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 JustFly.com 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.
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.
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.
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.