My name is Palmer — not Talmer. Why should that cost me $400?

Gary Palmer’s story is yet another tale of price-gouging by travel companies following a name error on an air ticket. He would like to know why he should have to pay $400 for a new ticket instead of having a new ticket issued with his name corrected, especially since he wasn’t responsible for the error.

I wish I knew the answer to Palmer’s question. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that name change fees are among the most lucrative streams of revenue for airlines – and among the most hated by travelers. Unfortunately, these fees show no sign of disappearing. His story is a cautionary tale to immediately follow up if you don’t receive a booking confirmation within 24 hours and to check your name with the utmost caution before confirming a flight reservation.

Palmer booked a ticket on Air Canada through online travel site from St. Louis to London-Heathrow Airport via Toronto to visit his mother. Rather than using JustFly’s website to book the flight, Palmer spoke to a JustFly agent over the telephone, whom he claims “was difficult to understand [because of] a thick accent.” But he never received an email confirmation for his flight.

After a few weeks, Palmer called JustFly to follow up. The agent to whom he spoke told him that he should have received a confirmation of the flight by email within 24 hours of booking it and Palmer should have looked for it. Palmer then asked the agent what email the confirmation had been sent to. It turned out that the confirmation had been sent to the wrong email address — a nonexistent one — and had been booked in the name of Gary Talmer.

Related story:   The name on my ticket does not match my passport. Will this be a problem?

When Palmer asked the agent to issue him a corrected ticket, the agent insisted that he could not do that as the ticket was nonrefundable. Palmer responded that he was not asking for a refund, but a corrected ticket. The agent replied that only Air Canada could fix his ticket.

Palmer then called Air Canada’s customer service. After two hours on hold, Air Canada’s agent told Palmer that JustFly was responsible for correcting his ticket and “JustFly should never have told him to call Air Canada.” But when Palmer called JustFly back, its agents reiterated that they could not correct his ticket because it was nonrefundable.

Finally, a JustFly agent agreed to call Air Canada on Palmer’s behalf. She put him on hold. According to Palmer, when the agent returned to the call, “she was congratulating me because Air Canada would offer me a refund on my original ticket and I could rebook my flight. The congratulations were because she said the airlines don’t normally do this.”

But Palmer didn’t want to cancel and rebook his ticket. He wanted a corrected ticket. Air Canada charged Palmer $200 for a fare change and $50 for a “ticket fee.” JustFly also charged him a fee of $150 to change the ticket.

When Palmer returned from his trip, he called JustFly yet again, but JustFly continued to insist that its name change fee was reasonable and that Palmer should have canceled and rebooked his flight.

Although Palmer might have appealed to higher-level executives of JustFly and Air Canada using our executive contacts, he contacted our advocates for assistance in getting the $400 in fees that he incurred in changing his ticket refunded. At our suggestion, he posted in our forum about his case.

Related story:   Air Canada refunds ticket and hotel bill -- even though it didn't have to

Unfortunately for Palmer, JustFly spells out in its terms and conditions that the airline tickets it sells are nonrefundable unless otherwise stated and that it charges a $150 fee to change names on tickets:

All reservations are non-refundable unless otherwise stated. If you find that you must cancel a reservation for any reason, please contact us. We will do all we can to assist you in this process. However, please be aware that even if your cancellation is allowed and your reservation is thus refundable, it is subject to a cancellation fee of $150.00 per passenger for international flights …

Please be aware that once you have made a reservation, name changes are not allowed. If you find you need to change or correct the spelling of a name after you’ve made a reservation, you will have to cancel your original reservation—if allowed—and then make a new reservation with a new flight at the then-current rate using the correct spelling of the name. This will likely incur fees and penalties. Therefore, it is imperative—and your responsibility—to verify the spelling of the names of all passengers before making your reservation.

So JustFly’s charging him to change the name on his ticket, while questionable customer service at best, is consistent with its terms and conditions.

Air Canada’s international tariff does not specifically address fees for name changes on tickets, but contains the following language:

Secure Flight Data

(1) As a result of the United States Transportations Security Administration’s (TSA) secure flight program, Air Canada requires all passengers flying to, from, via or over the United States, for non-domestic flights, to provide the following secure flight information at time of booking:

a) Full name as it appears on the passport (mandatory); …

Failure to provide secure flight information at time of booking may result in the booking being canceled. No compensation will be given for bookings cancelled as a result of failure to provide secure flight information on time, but canceled bookings may be refunded subject to applicable fare rule.

