Can you change names on airline tickets?

There is almost always a way to correct or change names on an airline ticket.

And it does not have to cost a fortune.

But, having more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, I can tell you that the answer to the question is both airline and situation specific.

Quick summary on how to correct and change names on an airline ticket.
1. Ask airline to correct name free of charge
2. For minor errors, ask for "Ok to travel" confirmation 
3. Ask to correct name against a fee 
4. Cancel booking against fee and rebook with correct name.
5. Click here for Solutions to name errors when all else fails

4 common name errors on airline tickets (with solutions)

Here I will address 4 of the most common name error problems I have come across over the years. I will also present the best ways to go about solving each problem problem.

As a bonus I will include the best way to solve the problem when there is no way to change names on an airline ticket.

1. Fixing minor name errors on airline tickets

It is actually not unusual for travellers to misspell names when booking flight tickets.  

Especially when booking tickets online and late at night. You have to the enter the names, date of birth an maybe even frequent traveller numbers for all travellers in your party. And to make it worse, there is often a clock counting down at the top of the page.

It is easy to see how misspellings can occur.

As a rule, misspellings that do not change the look or sound of your names are to be viewed as less severe. However, it gets more complicated if a new or even unusual sounding name is created.

Compare the below:

Correct nameMisspelled name
Example of how just one wrong letter can create a new name

With all minor spelling errors you should contact the airline or the travel agent. Verify that you can travel on the ticket even though the name is wrong.

Ask for a remark to be entered in your booking with the correct name to avoid discussions at check-in.

And always ask for a confirmation in writing that your ticket is cleared for travel.

2. When you forgot to write all names

If you forgot to write the second part of a double-barrel last name it needs to be corrected.

If you on the other hand omitted to write your third given name, you should not have a problem. But a always, contact the airline or travel agent directly to verify.

Please note: if you travel internationally and visas or travel authorizations are involved, you need to make sure that names match.

3. When you write all names and some names are still missing or cut off!

You book and pay for your ticket and all is well. You may even have received your e-ticket and all looks well. 

But when you login to the airlines website to book your seating you notice that some names are cut off!

You know that you wrote all 38 characters straight from the passport when you booked the ticket. And the order confirmation you received by mail looks fine.

How did this happen?

The simple explanation is that the airline’s name field can only hold a limited number of characters. If too many characters are entered, names need to be shortened according to a certain logic. First the titles are removed (Mr, Ms, Dr. etc), then they look to shorten or omit middle names, etc..

When booking directly with the airline you do not need to worry as the airline’s own name shortening logic is being used.

But, if you book with an online travel agent, do make sure that the name shortening makes sense. And if you are in doubt, contact the airline and travel agent to verify that the ticket is valid for travel.

Running online travel agencies, we had to write our own often airline specific name shortening logic. 

4. Needing to change to a completely different name on airline ticket

Until it happens to you, it may seem strange that a ticket would be booked with the wrong name. But apart from plain and simple mistakes, the top two reasons I have come across are:

Ticket being booked using a nickname instead of proper given name

Common examples include Chris for Christopher, Sam for Samantha or Samuel and of course Bob for Robert as well as other similar types of mistakes.

Here you need to contact the airline or travel agent to have the name corrected. Especially if you are travelling internationally to countries where the connection between nick name and real name is lost ni translation .

Name changes due to marriage

It happens more often than you would think. Ticket is booked using someone’s soon to be married name. But then we forget that the passport did not update automatically.

If you have booked a flight ticket using your maiden name, most airlines will offer to update your ticket if you produce a marriage license or other documentation to prove your claim. 

Best way to fix name changes, errors and misspelled names

1. Ask airline to correct name for free

First, do remember that the travel industry is a service industry. The agents and representatives you contact will try to help you. They want to help you. And they will help you correct or change names on an airline ticket as it is their job to give service.

It is not a sign of incompetence if they cannot fix your name error as quick and easy as you would like. Travel agents have to follow the rules of the airline to avoid fees and penalties being levied against the travel agent at a later date.

Also, speaking from experience, you will receive better and more professional assistance if you describe the situation as it happened.

