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Before COVID, I booked some flights on Turkish Airlines (TK). Due to COVID, the trip is off the cards, so I'd like to get a full refund. However, under TK's policies, while I'm entitled to change the flights for free, if I initiate a cancellation, I would need to pay heavy penalties.

As it happens, though, the specific flight I was scheduled to take in December has been cancelled, and this cancellation has been published in the GDS. (The route is still operating, just not on my planned day.) However, when I called TK's call center, they told me my reservation for the now non-existent flight remains "Confirmed" and I should call back "later" to enquire about changes/refunds, although they couldn't tell me when this "later" is either.

TL;DR: How long does it take for schedule changes to filter down to individual reservations? Interested in both Turkish specifically and general rules of thumb. And yes, EC261 (the EU cancellation rule) applies to at least part of the itinerary.

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    I’m not sure there’s any specific rule on this in general, much less nowadays. I would be in their shoes, I would do so as late as possible, probably just a few days before the cut-off affecting what they owe you under EC261, which is 2 weeks before departure IIRC. – jcaron Oct 5 '20 at 7:56
  • Once my flight was cancelled the day before. But that was interesting, it was a government owned airline. That government had sent many of its opposition parliamentarians on fact finding missions to the beautiful island I was on; with them booked on the last returning flight the day before the parliamentary vote was due to happen. You can guess... Then, the last flight was cancelled, and all the passengers bumped to flights the next day, but too late to vote. – Polypipe Wrangler Oct 11 '20 at 8:29
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Update: About a week after Turkish published their new schedule (and a few days after I posted my question above), I received a notification that 3 out of the 4 flights had been cancelled, with a link to an online tool to change or cancel my flights:

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I opted for "Cancel", which presented a calculation showing that the flights would be refunded in full, and and two clicks later my "refund request has been processed". So two thumbs up to Turkish for making the cancellation process smooth, although I expect it will still take months for the refund to actually make its way to my credit card.

Update #2: Turns out the refund was processed on the same day! This is astonishingly fast, since for comparison, it took me over 6 months to get my money back from Singapore Airlines for another COVID cancellation.

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    +1 for their refund experience. My flights were cancelled back in March and Turkish airlines gave me a refund within 24 hours without me doing anything. In comparison BA has been an utter nightmare. – JonathanReez Oct 20 '20 at 9:05
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+500

How long does it take for schedule changes to filter down to individual reservations?

I've seen as as little as a week before departure. Maybe even less. The airline is playing "cancellation chicken" and hoping that passengers will cancel proactivley when they get nervous.

As long as the arline doesn't accept new reservations for this flight, there is no risk to them for not cancelling officially until the very last minute. Maybe things are back to normal in December or regulations ease up.

Even if they finally do cancel, they will probably try to give you a voucher instead of a refund. You must insist in the refund and NOT accept the voucher. Ideally in writing by certified mail.

I would sit tight for a while. December is still pretty far out and there are no "deadlines" you need to follow. Try again two weeks before departure and see what the state is then.

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    Actually, EU Regulation 261 (where applicable) should discourage airlines from not cancelling officially until the very last minute, because a cancellation later than two weeks in advance attracts compensation. (Yes, I know that these days airlines mostly look the other way every time someone mentions 261/2004.) So I agree that OP should at the very least wait until the two weeks deadline has passed, cancelling any earlier doesn't make sense. – TooTea Oct 5 '20 at 13:26
  • @TooTea This is not a game of chicken I can really lose though, right? At the end of the day there's no flight for me to take! – lambshaanxy Oct 5 '20 at 14:31
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    @lambshaanxy Sure, I just wanted to clarify Hilmar's remark that "there is no risk to them for not cancelling officially until the very last minute", which to me seems to imply that airlines tend to cancel flights right before scheduled boarding. In my experience, pre-planned cancellations tend to happen exactly two weeks before departure instead. – TooTea Oct 5 '20 at 14:38
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Should've been logged within a few hours (though there's no hard and fast deadline). That said, I say use their incompetence to your advantage. Until 14 days before departure, just wait for a confirmation without doing anything. After that, not only are you entitled to a full refund, but also the (in)famous EC261 compensation.

You should be harsh when requesting a full refund, as I was when requesting Eurowings to re-route me after a cancellation. I wrote in the very first message that my rights apply regardless of the circumstances, that I advise against pulling the COVID-19 card, and that I "WILL drag them to court if need be". That made them budge (though barely so it seems)

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