Travel nightmare: Dakar, Dhaka — what's the difference?

"That's when we knew a serious mistake had been made," she said.

Once on the ground in Bangladesh, it took about nine hours for the couple to remedy things with Turkish Airlines.

Officials with the carrier insisted that they had to track down and hear the recording of Valdivieso booking a trip to Senegal before they could acknowledge that the wrong airport code had been put on their tickets.

About 12 hours later, Turkish Airlines flew the pair back to Istanbul, where they caught a plane — the right one this time — for the six-hour trip to Dakar. There was no extra charge for the flight from Bangladesh.

The couple's bags didn't arrive in Senegal for two more days, but that seems almost trivial compared with the rest of the journey.

It was, all in all, a nightmare of a trip. So Valdivieso set about trying to get Turkish Airlines to compensate them in some way for all the hassle and inconvenience. After four months of being blown off by a series of service reps, she came to me.

Fatma Yuceler, general manager of Turkish Airlines' West Coast operations, acknowledged that the carrier screwed up in issuing tickets with the wrong airport code, then compounded the problem with insufficiently responsive customer service.

"We are very, very sorry that this happened," she said.

Yuceler said Turkish Airlines will make amends by offering Valdivieso and Vo two free economy-class tickets to anywhere the carrier flies. She also said the airline will share this incident with its employees to help improve service.

George Hobica, founder of the travel site Airfarewatchdog.com, said it's commendable that Turkish Airlines offered tickets to Valdivieso and Vo.

"But they could have done better after that much trouble," he said. "They could have refunded the original fares."

At the same time, Hobica said, Valdivieso and Vo bear partial responsibility for letting things get so out of hand.

"Travelers need to know their airport codes," he said. "You need to go on your smartphone and check that they're right."

That's easy to say, but how many people would actually do that? Moreover, who would really think to question a code on a ticket for DAC when flying to Dakar?

Well, Valdivieso, for one.

"From now on, I'll triple-check everything," she said.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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