Another lost honeymoon. Who is to blame here?

Jason Clements and his new wife planned the perfect honeymoon in Ireland, including tickets from Phoenix to Dublin via Philadelphia on American Airlines and British Airways, purchased through the online travel site CheapOair (a brand of Fareportal). They even purchased trip protection insurance. But they didn’t get to take the trip – or receive a refund for their airfares.

Clements wants to know who is responsible for his lost honeymoon and whether he can get back the airfares and other costs he forfeited. His story is a reminder to always make sure that all details of a booking are correct before confirming it, and to do so in advance of your trip, not when it is under way.

Clements’ story began when he checked his booking from CheapOair, as he and his wife were on their way to the Phoenix airport to begin their honeymoon. At that time he discovered that his name was listed on his reservation as “Jay Clements” rather than as “Jason Clements.”

Don’t worry, CheapOair’s agent reassured him. Clements could have the ticket corrected at check-in at the Phoenix airport.

Except he couldn’t. Both American Airlines and British Airways informed Clements that CheapOair would have to correct the ticket. And neither airline allowed him to board his flight to Philadelphia.

Clements then called back CheapOair. Its agent told Clements that CheapOair could not correct the ticket, but it could sell him a new one for $2,000. Then, on a subsequent call, it upped the price of a new ticket to $2,500 – after both American Airlines and British Airways again refused to help, insisting that it was CheapOair’s error to fix.

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By this time, Clements’ and his wife’s baggage was on a plane bound for Philadelphia – without them on it. They canceled their honeymoon and returned home.

“I have never worked with a company with so little compassion for someone with an urgent matter,” says Clements.

Clements asked CheapOair, American Airlines and British Airways for a full refund of his airfares. Although he claims that a British Airways agent told him he could expect a refund, he did not receive one from either airline or from CheapOair. He also found that his situation was not covered by his trip protection insurance.

Clements then turned to our advocacy team for assistance in securing a refund of his airfares. (Executive contact information for all three companies is available on our website.) He also initiated a chargeback.

But was it the airlines’ fault or CheapOair’s fault that Clements wasn’t able to go on his honeymoon?

Certainly CheapOair and the airlines should have gotten Clements’ name right on his tickets. But Clements should have made sure that his name was correct before confirming his booking with CheapOair — and should have contacted CheapOair to correct the error immediately upon discovering it. But the first time he contacted CheapOair to check his booking was on the way to the airport – far too late in the booking process.

CheapOair’s terms and conditions provide that for instances of human error,

If any of our agents make a mistake in the booking process we shall make reasonable attempts to rectify these errors at the time of occurrence. CheapOair stands committed to providing compensation up to a maximum of the entire service fees that CheapOair has collected for that booking in addition to a $50 coupon as redemption towards purchases from CheapOair within 12 months in the future. You must notify us of errors within 24 hours of receiving your itinerary. Beyond this 24 hour period, CheapOair will not be responsible for these errors.

It also indicates that

Most of our airline tickets, hotels, pre-paid car rentals, vacation packages and service fees are non-refundable after 24 hours of booking. … All cancellations must be done over the phone only. We can accept refund requests only if the following conditions have been met:

  • you have applied for a cancellation and refund with us and if the fare rules provide for cancellation and refunds;
  • you are not a “no show” (most “no show” bookings are in-eligible for any waiver from suppliers for refund processing); and
  • we are able to secure waivers from suppliers to process this requested cancellation and refund.

So had Clements notified CheapOair within 24 hours of booking his flights that his name was incorrect on his tickets, he would have been entitled to a refund of CheapOair’s fees and a $50 coupon, plus a refund of his airfares – if they were refundable.

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Unfortunately for Clements, his reservation confirmation indicated that his tickets were nonrefundable and that a name change was not permitted.

Our advocates advised Clements to pursue an exception to British Airways’ nonrefundability policy by writing to British Airways using our executive contacts, starting with their customer relations form and escalating his complaint up the corporate ladder to the appropriate executive at each level after giving each respective executive a week to respond. We also invited him to post in our forums about his case and asked him to let us know the results of his contacts with British Airways. As of this writing we have not yet heard back from Clements, but we have offered to advocate his case if he does not receive the exception.

Should we advocate for Jason Clements if he does not receive an exception from British Airways?

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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.

  • PsyGuy

    “Cheap O Air” name says it all.
    I feel sorry for the couple, and the airlines and their OTA was uncompassionate, but you have to share the responsibility when it’s partially yours, and check all the data on your purchase, and travel documents. The day of is not the time to sort these out.

