Can you change names on an airline ticket? - Cruise Trail

Can you change names on an airline ticket?

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

And it does not have to cost a fortune.

Here I will address some of the more common name problems I have come across over the years. I will also present the best ways to go about solving the problems.

1. Five guiding principles with regards to name errors, misspellings and travel

The following five principles hold true for all types of name errors, misspelling and name changes. Some may sound like really bad news, and they can be. But the good news is that we do offer suggested solutions for all situations.

Name should match passport

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

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 and middle names. 

International tickets

Name errors and misspellings on international tickets 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.

The airline’s rules apply

The airline decides what is possible and what is not, and if fees are applicable. Even if you have booked through a travel agent, they 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 of any given airline. 

More difficult with mixed airlines

For most airlines where name changes are allowed it does 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 20. But not if a flight is operated by a Star Alliance partner.

2. Misspelled name on flight ticket and how to fix minor name errors

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

Especially when booking tickets online and late at night. Names need to be entered for several travellers. And to make it worse there is often a clock counting down at the top of the page.

Misspellings that do not change the look or sound of your names are to be viewed as less severe. However, it is more serious if a new or unusual sounding name is created.

Compare the below:

Correct nameMisspelled name
JoeJooe
JoeJoel
Example of how just one 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.

3. 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 you need to verify with the airline.

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

4. 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 your order confirmation 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 more are entered names need to be shortened according to a certain logic. First we remove the title (Mr, Ms, Dr. etc), then we look at middle names, etc..

However, this can happen if the travel agent you booked with had no name shortening logic in place.

5. When you need to change names on an 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 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 and Sam for Samantha or similar types of mistakes.

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.

6.  Solutions to get that misspelled name changed or corrected

First, the travel industry is a service industry. The agents and representatives you contact will try to help you. 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 had imagined. Travel agents have to follow the rules of the airline to avoid fees and penalties.

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.

Solution 1: If you have booked a flight ticket using your maiden name some airlines will offer to update your ticket if you produce a marriage license to prove your claim. 

Solution 2: Often a note in your booking showing the correct spelling can be enough. To put a remark in your booking should be free and ask for confirmation in writing. Contact your travel agent or the airline directly to verify.

Solution 3: 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. 

7. Solution when all else fails

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

So what to do when it is not possible to change names on an airline ticket? There are two options 

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.

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 customers opt for this solution where 1 out of 4 tickets are affected and the family holiday is at stake.

Now, the lesson to be learned is to take great care next time you book. Also when you enter passenger names. Needless to say this also applies if you are sending passenger details to your travel agent by email.

Further, 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.

Meet the Author

Mattias has nearly 2 decades of travel industry expertise, working with cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, IT providers, hospitality suppliers and everything else in between that makes the travel industry tick. more..