Airline Ticket name changes and name corrections can be a chore on the best of days – not to mention that to change a name can sometimes be a painful experience. There are no industry standard for name changes and rules on changing your name are governed by the carriers terms of carriage.
As such, a word of caution as not all airlines are the same when it comes to a name changes. Take for example the student who changed his name by deed poll to avoid the extortionate admin fees on Ryanair.
The Basics on Airline Policies
Name Change vs Name Correction
The term is sometimes used interchangeably by multiple airlines to mean a name correction.
For those airlines who denote a difference, a name change (sometimes referred to as a name transfer) is regarded as an outright change with little to no resemblance to the original name on the issued ticket and many airlines do not permit such changes ever.
A name correction, by its very name, is a correction to account for factors such as a typo or due to a legal reason (such as getting married, for instance).
Is there a wide variation?
There are wide variations to what an airline can charge and there is no consistency between alliances or airlines based in the same country.
To name a few, Delta policy allows for minor corrections to a name where American Airline’s policy splits name corrections into major and minor changes (where the former requires the ticket to be reissued), although for both airlines, changes are allowed only to match TSA guidelines. British Airways guidelines suggest that name changes can only be 3 characters or less whereas its sister airline Iberia states in its policy that changes to only one letter is free (along with a few other free changes) but changes to two letters incurs a EUR 30 charge. Aer Lingus, another IAG company, permits name changes for a fee (£80 or US$157) but name corrections to match your passport are free. On the other side of the world, Singapore Airlines Policy allows any change “within reason” to be done but at a cost of US$30 and Emirates states “reasonable” changes to its tickets can incur £10 or £20 depending on where you booked. However, if by chance you are unfortunate and realise you have an error on your ticket of 4 characters or more at the airport, Ryanair fare schedule states they will charge you £160 to make a change however its rival EasyJet will undertake name corrections (upto 3 characters) for free.
Reasons for a Name Correction
There are certain times when a name correction to the ticket is needed beyond that of a typo. For instance, in America if the passenger has TSA Pre✓, Global Entry, NEXIUS, or SENTRI card and the name submitted on their airline reservation does not have an exact match the pre-clearance will not take effect.
Additionally, name changes due to marriage or divorces are usually permitted as well (however some airlines will charge a fee).
What if you need to do a Name Change?
Some airlines will allow for a name change for a hefty fee (look at Ryanair and Aer Lingus) while some are a more Reasonable like EasyJet and Norwegian. However, some airlines will insist you cancel the booking – taking any cancellation penalties – and make a brand-new reservation. The reason for this is to stop ticket touting and the airline not getting their share of the transaction.
How many times can you change the Name?
Airline policies state that reasonably only one change is allowed and in instances where there are more than one changes to be made, supporting evidence may be required to justify the change.
What to Do?
Assuming you have read the above and understand why this is a complex issue and not easy to generalise into a wholistic “what to do guide” there are certain things you can do to help minimise the damage.
Step One: Gather the Facts
Take a deep breath and gather the information you need to make an informed decision as to what is going on and what route to take. What you need to figure out:
- Find the Airlines policy on Name Changes?
- Figure out how much does it cost to make a change?
- Was the booking made with cash or miles?
- If you booked recently, how many hours has it been?
- If not, how long do you have left?
- Do you have travel insurance?
- How much time do you have?
- Who did you book through?
Find the Airlines policy on Ticket Name Changes and Corrections?
The first and second points are so that you know what you need to have with you and what the rules are for your airline, and if it will cost, how much to do so. Fastest way to find out is look for the carriers change and Cancellations or find Name Change on the web page. Read this section carefully as conditions may vary depending on the circumstances.
Was the booking made with cash or miles?
If you booked with miles, TPG expand on this point stating that bookings on miles can be cancelled with minimal hassle in certain circumstances with the financial penalty reduced if you hold status.
If you booked recently, how many hours has it been?
If you booked (depending on airline policy) 24 to 72 hours ago, some airlines allow outright cancellations of tickets meaning you can rebook – if say you made a massive error.
If not, how long do you have left?
Furthermore, TPG also put some further good advice out as well – they say if you have a bit of time, you can wait to see if the airline make a change to your itinerary (which can happen if you are 8 or 9 months out) you could use that as an excuse to waive your ticket name change fees.
However, in the same vain, if it is getting close to the flight, some airlines require no less than 3 days prior to departure to make the relevant changes, while others only require no less than 2 hours’ notice. The importance is knowing the conditions of carriage of the airline.
Do you have travel insurance?
This one is a very niche one – but could sway in your favour – thisismoney.co.uk writes that if your insurance policy covers such instances (perhaps a death of a family member and need to cut your trip short) you maybe able to claim on insurance.
Who did you book through?
Finally, it is important to know who you booked with. If you went through the airline then their call centres can help (and charge) however if you went through a travel agent, then you are bound also by their fees and must go through them and depending on how reputable the company is, they may have their own ticket name change fees ontop of the airlines.
However, this may work in your favour. Some carriers allow agents to make minor name changes to a client’s reservation without charging an added fee.
Step Two: Reach out to customer support
Once you have an idea on what you need to discuss, have an idea of what it will cost (if any) and how to approach the matter, you need to reach out to the customer service representative (be it the airline or a travel agent) to correct the issue.
Ideally it would be best to use the phone to discuss the matter, however if there is a financial incentive or the airline makes you use a web form then best to use the website or email on first instance.
When discussing the matter over the phone or entering your new correct details check re confirm the name is correct – always best to spell it out using the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Remember: if its not going so well, and especially for low cost carriers, it may be simpler and more cost effective to wipe off the loss and just book a new ticket. If you decide to fly with the same airline DON’T FORGET to cancel your already confirmed booking. If you forget to do this, the booking system can detect a duplicate reservation and can cancel one of the two reservations.
Step Three: Triple check the new ticket
Now that you got your new ticket, check its correct a third time.