I am sure that everyone has seen the news reports of an attempted coup in Turkey and the temporary shut down of Istanbul’s airport. The FAA has banned flights from Turkey landing in the USA until further notice. Reports on Flyertalk show that Turkish Airlines has been very difficult to contact regarding upcoming flights.
Turkish Airlines is one of the members of Star Alliance and a popular redemption for people traveling between the USA or Australia via IST to Europe or Africa. If you have an African safari booked and are depending on Turkish airlines to get you to your gateway airport you need to call your ticketing airline (UA, SQ, SA or ??) immediately to see what the options are. Award tickets issued by United are being rebooked on other airlines provided saver space is available. If you are coming from the USA, try one of Ethiopian’s or South African’s USA flights or route through Europe on United, Lufthansa, Swiss or TAP. Coming from Australia, try routing via Singapore or Bangkok to Africa and connecting to Ethiopian or South African.
This is a good example of why I always encourage people to build in a buffer day or even two before starting a prepaid Africa safari. Travel insurance usually doesn’t cover “acts of war” and you could lose your prepaid safari if you can’t find other flights.
It’s impossible to predict world events that could affect your travel plans, especially if you are booking 11 months in advance to score those elusive award seats. We are going to Africa next year and things I considered among routings and airline quality also included airline reliability and how they respond to emergency situations. In the case of the FAA blocking TK from flying to the USA, you don’t even get the choice of using IST as a transit point should flights be restored. Turkish Airlines has an excellent product and great in-flight service but their ground service and phone agent availability has been lacking. In our case, we aren’t using a pre-booked safari and are arranging things independently but I still chose to go with Etihad to AUH (VA miles booked before devaluation), spend a couple buffer days in Dubai and use Kenya Airways (Flying Blue) to get to our first stop in Uganda. If Etihad is delayed we just miss out on extra shopping in Dubai. We arrive in Entebbe around noon and if this flight is delayed we would miss an afternoon of birding locally but we can still get to these locations the next day.
In this day and age, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing your flights so look at all the options and try to imagine the worst case scenario and what alternatives you would have if it happens. Always build in a couple days buffer, especially if you have expensive prepaid travel arrangements like a safari or a cruise.