Those four missing letters on your child’s airline ticket will cost you $2,000

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By | July 9th, 2017

Damon Terzaghi plans a trip to New Zealand to introduce his recently born child to his family. When making the reservations, he mistakenly uses his stepson’s nickname on one of the four tickets. Of course, it doesn’t match the name on his stepson’s passport.

The difference is only four letters — “Nico” instead of “Nicholas” — but Air New Zealand says his only recourse is to cancel all four tickets and pay $2,000 in change fees to rebook them correctly. Can our advocates persuade Air New Zealand to bend its rules?

Terzaghi’s case is one that we’ve seen a lot recently. It reinforces the axiom we preach nearly ad nauseam: Make sure that all of the information on your booking is correct before you hit the “Enter” key.

Our advocates are generally sympathetic in cases like this, but usually the outcomes are not positive. Rarely are we able to persuade an airline, hotel or event ticket company to give our readers a break.

Terzaghi booked his tickets through Kayak.com, which routed him to JustFly.com. This further complicated his case. On our website, we strongly urge our readers not to use a third party to book airfare. Doing so makes it much more difficult to resolve issues when they arise.

“I spoke with Air New Zealand on their customer service line several times,” Terzaghi says. “I used the ‘contact’ form on their website and I emailed the corporate contacts that I found on your website.”

That’s a good thing.

In his polite and concise letter to Air New Zealand, he even fell on his sword, telling them, “I recognize that this is my own mistake and understand that there might be some change fee associated with the correction. However, I have been unable to secure any kind of resolution. When speaking with your representatives, they say that I must make the change through the website used to book the tickets.”

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Even when our advocate contacted Air New Zealand, it stood firm in its denial of our request.

Names on international bookings must align with the name on the passport, for security and legal reasons.

While we are able to make changes to names on bookings that only involve travel on Air New Zealand operated services, we are unable to make changes to names on tickets for any flight that is operated by another airline. In this case we require the ticket to be cancelled and a new one issued.

Should a booking that includes other airlines be made via a travel agent, the customer will need to contact their travel agent who will follow the same steps outlined above to correct the name error.

In his case, that is a double whammy. His return flight to Washington National is operated by United, and his travel agent is JustFly.

He contacted JustFly, again using the contacts on our website. JustFly informed him that his only option was to cancel all four tickets and rebook the entire trip at the cost of $500 per ticket, or $2,000. To make matters worse, it said he may also have to pay any fare differential between his original fare and the new one.

A $2,000 change fee is a big hit for anyone, but especially for a family with young children. Unfortunately, we have no relationship with JustFly, and they typically ignore our emails.

Despite our best efforts, neither Air New Zealand nor JustFly is willing to help him or provide another, less costly option. For those reasons, we were left with no choice other than to dismiss his case.

Related story:   Yes, you can be stopped at the gate because of a damaged passport

This is an expensive lesson for Terzaghi and his family, and I wish there was something more we could do.



  • LDVinVA

    It is just plain WRONG to charge anyone $2000 for what is essentially a typo. Yes, the LW should have exercised more care – we all need to – but, come on!

  • Kristiana Lee

    Why can’t they cancel and rebook just the ticket with the wrong name. Why do they have to rebook all four?

  • LeeAnneClark

    This one makes me cry. SO SO wrong. Offensive and disgusting. Nothing but a money grab. This should not be legal.

    And why ALL FOUR TICKETS?? That makes no sense to me at all.

    Now excuse me while I go sit in the corner and have a good cry. :-(

  • Why not have him as a no show on that one ticket and book him a new set of tickets and have them linked?

  • Alan Gore

    Name change fees are the single biggest ripoff in the travel field, and unfortunately for cases like this nothing will change until we nail them to the wall with legislation. Where’s the swamp-draining that we were being promised with the new administration and Congress?