  • Bill___A

    I am pretty sure I know who typed the word “Jay” instead of the word “Jason” into Cheapo Air. Although it is ridiculous that it is difficult or impossible to change this, as it is quite easy to see it is probably a nickname, I would be very hesitant to pin this one on cheapo air. Unless one hasn’t flown in the past 15 years or so, one should be well aware of the need to have the names correct. I did tick the box to have this advocated for them not because the airlines were at fault for the mistake, but because they are at fault for not having a fix for a simple and straightforward problem. And because the Elliott team is better at securing refunds generally.

  • finance_tony

    Although it wouldn’t abdicate his responsibility to check the name on the ticket, I wonder where the name change actually occurred. Did he type “Jay” into the site online when purchasing the tickets? If so, how could anyone be to blame but himself?

    On the other hand, if he had correctly booked as “Jason” and some agent manually swiveled over to BA to purchase the ticket and retyped it “Jay,” then he would at least have an argument.

  • Alan Gore

    My take also. Fixing a name in a PNR is an update-in-place operation that would be profitable at a $25 fee. Requiring a passenger to forfeit a ticket and then pay walkup is totally ludicrous and should be fixed by legislation. It’s just as though plumbers required you to install a new sink because your faucet washer needs replacing.

  • AAGK

    Why does it say the agent was at fault. Jay obviously typed in Jay, no?

    He should’ve been allowed to board anyway as Jay is obviously short for Jason. Do they not accept Matt/Matthew, etc?

  • AAGK

    He gave up on the honeymoon way too easily. It sounds like they barely tried at the airport and then gave up and went home. Maybe he wrote Jay on purpose bc he didn’t want to go.

  • sirwired

    I think that free name changes should be allowed at the discretion of the airline. As in Jenn to Jennifer, Jay to Jason, Chris to Christopher, etc. The no name change rules exist for a reason, and this isn’t it.

    Its entirely possible that AA could have made an exception (it sounds like they were willing to execute the change) but maybe the record was “locked” by CheapoAir. (Not quite sure how that corner of airline reservation systems work.)

  • Bill___A

    Which is how they now seem to fix cars. Wrong in so many ways.

  • Chris_In_NC

    First, I’m glad comments are back.

    Second, Absolutely advocate. Yes, the OP made a mistake by not checking his documents immediately upon purchase. But, the penalty he faced was egregious and unreasonable. I’m convinced had this not been an international itinerary or had the itinerary been only on AA, he would have been allowed to proceed with the trip. I suspect passport control may also have played a role in the snafu here.

    Why did Clements give up so easily? Even if they missed the flight, the honeymoon could still potentially be salvaged by flying out the next day.

    Absolutely advocate, but the fair and reasonable resolution would be a credit for his fights (for future travel), not a full refund. That should be the penalty of not checking your docs rather than having to eat the cost of 2 international airline tickets

  • AAGK

    That’s what I thought! It sounded like they walked into the airport and he looked at the ticket, saw it said Jay was like, “sorry honey, we will have have to head home.” I wonder if he even tried to go through security.

  • cscasi

    He should have saved a screen shot of his transaction with CheapOair that would have shown the listing of the names on the reservation before he hit the purchase button. That would prove whether or not he committed a “typo” or if it was the fault of CheapOair. Still, that would not require that CheapOair refund the cost of the tickets (but it should have been able to correct the name and issue a new ticket for that.
    I tend to deal directly with the airlines and/or hotels I am using, rather than going to an online agency; or at least go to a brick and mortar travel agent who is licensed and has a good reputation/track record.

  • cscasi

    I am not sure whether or not TSA would accept it or even if the Irish immigration officials would accept it. It clearly states that the names on tickets has to match the names on the identification/passports presented.

  • sirwired

    Well, one would assume they had bags to check, which also involves an ID check.

    And since it was an international itinerary, there are additional restrictions, since they not only have to satisfy the TSA, but the officials in the destination country. A mis-match between the manifest and passport is probably not allowed.

    If you think this is bad for Americans with nicknames, it’s even worse for passengers not from English-speaking countries, as all passports and international tickets must have the 26-letter alphabet. There are lots of different ways of “romanizing” foreign languages, and it gets confusing quickly. (For example, Chinese is notable in that their are two different systems that look nothing alike… e.g. Beijing and Peking are references to the same city, (and the same Chinese word for it) just wildly different spellings.

  • Sandra

    I agree. This was their honeymoon for pete’s sake; CheapOAir would not be the way to go IMHO for something this important. Wait until you save a bit more money and book with a “real” travel company. AND…read your tickets ahead of time.

  • AAGK

    What if he just bought a new ticket and paid the change fee. It would’ve been slightly more but it was their honeymoon. I’m not sure what class there tickets were in but even if he just bought the cheapest ticket available, then he could go.

