While Istanbul remains one of my very favorite cities: the people, the food, the rich and complicated history, it recently has been victim of some terrible events, including a bizarre coup this past summer. The end result has been a near shut down and abandonment of Istanbul as a tourist destination. American cruise ships have rerouted, trips are being cancelled, and Turkish Airways flies with great values and empty seats.
I had no intention of sending my father to Istanbul, but when the opportunity arose, I questioned, myself: do I feel safe sending my father to the very airport where a few months ago a terrorist attack happened? It was hardly an isolated incident in a year where Istanbul has been repeatedly targeted. Like in Paris, November 2015, when I was scheduled to be in the city within two weeks of the attacks, I paused to consider safety, then chose to move forward because I felt strongly that after the bombs had destroyed lives and buildings, the loss lingering to the victims is the economic consequences of that fear and that can paralyze a destination for years. I did not want to support the terrorists in their effort to thwart tourism and the economic well-being of the target.
The availability and points level to confirm a business class ticket single connecting to Italy were incredible. It offered him a far better schedule than connecting through other US or European cities. Turkish Airlines right now has a ton of availability and securing a round trip business class ticket for 100,000 mile range when other carriers are at 2-3 times that. I used Aeroplan to fulfill AMEX points.
With the schedule he had a layover of 5.5 hours. After fearing he would be scared even to transit through IST, he shocked me and said, do you think you could arrange a tour there for my layover, I’ve never been there and always wanted to go.
Because we have extraordinary partners in Turkey, a Virtuoso member, Sea Song Tours, I felt 100% comfortable not only that it was possible, but that my father would be in good hands.
In a large airport such as IST, I knew with a good VIP airport experience, my father would be fine leaving and rechecking in for his connecting flight without any hassle and expediting the lines for him.
The main sites would have a fraction of the people one would normally experience. When I visited in June several years ago even with great access, there were so many people I could hardly recall what I saw at the Topkapi Palace except for other people. I knew my dad would see things as few get to: unencumbered by throngs of tourists.
It’s a stunning city - why not treat him to a taste of the local food and the brilliant landscape?
In the litigious society we live in hardly can I say, that a destination is safe. Is New York safe? Is the Caribbean safe? When asked if Istanbul is safe, I can state a fact: I sent my father for a day and he had an amazing day he will never forget.
And as a total side note, he managed to enjoy the Turkish Airlines lounge on the return in IST and is still talking about it.