Having run Online travel agencies I have had to produce server logs to show that we did register the name as it was entered by the traveller. And it is always more fun to assist a customer that is truthful.

2. For minor errors, ask for “Ok to travel” confirmation

For minor errors, a note in your booking showing the correct spelling can be enough to solve the problem. Ask for a remark and the correct spelling of your names to be entered in your booking for the check-in personnel.

This type of remark should be free and do ask for a confirmation in writing. Contact your travel agent or the airline directly to verify.

3. Ask to correct name against a fee

Contact the airline and ask about the possibility to correct the name against a fee. If you booked via a travel agent the airline may ask you to contact them instead.

But always try to get the airline to assist you if possible. The fee will vary with the airline and if you booked via a travel agent they may charge a fee as well. 

4. Cancel booking against fee and rebook with correct name

For tickets that can be cancelled against a fee, you have the option to cancel the booking and rebook with your name spelt correctly.

But do keep in mind that you are not automatically guaranteed to get the same price for your new ticket as you paid for your original ticket.

Name errors and what to do when all else fails

There are airlines with very strict rules. And there are situations where there are no available solutions and/or no time to fix the problem.

So what should you do when it is not possible to correct or change names on an airline ticket?

1. Enter remark in booking

Ask the airline to put a remark with the correct name in the booking and to tag the remark for the attention of the check-in staff.

This is no guarantee, but better than doing nothing if you are going to chance it anyway.

2. Cancel, re-book and learn for the future

Contact the airline and offer to cancel booking against a penalty. Offer to rebook paying the difference in price for your new ticket.

Now this is not a cheap solution. But, I have had online customers opt for this solution when for example 1 out of 4 tickets are affected and the family cruise holiday is at stake.

Now, the lesson to be learned is to take great care next time you book. Be careful choosing the correct month of the year but also when you enter passenger names. Needless to say, this also applies if you are sending passenger details to your travel agent by email.

Pleae note: whenever visas or entry requirements are involved it is important to enter correct and matching passenger information.

Finally, no one likes to pay extra fees. But it is better to fix the problem straight away. After all, the alternative is to risk being denied boarding at the airport and loosing all that money you spent on tickets with that ultra luxury cruise liner.

Bonus: Understanding naming principles

The following 5 principles hold true for all types of name errors, misspelling and name changes. Some may sound like really bad news, but as you have seen above, we do have suggested solutions for all situations.

1. Names should match passport

The main rule for names on airline tickets is quite simple. Passenger names on airline tickets should match the names on the passport or approved identity card used for travel.

If names exceed the maximum number of allowed characters, the airline’s reservation system will shorten the names, usually starting with the title or pronoun, then middle names where possible and so on.

You should always enter all names per passport when boking an airline ticket.

2. Last names or family names are more important

Generally speaking, name errors affecting your last name are more likely to cause problems than first names or middle names. 

But again, include all names per your passport when booking your ticket.

3. Airline tickets for international travel have a lower tolerance for errors

Name errors and misspellings on tickets for international travel are more likely to cause problems if not corrected.

Even a slight name variation on your ticket can cause problems. Especially if, for example, visas contain name records with different spellings.

4. The airline’s rules to name corrections always apply

The airline decides what is possible and what is not. The airline will also stipulate if a fee is payable.

Yes, even if you have booked through a travel agent, the agent must follow the rules of the airline.

Each ticket or fare basis has its own set of rules. But for the most part, the rules for name changes is the same for all tickets in a given cabin class for any given airline. 

And yes, this means that there are most likely stricter rules in Economy compared to Business or First Class.

5. More difficult to change and correct names with mixed airlines

The airline you booked your ticket with is not necessarily flying all legs on your booked itinerary.

Let me give you an example: If you fly across the Atlantic you could for example have a Delta ticket where AIr France or KLM flies some legs or parts of the journey.

And for many airlines, rules permitting name changes are different and do not include tickets where at least one flight in the booking is operated by a partner airline.

A good example of this principle would be Scandinavian Airlines. Here name change is allowed for the equivalent of less than USD 50. But not if a flight is operated by a Star Alliance partner.

Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..