After initially denying abandoning Nigerian students in Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey, the management of Turkish Airlines has vehemently apologized to the management of Glisten International College, Abuja for its poor treatment of 22 college pupils and instructors at the airport.
The students and their instructors, who were Nigerian delegates to the United States for a robot competition, were abandoned at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport for almost 48 hours.
An apology letter exclusively made available to SaharaReporters, dated May 2, 2017 and signed by the General Manager of the airline in Nigeria, Mr. Gokhan Cetin, apologized for the maltreatment of the students and their instructors in Turkey.
The letter was personally taken to the school by Mr. Cetin with some of the airline’s staff in Abuja.
In its meeting with the management of the school, the airline also promised to embark on a project within the school premises. The airline also provided the school’s management staff with three complimentary tickets to to any country of their choice as compensation.
A source close to the school told our correspondent that the airline’s management also sent an employee from its Abuja office to Istanbul to investigate the matter, but regretted the inconvenience meted out to the Nigerian delegates, who were forced to sleep in the resting area of the airport with just blankets after airline officials collected $40 from each of the students.
In all, the delegates paid the total sum of $880 in order to receive permission to sleep in the resting area of the airport. In its apology letter, however, Turkish Airlines management struggled to justify the collection of $40 each from the students.
The letter read in part: “On behalf of the entire Turkish Airlines Inc., I write to apologize for the inconvenience, frustration and the ill-treatment our much-esteemed pupil [sic] of Glisten International Academy, Abuja suffered at Istanbul on 23rd April 2017. They deserve smooth, uncomplicated service when flying with us.
“It is germane to note that our Abuja office sent a staff to Istanbul to investigate the incident, which was already late because we got the news online and the pupils had already arrived in Abuja. I quite understand that no amount of apology or excuses can be enough or justifiable to ameliorate the pain the pupils’ loved ones and school must have gone through during the period.
“I wish to state that every country has their norms, values, and culture, and Turkish Airlines at Istanbul is trying to ensure that passengers are well taken care of. Travelers with USA, UK and Schengen Visa visiting Istanbul need to apply for an online Visa of $40, which also applies to stranded passengers, but they will be refunded on arrival at their local station/final destination in order to allow them to have access from immigration into the Istanbul and proceed to their hotel.”
Immediately after news of the incident broke, the airline denied airlifting any Nigerian student to the United States via Turkey, insisting that it never had a record of minors being abandoned at the airport.
Rather than address the issue, Turkish Airlines boasted that it received six consecutive “airline of the year” awards.
The airline initially said, “The story is false and we cannot say more than that. We place primacy of welfare of passengers and as Europe’s best airline for six consecutive years, we continue to renew our commitment to delivering quality services to our passengers in its 299 destinations in 120 countries across the globe.”
Investigations by SaharaReporters had revealed that the students and their instructors departed Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport to Istanbul on Sunday 16 April, 2017 and were billed to return on Monday 24 April, 2017 with the same airline.
The students, who are between the ages of 11 and 15, missed their Istanbul-Abuja flight after the airline had an hour delay in the US.
International standards and recommendations state that in such circumstances, the airline should be responsible for accommodation, feeding, phone calls and other necessary requirements for their passengers, but the airline failed to do this with the country’s delegates.