate practices against guitar carrying musicians. But on the other hand in a way, I did not back down. I was not going to let the airline make me pay a vast sum of money that they did NOT deserve.
But so here I am on a rainy day in Sochi, and missing my guitar like hell. Maybe I’ll find an open mic, though, and play someone else’s guitar….
PS, Last year I did the same trip with Aeroflot via Moscow. It was more expensive, and Moscow Airport was a little too crowded for my liking. But both the Aeroflot people and the people at the Moscow Airport were super cool about my guitar, allowing me to take it into the cabin, and even, at the airport, asking me if I wanted to go up and play some music on the stage that was being constructed behind me in the airport for some upcoming concert.
PPS, I keep on having these urges, where I am sitting at my computer, and I want to turn around and grab my guitar for a few chords and songs…. Have to keep stopping myself….