Uh-oh: passenger says United.com doesn’t like hyphenated names

United Airlines’ Web site may have hit a glitch over the weekend, and if you have hyphenated last name, it could affect you. Reader Char James-Tanny reports trying to buy a ticket through United.com, but having the reservation stall when she tried to pay. A company representative told her the problem was on the back end of the reservations system, and was being fixed.

“I went through the ‘find a flight’ process and selected the flights I wanted,” she explains. “But when I got to the payment screen, I got a message that my information couldn’t be processed.”

The information had been auto-filled, since she’s a frequent flier. “I couldn’t get the message that I would be paying for my ticket until I removed the hyphen from my last name, but then it couldn’t process the payment because the last name on the form didn’t match the last name on my credit card,” she explained.

Fortunately, a call to United eventually cleared everything up.

United has made a change to their site “innards” and the problem was with my last name. I maxed out the number of times I could try to process payment, and then called United. They were very nice and very apologetic about my problems and processed my payment immediately. So the good news is that I have my tickets!

I’ve contacted United to see if this problem has been fixed. In the meantime, all you hyphenates out there, watch those dashes when you book on United.com.

Update (11/27): United’s response to this problem is to advise passengers to not use a hyphen in their last name.

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Update (12/19): I’ve had a subsequent conversation with a United about this issue. It turns out this is a problem with the GDS (reservations system) used by United, not United.com. I’m told the GDS has a problem with hyphens, and that this is not a new issue, as James-Tanny claims.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • same with American Airlines, I’ve been married 25 years and hyphenated my name. I cannot print a boarding pass or get an electronic ticket on my AA app. It has to be printed at the airport. I feel like I’m living in the dark ages. Nor do they ever put me on an upgrade list, even though I’m platinum.

  • Chris

    I have argued about this for a week with my airline (of course I can’t be bothered anymore – life’s too short). Their response is that it’s a feature of the booking systems they use and they can’t do anything about it. It seems those responsible for booking systems make their own rules and are shielded from customer feedback by the airlines that customers have to deal with.

    So my bookings require me to remove the hyphen from my name and so does my membership card. But when a booking is made by a travel agent using my real name, I can’t see that booking because my name doesn’t match what my airline insists on calling me.

    The booking system is the product of fools and the airlines don’t care.

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