A big price to pay for a small ticketing mistake

When Krisha Nazareth omits her mother’s maiden name from her flight reservation on Emirates Airlines, Expedia charges her a large sum of money to fix the problem but doesn’t correct the booking. Can our advocates get a refund from Expedia after Emirates cancels her tickets?

Question: I booked tickets for myself and my mother on Emirates Airlines though Expedia. On my mother’s ticket, her name was listed as Sandra Nazareth. When I called Emirates a couple of days later to confirm our booking, Emirates’ agent told me that because my mother’s name as listed on her passport is Sandra Rosy Nazareth, her reservation had to be changed so that it matches her passport.

I called Expedia to ask them to correct her reservation. Expedia was supposed to cancel her ticket and issue her a corrected one free of charge since I was making this request within 72 hours of the original booking. But it charged me $439 to create a new reservation without actually ticketing it. Emirates canceled our reservation, and I have had to restart the booking process multiple times.

When I finally received a new ticket for my mother, I was promised a refund for the original reservation. Expedia claims that Emirates needs to provide it, and Emirates insists that as Expedia created the reservation, it needs to issue the refund.

Meanwhile, I’m out over $1,500 on a ticket my mother can’t use. Can you help me get it back? — Krisha Nazareth, Boxborough, Mass.

Answer: Ouch. $439 is a lot of money to charge a customer for a name change — especially when it doesn’t actually result in a corrected ticket.

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Your case is an unfortunate reminder of the need to make sure that the names on airline tickets exactly match your identification. Emirates points this out in its terms and conditions: “When making a reservation, you must ensure that your name (and the name of any person(s) for whom you are making a reservation) matches exactly the name as it appears on your (or the person(s) for whom you are making the booking’s) passport.”

Expedia’s terms of use lets it off the hook:

You agree to abide by the terms and conditions of purchase imposed by any supplier with whom you elect to deal, including, but not limited to, payment of all amounts when due and compliance with the supplier’s rules and restrictions regarding availability and use of fares, products, or services. Airfare is only guaranteed once the purchase has been completed and the tickets have been issued….

So Expedia’s deferring to Emirates regarding its booking requirements is consistent with its terms of use. But it should have processed your request to change the name on your mother’s ticket on a timely basis, including actually reissuing her ticket, which it didn’t do. Unfortunately, no travel company has a policy authorizing ticket changes free of charge when requested within 72 hours of the booking.

Emirates’ conditions of carriage contains the following provisions regarding refunds:

Voluntary refunds

If a refund of the fare for your Ticket is due for reasons other than [involuntary refunds],
the refund will be:

an amount equal to the fare paid (including taxes, fees, charges and exceptional circumstances
surcharges paid) less any applicable cancellation fees if no portion of the
Ticket has been used, less also any applicable administration fee(s), if your Ticket is subject to restrictions…

By whom Ticket refundable
We will pay a voluntary refund on a Ticket only if we or our Authorized Agents issued the Ticket.

Presumably Expedia is an “Authorized Agent” of Emirates. As your travel agent, Expedia owes you the refund and should have issued it immediately.

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Although you might have escalated your complaint to our executive contacts for Expedia and Emirates, you asked our advocates for assistance.

We contacted Expedia on your behalf, and you have notified us that you have received the refund for your canceled reservation.

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 Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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