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Wow! Viking's Ridiculous Air Connections (JFK to France)

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BE FOREWARNED: Viking seems to have developed a disturbing sense of humor regarding air service and connections. To support our river cruise, we need to arrive in Marseilles and depart from Paris. We requested JFK as our international port. Here is what our good buddies at Viking found for us:

 

OUTBOUND: Viking has booked us on Turkish Airlines from JFK to Istanbul and then from Instanbul to Marseilles (13 hrs & 5 minutes)

 

RETURN: Viking Air booked us on Turkish Airlines from Paris to Istanbul and then from Instanbul to JFK (15 hrs & 15 minutes) with only a 1-hour layover in Istanbul . . . highly unlikely connection.

 

We have instructed our TA to have Viking either fix the flights (i.e., make them something a rational adult might select) or cancel the cruise. Will post the results here when known. Just when you thought it was safe . . .

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BE FOREWARNED: Viking seems to have developed a disturbing sense of humor regarding air service and connections. To support our river cruise, we need to arrive in Marseilles and depart from Paris. We requested JFK as our international port. Here is what our good buddies at Viking found for us:

 

OUTBOUND: Viking has booked us on Turkish Airlines from JFK to Istanbul and then from Instanbul to Marseilles (13 hrs & 5 minutes)

 

RETURN: Viking Air booked us on Turkish Airlines from Paris to Istanbul and then from Instanbul to JFK (15 hrs & 15 minutes) with only a 1-hour layover in Istanbul . . . highly unlikely connection.

 

We have instructed our TA to have Viking either fix the flights (i.e., make them something a rational adult might select) or cancel the cruise. Will post the results here when known. Just when you thought it was safe . . .

 

Good for you! I understand why you might want to book your air through Viking, but why not just book your own?

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Turkish Airlines shows up on Kayak.com with incredibly low fares. Probably why Viking is using them. I have enough problems changing planes in Atlanta so I can't imagine changing planes in Istanbul.

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Turkish Airlines shows up on Kayak.com with incredibly low fares. Probably why Viking is using them. I have enough problems changing planes in Atlanta so I can't imagine changing planes in Istanbul.

 

 

On top of that, if one goes to the Cruise Air board there is a sticky how cruise line supplied air works. To simplify, the cruiselines purchase seats in bulk for a cheap price. They in turn charge you any price they want.

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We have instructed our TA to have Viking either fix the flights (i.e., make them something a rational adult might select)

 

Well, I consider myself a pretty rational adult, and not only did I purposely fly ZRH-IST-YYZ-YQB on my way home from last year's Europe trip, I am planning on flying on TK via IST next year to get me to London (hopefully via YUL this time - avoiding YYZ is tops on my priority list these days). Of course, all of this is in business class, where TK really excels, but I would do it even in the back of the bus, especially if you can manage an overnight in Istanbul.

 

I'll give you the concern over the 1-hour connection - IST is pretty massive, and gates are a lot further than they look on the map, so I would definitely have that changed. But really, TK is a solid airline; I'd have no problems with this itinerary.

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Got an email from TA with new flight arrangements. Completely rational flights and connections (9 hours going and 8.5 returning). Only one problem . . . Viking added a $100 fee ($50 pp) when making the change. Have gone back once again stating if Viking can't do the job, they we'll cancel the cruise.

 

This is really nuts . . . schedule unworkable/unreasonable connections and then charge a premium to fix it

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There is ALWAYS a risk when you are booking your air via the cruise lines. You will probably get savings over booking it yourself, but you'll have some awful routing.

Very first cruise we ever booked was with Cunard's air program, we went from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale via Denver! Never again!!!

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Got an email from TA with new flight arrangements. Completely rational flights and connections (9 hours going and 8.5 returning). Only one problem . . . Viking added a $100 fee ($50 pp) when making the change. Have gone back once again stating if Viking can't do the job, they we'll cancel the cruise.

 

This is really nuts . . . schedule unworkable/unreasonable connections and then charge a premium to fix it

 

As others asked, why not book your own air? :confused:Airfare is not exactly the cruiselines expertise. Generally, a good TA can get you consolidator fares that are as good as the cruiselines. I have never gotten an airfare bargain offered to me from a cruiseline.

 

jc

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Don't know what airline the new flights are on but my one and only flight on Turkish Air a year ago was awesome....put the US legacy carriers to shame for a trans-atlantic flight. I would fly them in a heartbeat over the United/Lufthansa connection....or even Delta/Air France if given my choice. I also noted that it has shown up on several "Top Airline" lists over the past couple of months including one that was for best coach class room and service or something to that effect.

 

Also you might want to check Viking's web site I think they are obligated to give you a 90 minute minimum connection time for international flights or they will change you for free. You might use that to avoid the custom air fee....although depending on how much they are charging you for your airfare and what you can book air on your own for it might turn out to still be cheaper paying the $50 fee and pick the flights that you want.