This provision suggests that Palmer’s booking could have been canceled by Air Canada, but because it was nonrefundable, Palmer would have had to pay for a new ticket.

Related story:   CheapOair said my girlfriend didn't need a visa -- but she did

Although our advocates contacted JustFly on Palmer’s behalf, neither we nor Palmer ever heard from JustFly. We regrettably consider his story a Case Dismissed.

Should airlines or travel agencies be legally prohibited from charging fees to change names on air tickets resulting from their own errors?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • Bill___A

    Although reasonable name corrections (not changes) should be accommodated, this to me appears to be a story about a travel agency and their customer unable to converse properly over the phone. I made a reservation just last night for my mother She got the email for it while we were still on the phone. Everything is correct and she will be fine. She knows how much it cost, where she’s going, it is exactly what she wanted.

    When you are on the phone and they can’t spell you name back to you (either because they can’t understand you or you can’t understand them) then this is the wrong way to be making something where spelling, grammar,and correctness are important.

    There were several failures here, from the travel agency and from the person who booked the trip.

  • AJPeabody

    The only reasons to use a third party to book a flight are either convenience or saving money. I suspect using the phone to give information to a clerk with a thick accent is not convenient, and the OP surely did not save money with this fiasco. I wager the OP will do things differently on his next trip.

  • sirwired

    “name change fees are among the most lucrative streams of revenue for airlines ”

    For starters, the provided link talks about “Cancellation/Change” fees; it doesn’t mention how much of that consists of name change fees. I kinda doubt it’s that much. In addition, even the larger set of fees only qualifies as “pretty lucrative” if you consider 2.2% of total revenues (1Q’16 AA as an example) as “pretty lucrative”. I wouldn’t.

    But to answer the actual question: Yes, if a travel agent screws up a booking, they should eat any costs involved for fixing it. I’d be filing a credit card dispute against the agency if I were him.

  • DChamp56

    Yes, but within a reasonable amount of time. Maybe the latest you can do it is 48 hours before flight.

  • JewelEyed

    I think it would have to be farther in advance because of TSA pre-flight checks, no?

  • Altosk

    JustFly…another company not to do business with. Noted!

  • PsyGuy

    “Just Fly”, never heard of them, foreign call center, and no email confirmation. Why do PAX still do this, to save a couple bucks (and let’s be honest that’s all it is is a couple bucks). Why would anyone have entered into this transaction, if you can’t at least do it on the computer where you the PAX have some control. Why did this PAX continue to fly? I would have called my bank and disputed the charge and say i have no idea who this Talmer guy is, and then booked the flight over a more reliable transaction portal.

  • PsyGuy

    They will probably change their name in 6 months to something else.

  • Rebecca

    I had a company travel agent do this to me. She spoke perfect English and I only communicated via email, so it was simply a matter of my very long last name causing a problem – one letter was mistyped. It always does because of the apostrophe; I’m well versed in this issue. Despite me trying to correct it numerous times, they assured me it was fine. Then the grouchy TSA agent on a power trip stopped me in security. Fortunately, I had anticipated this, and went back to the Southwest counter, where the agent apologized for the grouchy TSA lady, made a few jokes, updated it, and I was on my way.

    I know if this was another airline, Spirit for example, this wouldn’t have happened. I go out of my way to fly Southwest (I’m originally from the south side of Chicago so I flew out of there a lot and now fly in a lot) because of their excellent service. I absolutely will pay a bit more, even though it’s usually not more with no bag fees, to fly a nonstop Southwest flight.

  • Alan Gore

    In here we already know to avoid Air Canada, but booking AC through a fishy OTA is asking for tr – no, it’s advertising on a freeway billboard for trouble.

    And yes, Southwest rules. Why can’t the poor Canadians have an airline like this?

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Maybe this is a reason to sign up for loyalty programs. Not for the points, which may end up worthless, but for the peace of mind in checking travel info is correct in the travel provider’s computer system.

  • polexia_rogue

    how about this remove the ability to call. every single issue (I have even had issues with tech support on travel sites) is that YES these people speak English but accents distort ALOT. make the only means of interaction web based. so 1. if something goes wrong it’s entirely the user’s fault and 2. if you need support you can open a chat where you can easily take a screen cap.

  • The Original Joe S

    On Line Travel? Says it all, hah?

  • The Original Joe S

    I wouldda paid more attention in Ænglish grammar class if I were he! Ha ha ha ha!

    Yup! Charge-back if they don’t fix it.

  • The Original Joe S

    Flying Something-or-Other?

