Turkey, U.S. Suspend Visas; Turkish Airlines Offers Refunds

Istanbul  RudyBalasko/iStock / Getty Images Plus/ Getty Images
Photo by RudyBalasko/iStock / Getty Images Plus/ Getty Images

Turkey and the United States have suspended the issuance of visas over a diplomatic dispute stemming from the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee.

Reuters reports that last week Turkish officials arrested an employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, claiming that he had links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been blamed by the Turkish government for a failed military coup last July. Sunday night the U.S. embassy in Ankara announced it was halting all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey, prompting Turkey to do the same.

According to the BBC, this morning the Turkish government issued an arrest warrant for a second U.S. consulate worker. The suspect is still being sought, but his wife and child are being questioned.

According to the latest statement from Turkish Airlines, the visa suspension will not affect passengers transferring to connecting flights in Istanbul. For all other passengers holding Turkish passports flying to the United States, and all other passengers holding American passports flying to Turkey through October 31, the airline will allow reservation changes to be made free of charge. Affected passengers can also opt for a refund on tickets which have not been used, or for the unused portion of a partially used ticket. Tickets can also be extended to October 31. Tickets must have been issued on or before October 9 to be eligible.

The move comes just a few months after Turkeys new Minister of Culture and Tourism, the Hon. Professor Dr. Numan Kurtulmus, announced an ambitious plan to restore the countrys tourism industry after issues with terrorism and instability led to a sharp decline in travel. Following last Julys failed coup and a series of terrorist attacks, visitation to the country fell nearly 30 percent from January – November 2015 versus the same period in 2016.

Major cruise lines also cancelled calls to Turkey in late 2016, although, since then, a few lines like Azamara Club Cruises and Windstar have scheduled a few stops there. Other cruise lines Travel Agent spoke with said they were continuing to monitor the security situation in the country.

A State Department travel warning remains in effect for Turkey. Last updated September 28, the warning recommends U.S. citizens carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time, and to avoid travel to the southeastern region of the country.

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