    Air New Zealand, of course, does not actually have to cancel a reservation and make a new one. It’s a $25 or so change to one field in the existing passenger record, and that’s about what it should cost.

  • Alan Gore

    Because the carrier is making them go through the entirely unnecessary exercise of canceling and rebooking. A baby cannot travel alone, so the whole party has to do it simultaneously.

    I would love to see a riot at an airport over something like this.

  • Jeff W.

    While, in theory, you could just cancel and rebook the single ticket with error, that too, has its risks. If there are complications with the flights that require re-booking (weather, cancellations, delays, etc…), three passengers will be on one reservation and the infant will be on another. Which introduces the chance that the baby will be rebooked on a different flight than the rest of the family.

    And yes, while different reservations can be linked, we are dealing with multiple entities here. Kayak, JustFly, Air New Zealand, United. Anyone of which could make an error. And should that occur, trying to sort through the mess at an airport during the delay is the worst possible time.

  • Altosk

    Once again, the airlines will do whatever they want because they are deep in Congress’ pockets.

  • Jeff W.

    Perhaps, except that the airline in question is Air New Zealand. So not sure how that airline is deep in pockets of Congress.

  • Rebecca

    Of course I find this outrageous. But I also think JustFly isn’t getting enough negativity here. They’re really a terrible company. I’d bet that even if Air New Zealand was willing to change the ticket, JustFly would tell the customer to shove it and insist he pay anyway. A quick google shows how awful JustFly really is.

    This keeps coming up, but that $28 fee for a similar problem on another airline is really the most fair, reasonable solution. Enough to make it a hassle and discourage people not double checking, and also enough to cover the overhead the airline is outlaying to correct name errors.

  • Annie M

    The change fees are ridiculous but he could have corrected this if he had fixed it within 24 hours of booking. Didn’t he check his confirmation?

  • Annie M

    It’s not a typo- he typed in a nickname.

  • Annie M

    Because they were all in the same PNR. He might have been better off just buying a new ticket for the misspelled child’s name.

  • RightNow9435

    Right. He should buy a new ticket for the baby, and let the original ticket stay unused. Gotta be the cheaper route.

  • RightNow9435

    That is EXACTLY what he should do….one new ticket

  • BubbaJoe123

    Problem is, then you’ve got a solo ticket for an infant.

  • BubbaJoe123

    While this does seem extreme, if you’re dealing with a codeshare ticket booked through a travel agent, that’s a lot of parties involved, none of which has the power to fix it without the authorization of the others. UA can’t make changes to a ANZ ticket booked on their plane, and ANZ can’t make changes without taking the ticket away from JustFly.

  • LDVinVA

    I said ESSENTIALLY a typo – I consider this to have been a mental typo.

  • Annie M

    Of course they could have done that but now that the airlines have to refund a ticket within 24 hours, they are going to make that up with change fees. No good deed goes unpunished in the airline industry.

  • Lindabator

    because it is an infant ticket — what they CAN do is divide off one adult with the infant and just do those two tickets – but that is JustFly’s responsibility – and if they were a REAL travel agent, they could appeal to their sales agent, and see what sort of resolution they could get – such as a waiver of the change fee

  • Lindabator

    infant HAS to be attached to an adult ticket — what they SHOULD do is divide one adult with the infant from the booking and change THOSE two tickets – but the agent should be handling, as they can approach their sales rep for a waiver of the fee

  • Lindabator

    what most do not realize is the infant ticket MUST be attached to an adult — what SHOULD be done is divide one adult and the infant off and let the other two tickets stand — and if their “agent” actually handled this, and contacted their sales rep, they COULD get a waiver for the change fee, so he might not be hit by such a large price differential

  • Lindabator

    not once a ticket is issued – and infant tickets MUST be attached to an adult travelling on the same PNR. What the “agent” should have done is divide one adult and the infant, let the other two stand, contact their sales rep and see if they could get a waiver for the change fee – then just re-issue correction for two tickets

  • Lindabator

    again – INFANT ticket MUST have an adult ticket attached, so two tickets get the hit — but the “agent” should be handling this

  • Lindabator

    which is not allowed

  • Lindabator

    infant must be attached to the adult – but there is a way to do this which will not make such an impact — but of course, the AGENT should be handling this (as a travel agent, a real one, I just do NOT understand how these OTAs get away with such a lack of standard service to the client – shameful!)

