I had to fly to Ghana, but the thought of giving business to an airline that treats Ghanaian passengers like pests made my teeth rattle. For the sake of convenience, I was tempted to fly Delta. They have a direct flight from New York to Accra which is fairly inexpensive. However, I am so sick of the poor service they mete out to Ghanaians that I have vowed never to give them business again! My next option was British Airways, but to put it politely, their attendants make me feel like Ghana is still a colony. I didn’t even consider KLM, I hate the long layover where you spend hours hunting for a chair at Schipol only to be checked-in abrasively by their attendants. What of Ghana Airways? Well, that is collecting dust in an open field somewhere in Accra.
With options closing in on me, I nearly succumbed to the urge to fly Delta. Afterall, I could get drunk on their white wine, skip their water soaked food and sleep through their sub-humane service. But what if a steward cunningly gave me a cup of Red Bull instead of white wine… To be fair, Ghanaians are hectic travellers. If we could squeeze a lawn mower into a suitcase we would, but since we can’t, we pack Sears, Macys and Home Depot into our bags and try to pass it off as 23Kg. But honestly, after we beg for a discount on our excess bags and manage to stow our overweight hand luggages, we are as calm as the Red Sea. Take the last time I flew British Airways as an example: We were stuck on Heathrow’s tarmac for 8 dreadful hours. Despite the lack of ventilation or food, all the passengers sat patiently in the plane and waited for the Boeing 777 to be de-iced. A flight that was supposed to take 6 hours lasted 14. We were rewarded with a curt thank-you but no compensation. That was 2010 and I added BA to the list of airlines I would not support. “Go back to Delta”, a small voiced urged, but with all the dignity I could muster, I resisted.
See, after years of complaining and listening to friends harp bitterly about Delta’s delays, mechanical problems and untrained staff, I was determined not to support their business. But which other airline could fly me to Ghana respectfully and safely? “Try Turkish Airlines” my friend Marcus suggested, “they now fly to Accra and I have heard great things about them.”
I immediately booked a seat on Turkish airlines. The fare was a fraction of Delta’s but the service was exponentially better. It recently won Skytrax’s ‘ Best airline in Europe’ award for their courteous and reliable service. As of July 2012, they added Accra and Abidjan to their flight routes and so far, the reviews have been glowing.
The flight to Accra required either a 4hour layover at Aaturk International Airport or an overnight stay in Istanbul (hotel accommodation and $60 visa transit fee not included). As it was my first time in Turkey, I opted for an overnight transit so I could discover Istanbul. Turkish Airlines was a fantastic experience. The flight was on time, the food was delicious and they even handed out a travel kit to all the passengers (try asking for an extra blanket on Delta). However, if my experience with Turkey’s 737 was heart warming, its capital surpassed my expectations.
Istanbul is a beautifully cosmopolitan city with a plethora of reasonably priced hotels. If you have an early morning flight, I recommend staying at the Tav hotel which is just next door to the airport. But if you have time on your hands, I recommend taking the subway to the historic Sultanhamet to enjoy their boutique hotels. You will be overwhelmed by the sweet smell of roasted chestnuts and glazed baklavas while you tour rich cultural heritage sites like the Blue Mosque. My favourite part of Istanbul was shopping at the famous Grand Bazaar where I got a taste of the warm hospitality of the Turkish people. Even with minimum English, they found little ways to make me feel oh so welcome. I am so glad I did not fall victim to the convenience of Delta’s direct flight. We often forget that as consumers we DO have options so when your complains fall on steel ears, take your business where it is valued.
I doubt Delta missed my $1500 but until they upgrade their planes and their attendants, I will transit through every conceivable city to get to Accra, but I will NOT stand in their queue. Do join me.