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.

Related story:   Stop obsessing over airfares, and buy now

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.

Related story:   Is this enough compensation? Crossed wires leads to canceled SeaWorld passes

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.

  • AAGK

    72 hours would be nice though…

  • Alan Gore

    The name change fee racket will go on until we explicitly put a stop to it. Accepting each new level of outright thievery means they will try expanding it a little, to see if that sticks too.

  • sirwired

    I’m kinda surprised they required the middle name to be on the ticket. I can understand that the first and last names must be correct, but I always thought the middle name was optional anyway.

  • jah6

    I had a round trip ticket from San Francisco on Singapore Airlines. I noticed about a week before leaving that Expedia had my name slightly wrong on the ticket. I called them and found out that it would cost literally thousands of $$ to make a name change and issue a new ticket at the current price vs the price I bought it for. I decided to just go to the airport and see what happened. When I left San Francisco, the gate agent gave it a second look but didn’t say anything. On my return trip they noticed but didn’t make a big deal about it. The agent said he had to call his supervisor who looked at my ticket and let me through. I agree that the name change business is a big racket.

  • Alan Gore

    Some carriers insist on a middle name while others don’t. Some agents, both airline and security, check it while others don’t.

  • cscasi

    Besides whether the airline lets you go, it also depends on security screening (sometimes they are real sticklers and sometimes not so much). Still, I believe it states that the name on the ticket must exactly match the identification presented.

  • PsyGuy

    There should be a law to prohibit airlines from charging for name errors.
    That said, where did the LW get this 72 hour rule from? 24 hours yes, anything more than that and no. 72 hours would be nice, especially when an OTA doesn’t email you a confirmation immediately, meaning you can’t check the names immediately.
    At this point I wonder if OTA’s might purposefully spell names wrong just so that they can generate fees?

  • PsyGuy

    Forever would be better though, as long as it’s not a transfer of the ticket.

  • PsyGuy

    I was recently reading that many business rely on ancillary fees to make themselves profitable.

  • PsyGuy

    If Eliad hadn’t directly requested the change the LW probably could have gotten away with it.

  • PsyGuy

    Would have been cheaper to change your name and get a new driver’s license/state ID/passport.

  • greg watson

    Expedia has had quite a few complaints recently. Since it took Elliott’s team to obtain the refund for the cancelled reservation, I think that I may use 3rd party sites to check the deals & try to get the same price by booking directly with the airline, hotel, car rental agency etc. We consumers must learn that saving a few dollars may not be worth the hassles.

  • michael anthony

    That’s true. After 9/11, carriers lost billions, putting many out of business. However, since they started this “Fee for all”, most majors are turning billions in profits every year.

    I don’t know a single soul, from child to CEO that hasn’t made a typo or a one word error in the tech age. These outrageous costs penalize the act of being human. If they must charge, make it equal to time spent. Looking up reservation, checking correct ID, and then type in a few letters. I’d say $2.00 top. But hundreds or thousands? That’s criminal.

  • Darksideblues42

    With an 11-letter first name, a 7-letter middle name, and a 6-letter last name, my full name does not fit on airline tickets.

    My first name and middle name are always crammed together, which can make for interesting times at TSA and Customs.

    There should be a fix to the system, I mean, Christopher is not that uncommon of a first name, and I am sure there are longer middle and last names than mine!

  • PsyGuy

    Well your first problem is relying on children and CEO’s for accurate data entry. Get some English teachers.

    I’d say $25, maybe $50, there needs to be some incentive to be careful. Otherwise known as the “I’m a millennial and I’m too busy to do things right” tax.

  • JewelEyed

    I think Rosy Nazareth (a lot of Hispanic surnames are like this also, with two surnames and no hyphen) is the surname instead of just Nazareth. That would explain why it’s an issue.

  • JewelEyed

    A name as simple as Alexander Benjamin Jackson could be just as long as your name, and it’s not even an unusual one. They really ought to do something about that.

  • joycexyz

    The name on the ticket is supposed to match the passport, so if you use a middle name or initial on the passport…

  • Lindabator

    NO – name MUST match the passport exactly on international flights – ALWAYS

  • Lindabator

    Not true – on an international ticket the name MUST match the passport exactly

  • Lindabator

    no – international tickets are far stricter and the name MUST match the passport exactly

  • Lindabator

    you simply put Linda.Marie on the ticket – you should know that! and you simply match the name to your FF number so it matches the passport – no problems.

  • Lindabator

    But it will show in the system

  • Darksideblues42

    It may very well show, but even on my FF profile, my names are merged, TSA agents ask me my middle name, or to spell my first and middle name, and customs, both to and from Canada has been interesting a few times, even with Global Entry.

    Bear in mind, the TSA is the same group that paged a guy back to the checkpoint in LaGuardia yesterday to retrieve his ID, but the agent asked for ID (and was dead serious) before handing the gentleman’s driver’s licence back to him. The gentleman asked the agent to look at the license, and you would think that he asked the agent “How many oranges can an elephant eat if you feed him a banana?” Total train of thought derailment.

  • PsyGuy

    That’s not true my passport has my middle name on it and all my tickets I’ve used internationally in years are just last name, first name..

  • Alan Gore

    Since when? Over the years I have flown internationally on a lot of tickets without a middle name. About half of these were arranged through TAs.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.