  • Attention All Passengers

    Then let (only) one adult with infant buy a new ticket and let that adult and infant basically be a “no-show” on the original PNR with 4 persons on it. No airline can question why someone did not use a reservation/ticket.

  • Attention All Passengers

    One solution might be for one of the adults + infant just book new tickets and essentially be a “no-show” on the other ticket. There is NOTHING the airline can do to stop this method; people book and don’t show up all the time. Yes, they’ve lost the price of a ticket but better one adult + infant fare than three adults + one infant.

  • Lindabator

    but JustFly has the resolution at hand – a sales rep that can waive fees, etc – just that they do not CARE once the ticket is booked

  • Attention All Passengers

    That’s ridiculous. The TSA DOES KNOW THIS HAPPENS. We are bucking heads with a system made up of ignorant, non-thinking morons. Technically any airline agent is not just going to “change” the spacing on the ticket – it constitutes a name change and puts a wrench into the whole ticket (needs refaring, rebooking) etc. So if you have managed to find an agent that can do this and not mess up the whole booking and faring, than there is no reason why all agents at any airline should not be able to fix an infant ticket along with everyone else on the PNR.

  • Alan Gore

    From a technical standpoint this whole business of rebooking, ‘dividing off’ another passenger to allow rebooking the infant, etc. is total barn fertilizer. It’s a data change in one non-index field. And informing other carriers in a codeshare is technically just a directive for them to update the field, not another excuse for costly cancellation and rebooking. I suppose it creates work for a lot of procedure-following office workers who would otherwise have to go out and find real jobs.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Exactly.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Presumably, the ANZ sales rep would have to also get UA on board with the change as well, no?

    As for not caring, well, they’re really not being paid for that.

  • BubbaJoe123

    That’s bizarre, since that happens to me on every Delta flight – my name is John David Smith, and my boarding pass always says Johndavid Smith. TSA never bats an eye.

  • BubbaJoe123

    That’s assuming that you can get two roundtrips to NZ from <$2k, which might not be the case. Agreed, that's something they should explore.

  • Alan Gore

    If we can fix this problem with our domestic carriers, we can then make US landing rights for foreign carriers contingent on their following our new mandated policy. Passengers around the world will benefit.

  • joycexyz

    Ah, the OTA mess. But I fail to understand why the entire party must be rebooked. The child needs to travel with one adult only.

  • joycexyz

    Mistake #1–entering a nickname. Mistake #2–not double-checking before hitting the Buy button. Mistake #3–not checking the confirmation, or thinking it didn’t matter. But the punishment definitely does not fit the crime.

  • joycexyz

    It’s a so-called security issue. They apparently are free to call anything a security issue and get away with highway robbery.

  • LonnieC

    Wow! So this is what the air industry has come to. And the current administration thinks there is too much regulation….

  • RightNow9435

    and definitely the operative phrase there is “so-called”……and usually invoked as a money grab

  • Grace

    Fees should be charged in accordance with the COST to the airline—-this is ridiculous when a simple computer input could correct it. Well, I’ll never fly that airline. I think I would have tried to board anyway and hope the employees didn’t notice. I have a hyphenated last name which is often printed out incorrectly by the airline—sometimes it looks like a middle name and last name—and I’ve never had a problem boarding.

  • jsn55

    I must be missing something. Four tix. One is wrong. Why buy four new tix? Why not buy one new tix with the legal name? WHEN will people stop using these online booking agencies to purchase travel?

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