  • Gary K

    The author wrote “Certainly CheapOair and the airlines should have gotten Clements’ name right on his tickets.”

    Not if Clements entered “Jay” when booking, and also if Clements did not alert CheapOair after the ticket was paid for and confirmed. There are 3 possibilities: 1) Clements didn’t enter his name correctly, meaning neither the OTA nor the air carriers is at fault (putting aside the feelings about their level of customer service), 2) Clements entered his name correctly, and CheapOair messed it up, in which case they are at fault, or 3) Clements and CheapOair had the correct name, and the airline which issued the ticket messed it up (guessing that would be BA given the question of advocating for Clements with BA, but could certainly also be AA if they’ve filed a fare for PHX-DUB AND sold the ticket). If #3 is the case, then CheapOair should be advocating for Clements with BA (or AA, if they issued the ticket). Because it’s unclear from the story as written who made the mistake, I voted ‘No’.

    Given the way the scenario was described, I’m puzzled as to how they could have checked their baggage, yet failed the ID name match, although I could see the possibility that one agent didn’t notice, but the gate agent did at boarding (but I’m speculating here).

    Also, I think it’s important for people to understand that, in the great majority of cases for a single itinerary, one and only one airline issues the ticket and gets the money, regardless of how many carriers are involved – there’s a whole apparatus in the “back-end” where they settle up, known as the ARC. This is one of the reasons that the alliances and code-sharing exists, but multiple-carrier tickets existing way before either of those were created.

    In addition, the airlines’ SOP is ,you buy the ticket from us, we’ll deal with ticket changes; you buy it from a T/A (O/L or brick and mortar), we don’t, so you have to deal with the T/A who sold it. Period.

  • Gary K

    Who knows what their mental state was (beyond being really p-o’ed). I just priced PHX-DUB R/T leaving tonight and it came in @ 1800+,on BA, but 2500+ on AA/BA (both coach), so the two amounts that Clemens was quoted sound about right for walk-up fares (and depended on availability at the time), I’d bet that he paid a lot less when the trip was booked some significant amount of time in advance.

  • John McDonald

    the whole issue could have been resolved at the airport. Many international airlines that fly into the U.S. charge a small fee for name change, after tickets have been issued.
    It’s not a security issue.
    Couldn’t travel once & ticket was totally non-refundable including taxes, but paid $80 to change ticket to a friend. No big deal.

  • “Cheap O Air” name says it all.

    Exactly! You beat me to the punch!

  • PsyGuy

    This was apparently a bigger deal.

  • PsyGuy

    Honestly, a real TA would have probably broken even or gotten them upgrades for a minor increase in cost.

  • John McDonald

    yes but it should have been. Most switched on airlines, see it as a bit of last minute revenue. A stupidity tax. The guy would have paid $200or a lot more paid last time I changed the name on a ticket to a comply different name.

    I think it was with Air Pacificnllled

  • PsyGuy

    I agree with you, I think of it more a the “impatient tax”, take a minute to fill in the information correctly, and then check it (takes less than a full 60 seconds).

  • DChamp56

    Thank you for bringing comments back Chris!
    The way I see it, there should be a cut-off of at least 24 hours before-which you can get your name changed for free, but after that, it becomes a security issue. I feel sorry for the OP, but I don’t think they owed him anything.

  • Lindabator

    And checking the name on the ticket BEFORE the day of travel would have been easier to fix

  • Lindabator

    NO – they do NOT accept nicknames – name must EXACTLY match the one on your passport – period

  • Lindabator

    no way to change the old ticket for a new one, as the NAME was incorrect, and must be the same name on the new ticket

  • Lindabator

    BA was the international carrier, and the ticket would have been under their control – and THEY do not allow name changes

  • AAGK

    Yes, but he could cancel the ticket, receive the credit and use that credit towards the purchase of a new ticket. There wouldn’t even be a change fee bc it’s an entirely new ticket.

  • AAGK

    His wife must have been furious.

  • Lindabator

    NO – the name on the ticket you are applying the credit to MUST be the same as the one on the old ticket – so not any use for another wrong name

  • JewelEyed

    While it is understandable how someone who never goes by their full first name (or first name at all) might enter their name as Jeff instead of Jeffrey, Jay instead of Jason, Mike instead of Michael, it is of absolute paramount importance that you enter your full legal name for travel purposes. If you are not the one entering your own name, it is important that you check and make sure it’s correct well in advance of your trip. I certainly feel for the LW, and I hope that regardless of the eventual outcome in terms of the trip, this lesson is learned so that he and his wife don’t have to go through this ever again.

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