Coup attempt closes Istanbul airport, leaves SFO passengers uncertain

With the coup attempt closing Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, passengers booked on Turkish Airways at SFO had a dilemma. Should they stay or go?

Turkish Airlines is notoriously reluctant to cancel flights, and did not cancel its 6 p.m. daily departure Friday.
As passengers checked-in, many were also checking for news of developments in Turkey.

"Hopefully, everything is going to be alright in my country," Inci Mercan told KTVU, alongside her college student son after a month-long visit to Berkeley.

Mercan said the uprising against President Ertogan was a shock and a disappointment.

"It is surprising, because we used to have military coups every now and then, every 10 years, but didn't see this coming," she explained, "these are crazy people who have roots in the military and roots in the judicial power."

Mercan didn't hesitate to board the flight, but many passengers were having doubts, and quizzing agents about what might happen if the jet is unable to land.

"I don't know why they don't cancel it, it doesn't make sense,"  Jeff Henry of San Francisco told KTVU, as he debated whether his wife and children should fly to Turkey during the turmoil.

The Henry family, and others, were in a line to request refunds, or re-bookings.

"This is dangerous, right?", exclaimed Henry, "Would you like to fly over there tonight? With kids? I don't know why they don't cancel it."

As the unrest in Turkey worsened, word came, that the flagship airline would refund tickets on request but would still depart for passengers who wanted to go.

Assuming they are allowed to land, many travelers wondered about making connecting flights to other countries.

"We're going to be stuck in the airport with a revolution right now," Daniel Shaked of Los Altos told KTVU.
Shaked, his wife and two children were flying through Istanbul en route to Tel Aviv.

"I don't know what's going on there. So it's not a place to be stuck, especially with kids. It's a problem."
At least one passenger was philosophical.

"Hey any day you're above ground is a good day," smiled Ruben Kalra of San Francisco, his final destination Bulgaria.

"Just be happy we're here today, and we'll decide whether we go through Istanbul and have the experience of a lifetime, be part of history, or get re-routed, either way Ill go see my family."

For some people, it became a travel story to tell later.

For Turkish passengers, the stakes are higher.

27-year-old Yusef Murcan, earning his PhD at U.C. Berkeley, gets home to Ankara twice a year.

"This is not the way to change a government you're unhappy with. We have regular elections," he said somberly.  "I have voted for the president in the past, in the last election I didn't. But that doesn't mean you overthrow the government through the military."