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TA called me to say the $100 fee wasn't supposed to appear on the invoice (she had Viking deduct it from her commission). It was a really bizarre situation. Viking said the "Plus" air would cost $100 fee and any fare increase. They would NOT, however, release the fare info until the $100 had been paid !?! That's interesting: You must pay $100 to determine if you're going to use the $100 service . . . ?

 

STATUS: We are still going on a cruise, but it is in spite of rather than because of anything Viking contributed. If anybody thinks there isn't any value in using a TA, you might rethink that when cruising Viking . . .

 

NEXT ACTION: Letter to TA (to use when talking with Viking) questioning the ethics involved in making bad arrangements and charging to fix them. Also, whether charging for a service that may or may not be necessary (Air Plus) by withholding fare info is a sound business practice.

 

BOTTOM LINE: Viking, you have got to get your head out on customer service before you get a reputation like AT&T.

 

I appreciate all the additional comments and info including those about making our own arrangements. We have done that, as well (last time to Peru - 2014). I remain open to all avenues, but I find it's sometimes easier from an insurance perspective to bundle as much trip as possible under a single policy.

 

The story has a happy ending, but I am left shaking my head :(

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TA called me to say the $100 fee wasn't supposed to appear on the invoice (she had Viking deduct it from her commission). It was a really bizarre situation. Viking said the "Plus" air would cost $100 fee and any fare increase. They would NOT, however, release the fare info until the $100 had been paid !?! That's interesting: You must pay $100 to determine if you're going to use the $100 service . . . ?

 

STATUS: We are still going on a cruise, but it is in spite of rather than because of anything Viking contributed. If anybody thinks there isn't any value in using a TA, you might rethink that when cruising Viking . . .

 

NEXT ACTION: Letter to TA (to use when talking with Viking) questioning the ethics involved in making bad arrangements and charging to fix them. Also, whether charging for a service that may or may not be necessary (Air Plus) by withholding fare info is a sound business practice.

 

BOTTOM LINE: Viking, you have got to get your head out on customer service before you get a reputation like AT&T.

 

I appreciate all the additional comments and info including those about making our own arrangements. We have done that, as well (last time to Peru - 2014). I remain open to all avenues, but I find it's sometimes easier from an insurance perspective to bundle as much trip as possible under a single policy.

 

The story has a happy ending, but I am left shaking my head :(

 

It is all good from my point of view. That said, you can easily bundle all the bits you want and buy insurance cheaper than the cruiseline insurance. Your TA should be able to sell you a package like that or you can go to in sure my trip or other travel insurance website and insure all or some of whatever trip you plan including airfare you booked and a cruise you book with a cruise line, etc. It can even include hotels before or after, and prearranged tours. I am not a big fan of insurance, but the more complicated trip the more it makes sense.

 

That said, I always use a TA, but I never rely on my TA to figure everything out. That is what cruise critic and other web resources are for. Sometimes, I have to hand hold my TA, and sometimes not. I know that they have resources I don't have and I want access to those resources.

 

jc

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Theremin,

The $100 fee is for 'custom air' arrangements, which is what you were trying to do, after rejecting Viking's original air arrangements. This is Viking's standard fee for choosing your own flights, and then, there may be an upcharge for those flights over what Viking has already charged, depending upon the flights you have selected. We used Custom Air once and even with the fee it was less expensive than booking our own flights, but we went into it (with the assistance of our TA) knowing what we would pay for our flights should we book them ourselves. So, it was a good experience for us, but it was not done blindly. ;)

 

Becki

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Got an email from TA with new flight arrangements. Completely rational flights and connections (9 hours going and 8.5 returning). Only one problem . . . Viking added a $100 fee ($50 pp) when making the change. Have gone back once again stating if Viking can't do the job, they we'll cancel the cruise.

 

This is really nuts . . . schedule unworkable/unreasonable connections and then charge a premium to fix it

 

I have again ask why do you need to pay extra to get what you asked for in the first place. Your very good TA took the cost on your behalf. This Viking practice of adding on costs as you go is despicable and I would never use a company that has such practices. Where I come from the price offered is the price paid and under our consumer laws they simply can't introduce add-ons during the booking process. Sooner or later Viking is going to run out of customers to rip-off.

