Erin Law, a nurse, midwife and public health advisor who has worked for the Finnish Red Cross has spoken out about her ordeal trying to get hold of tampons in Istanbul’s gigantic international airport during a recent transfer experience.
Istanbul’s new 1.4 million square metre airport opened in 2019 at a cost of $12 billion and with the capacity to handle 90 million passengers per year. And although the pandemic severely dented the number of passengers passing through its doors, the airport still served 37 million passengers in 2021.
But my husband and I can’t find a little convenience store or pharmacy. Which is weird because…well it’s an airport and they are normally everywhere.— Erin Law (@erinplaw) October 17, 2022
At this point my husband and I are still pretty confident we can find them because people often BLEED AND NEED TAMPONS. 5/
To keep all of those passengers happy, IST airport has 85 different restaurants and cafes to choose from and as many as 201 different shops including expansive Duty-Free stores and luxury retailers like Cartier, Gucci and Prada.
What the airport doesn’t have, it seems, is a pharmacy or, in fact, anywhere else official where passengers can purchase tampons or other sanitary items.
In a series of tweets, Erin explained how she was passing through IST airport from one long-haul flight to another when she unexpectedly found herself in need of more sanitary items.
“No biggie right? It’s a massive airport. I could buy a $2000 bottle of alcohol, a novelty drone, a romance novel or a souvenir ashtray. Surely, terminal A, B, C, D or F has a TAMPON?” Erin wrote on Monday following her ordeal.
She continued: “But my husband and I can’t find a little convenience store or pharmacy. Which is weird because…well it’s an airport and they are normally everywhere. At this point my husband and I are still pretty confident we can find them because people often BLEED AND NEED TAMPONS.”
“I ask a young guy at a duty free store where a pharmacy is. He says there are none. Because he is rude I ask him where I might get a tampon. He says it’s not possible. I laugh. Because he must just be a silly person. Right?”
Wrong, it would seem.
Her husband had asked a member of staff at an information desk who seemingly confirmed that there wasn’t a shop in the entire airport where passengers could buy sanitary products.
But all hope wasn’t completely lost. Erin and her husband were told to traipse to another information kiosk further away where there might be a vending machine. It turns out that there is no vending machine and instead Erin is asked to call an emergency medical line.
“I feel dumb calling an emergency medical phone because BLEEDING is something I do normally. But I have no choice,” Erin explains.
Someone on the other end of the phone line says he can Erin tampons “as if I’m asking him to hook me up with a line of coke,” she says.
And here I am in a fancy-ass airport, where I bought a $20 magazine, complaining that I don’t have something for my blood because I simply forgot. And I feel ashamed and embarrassed. It is dumb. 21/— Erin Law (@erinplaw) October 17, 2022
But it’s also dumb that by whatever logic Turkey decides to stock their airport, my needs, and the needs of many like me, nearly 50% of the world’s population, don’t count. And not counting, in this fancy airport, or in a small village in Malawi is altogether a big problem. 22/— Erin Law (@erinplaw) October 17, 2022
A man shows up at the information kiosk with pantyliners rather than tampons. Erin has to explain that pantyliners won’t work and that a pad or tampon is needed. The man reassures her that he can get hold of a tampon, but the price has now gone up – this time, Erin must pay $20 in cash.
Finally, Erin gets the tampons and makes it to her connecting gate in time.
“When we arrive at our gate, I, for some dumb reason, feel like crying. I’m shaking. I feel dumb and ashamed. Over my normally boring menstrual period.”
“I think I feel dumb because part of my job is to figure out how to tackle period poverty, to reach girls who can almost never access menstrual hygiene products so they don’t miss school. And they feel shame about their periods and about their bodies and they shouldn’t.”
“All of this to say, I should not be embarrassed, Istanbul airport should be embarrassed. And should fix it. Sell menstrual hygiene products in your airport. Legitimately. I dare you”
The operator of Istanbul Airport has been contacted for comment.
In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments to consider menstruation as a health issue rather than a hygiene issue. The WHO has called on countries to improve access to menstrual products and to normalize menstruation rather than treating it like a taboo subject.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.