  • The Original Joe S

    That is a good procedure, I’d say.

  • The Original Joe S


  • The Original Joe S

    You send e-mail, and they entered it wrong? THEIR FAULT!

  • The Original Joe S

    Air Canada is a subservient flunky to Untied…….

  • DChamp56

    Could be… I would have thought they could do that in 48 hours.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Spelling errors should definitely be honored. Of course changing from Smith to Jones is obvious but the difference between a “T” and a “P” ??? Ridiculous. We are at the mercy of third party foreigners who do not speak our language (vernacular) or understand the King’s English !! Horrible…..just book everything online yourself where YOU fill-in your personal data – DIRECTLY WITH HOTELS AND AIRLINE WEBSITES – not some call center on the other side of the world !

  • cscasi

    You should also receive a confirmation email almost immediately after booking a flight, hotel or rental car. With international itineraries, the airlines still send you a confirmation of making a reservation email but it might be a hour, tow or three before you get the confirmation of ticketing (depending on whether more than one airline in involved) along with the e-ticket numbers.
    It just goes to show that one has to double check everything before hitting the submit button or if on the telephone, have the agent spell out your name letter by letter to ensure you do not get a ticket with an incorrectly spelled name.

  • PsyGuy

    “Duck Travel”

  • jim6555

    The change will be from Justfly to JustFees.

  • JewelEyed

    I wouldn’t count on it. It’s the government.

  • greg watson

    If JustFly deliberately changes the spelling of someones name, is that $150 change fee, additional money in their pockets ? Easy way to profit ??

  • John McDonald

    my name is Obama not Osama (& neither of us is dead, it just appears that way)

  • John McDonald

    name changes in any form are accommodated by many airlines. Have changed my name on non-refundable ticket a few times & given or sold ticket to a friend. No big deal.

  • John McDonald

    I used to fly Australia to USA 6 to 10 times a year for business. I had to pay for these myself, as self employed & knew roughly when I needed to fly. Usually I stayed 5-7 nights.
    So when airlines had big sales like AUD$700(USD$525) return SYD to LAX, I would book many or all of these at one time. Some OZ/USA return, some USA/OZ return, so it gave me maximum flexibility.
    So I might spend AUD$7k for 10 return tickets, knowing full well, I might not use 2 or 3 of them.
    A few tickets I gave to a friend, who brought me back as much duty free booze as he could carry.
    Other tickets I put on ebay & (an ebay owned site in Australia) & sold them for $400-$500 including name change fee.
    Other people I know, doing similar flights to USA, would book only 2-4 weeks out & pay $1500-$2000 for same flights as mine, because they weren’t very organised. So they spent say $10,500-$14000 for 7 return trips & I would spent $7000 & maybe get $1000 or more back from tickets I couldn’t use.
    The other people, might get a few more frequent flyer points, but I have more than I will ever use & give them to relatives anyway. The airlines love & hate me. Love me as I usually fly with same airline, hate me as I buy the cheapest tickets I can. I even got an upgrade once to business class. The check in person said, seeing you fly so much with us (they were overbooked in economy)

  • Bill___A

    Keep Southwest Airlines to yourselves, we don’t need them in Canada, thank you very much. They aren’t the worst but they aren’t the best either. This whole thing was in no part Air Canada’ fault. Granted, obvious name corrections should be allowed and that should be addressed, but a questionable travel agency entering data booked by a traveler who could not be bothered to check his ticket for weeks is not primarily an airline problem. Air Canada generally allows cancellations for no fee within 24 hours, and in my experience (and I have a lot of experience), this is plenty of time to verify things.

  • Alan Gore

    Palmer was unable to call within the 24-hour window because he didn’t get a confirmation. That being the case, Air Canada had no business being so tightassed about a record change that would cost it absolutely nothing.

  • joycexyz

    And if you can’t understand the agent, you can bet he or she can’t understand you either. It’s not being rude to ask for someone else. Also, when spelling the name, remember that many letters can sound the same (like “P” and “T”), so use the phonetic alphabet (“A” as in Abel, “B” as in Baker…). Should help.

  • The Original Joe S

    I don’t wanna go to OZ. I can’t understand ‘Strine………

  • John McDonald

    you should go soon, as it’s getting cheaper by the day

  • Lindabator

    even Southwest stopped that – you cannot just change a name – it IS a big deal

  • Lindabator

    correct – MOST tickets do NOT allow a name change at all

  • John McDonald

    so Southwest is not on list of “many airlines”.
    U.S. airlines are hardly the centre of the universe.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.