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Theremin,

The $100 fee is for 'custom air' arrangements, which is what you were trying to do, after rejecting Viking's original air arrangements. This is Viking's standard fee for choosing your own flights, and then, there may be an upcharge for those flights over what Viking has already charged, depending upon the flights you have selected. We used Custom Air once and even with the fee it was less expensive than booking our own flights, but we went into it (with the assistance of our TA) knowing what we would pay for our flights should we book them ourselves. So, it was a good experience for us, but it was not done blindly. ;)

 

Becki

 

You are right. Viking did not 'add' the $100 fee...it was as you said because the OP didn't like the first flight arrangements, they requested with/without the the aid of a TA, for a' custom flight'arrangements. I am guessing as others have said that even with the $100 ($50 pp) the air fare through Viking is much cheaper than doing it on your own or with a TA...that is how it has been in my experience.

 

The OP is implying...as I read it...that Viking is willy nilly applying the $100 fee to 'fix it'...they aren't fixing anything..the OP didn't like the first flight so is asking to make it more to their liking which makes it 'custom' thus the $50 pp fee (clearly outlined in Viking policies).

 

The 90 min connection time limit however as another pointed out, is worthy of a discussion to get the $100 fee waived. However, the resulting non custom change might have been a huge layover that the OP or anyone for that matter wouldn't like either.

 

Seems the Turkish Airline is not the issue given the glowing reviews on here; perhaps the OP is just uncomfortable with the unusual routing .

Edited by remydiva

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We paid the $50pp custom air fee when we made our reservation so we will have control over our flights. Worth it to me.

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We paid the $50pp custom air fee when we made our reservation so we will have control over our flights. Worth it to me.

 

Me too. When we did custom air with Viking they were very good to work with. I called and asked if we could get specific flights, the agent checked and said yes and there would be no additional airfare required. She made a suggestion on 1 leg for a slightly longer layover (she thought my requested flight was cutting it a little close). No fee was charged until we had agreed on our flights. So not sure what the OP means that they wouldn't discuss the change until the fee was paid.

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We paid the $50pp custom air fee when we made our reservation so we will have control over our flights. Worth it to me.

 

we also used Viking custom air... no problems... we were given a choice of airlines/times and then asked to pick out our seats.. worked well :)

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I reread my previous posts and didn't notice that I cast any aspersions on Turkish Airlines, but several have "come to their rescue". That is fine and I would like to clarify the carrier was never the issue. It was overall air hours and questionable connections.

The first trip involved 28.3 hours of air travel and had a 1 hour connection for an international flight.

The alternative flight (selected by Viking again) required 17.5 hours of air travel and had no connections shorter than 2 hours.

PLEASE NOTE: Viking didn't select the first plan to save fare costs, as some have suggested . . . the cost is exactly the same (I know because I would have had to pay for any increase).

I've used Viking air to/from Europe before without incident. So why was the eastern Med suddenly the best entry point for US east coast flights to France? :confused:

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theremin, I know about this instrument, although I've never seen one for real. Do you play one?

 

I'm with you about connecting through Istanbul--unless I get to stop over for a few days it makes no sense at all, similar to flying through Denver to get to Florida from Toronto.

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So why was the eastern Med suddenly the best entry point for US east coast flights to France? :confused:

 

Now there is an excellent question. Something like what is the meaning of life?:D

 

jc

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Well, I consider myself a pretty rational adult, and not only did I purposely fly ZRH-IST-YYZ-YQB on my way home from last year's Europe trip, I am planning on flying on TK via IST next year to get me to London (hopefully via YUL this time - avoiding YYZ is tops on my priority list these days). Of course, all of this is in business class, where TK really excels, but I would do it even in the back of the bus, especially if you can manage an overnight in Istanbul.

 

I'll give you the concern over the 1-hour connection - IST is pretty massive, and gates are a lot further than they look on the map, so I would definitely have that changed. But really, TK is a solid airline; I'd have no problems with this itinerary.

TA may be fine, but I prefer to avoid unnecessary hours in the air.

 

Unless I had a stop to visit Istanbul, that kind of dollar savings is just not worth it.

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Now there is an excellent question. Something like what is the meaning of life?:D

 

jc

 

That at least has a clear answer: 42 [see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] :D

Edited by Host Jazzbeau

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That at least has a clear answer: 42 [see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] :D

 

I, actually, knew the answer to that one, and I could put a pretty good guess on the other. :D I was wondering if anyone would get my reference on that one or not. The other show that answers that question is one of my all-time favorite movies. :eek:

 

jc

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We paid the $50pp custom air fee when we made our reservation so we will have control over our flights. Worth it to me.

 

We did as well. If you do your research - which is what I did. It's all explained.

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Hi Wendy. Yeah a Theremin is a bizarre instrument. It was invented by accident in 1919. It's been around since then and was used for most sound effects in 1950s sci-fi movies. I do own one and dabble at it . . . it can be surprisingly difficult to play a reliable scale in mid-air :D

There are a few concert thereminists in the world and they are impressive to hear with an orchestra.

 

To the official part of your post, I also value my time (and sanity) too highly to spend it sitting on airplanes for any more hours than necessary.

Best regards,

Thom

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