It was a tiny error. But a costly one.
Last March, Sharon Mixon bought two tickets from Orlando to Auckland, New Zealand. But a month before departure, she realized that the names on the tickets didn’t exactly match the names on their passports. In today’s travel environment that could have created big problems during their trip. As it turns out, it created big problems before the trip even began.
“We booked flights through Air New Zealand that included a segment on United from Orlando to Houston,” she told us. “The two airlines are partners, but not very cooperative partners. When calling Air New Zealand a month before departure to adjust the names on the tickets — adding a Jr. to one and a maiden name to the other, so the tickets would read exactly the same as our passports — Air New Zealand made the changes and charged a change fee for each ticket from Houston to Auckland. Fair enough.”
Unfortunately, the flight segment from Orlando was another matter.
“Air New Zealand said it was ‘locked out’ of making changes to the United Airlines flights and indicated we would have to call United to get the changes made. We called and were forced to cancel the original tickets and pay over $1,300 for two new ones to get from Orlando to Houston and back.”
She attempted to get a refund of the cost of those new tickets, and what followed was a telling lesson in the complexities of “code-share agreements.“
“We have tried working with United Airlines’ refund department, but it says any refund must come from Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand says funds have to come from United.”
In an email, Air New Zealand explained to her that part of the reason obtaining a refund was problematic.
“Unfortunately we are not able to provide a refund for the original flights between Orlando and Houston as these sectors were part of a ‘sale’ fare which is at a heavily discounted rate, meaning the domestic US flights are effectively added to the itinerary at no extra cost. A direct fare from Houston to Auckland is actually more expensive than the promotional sale fare you purchased for the longer journey from Orlando to Auckland.”
So there you have the good and bad of code-share agreements all in one example. Mixon had scored a terrific deal for her flight, but when she made a mistake, that terrific deal vanished into the complexities of such agreements. Air New Zealand’s agreement with United didn’t allow them to make an adjustment in the names on the tickets for the United portion of the trip, and because the ticket was issued by Air New Zealand, United wouldn’t do it.
The takeaway from this story? Always be absolutely certain that the name on your airplane tickets exactly matches the name on your passport.
Sadly, intervention by our advocates couldn’t help either, so we must file this under Case Dismissed.