Can you persuade South African Airways to fix my name on my ticket?

Christopher Knott-Craig makes a tiny mistake when he books his tickets to South Africa — he inadvertently adds an extra letter H to his name. If you are a regular reader of our site, then you know how this story ends — or do you?

Question: Several months ago I booked tickets for my entire family to travel to South Africa.The reason for all my panic? I just noticed that my ticket was booked with an extra “h” in my first name (Chhristopher instead of Christopher).

I called South African Airways and asked for help, and the representative confirmed that I can’t fly with a ticket that doesn’t match my passport.

I’ve read through countless stories on your site about typos and misspelled names, and I found that in many, if not most, of these you were able to facilitate a resolution with the respective airline. What can be done? Christopher Knott-Craig, New York

Answer: Oh boy, while I certainly appreciate your confidence in our advocacy abilities, the reality of our success rate with your particular problem is actually quite grim.

Most cases like yours end up in the case dismissed file. And that isn’t because we haven’t tried.

In fact, I can only recall one case in which an airline agreed to adjust the name on a ticket after the initial 24 hours.

Take a look at some of the “incorrect-name-on-my-ticket” cases in our forum and I think the dire nature of your situation will come into focus.

For example, Lou discovered that he had made a $900 error when he booked his ticket using his nickname. And unfortunately, when booking a dream trip to Ireland, Ezzirah’s husband used her middle name as a first name.

Related story:   An invalid airline ticket to Lima - can I get a refund?

In general, you have 24 hours post-purchase to carefully examine your tickets and verify that your name matches your passport — exactly. After that, every major airline has the same formula to correct your problem

And the solution isn’t free — not even close. You will be expected to cancel, make a new reservation, and pay a change fee and any increase in the cost of the ticket.

A misspelled or incorrect name can cause big problems at the airport. In a worst-case scenario you could be denied boarding or be forced to buy a new ticket at the walk-up price.

In an attempt to avoid any hassles at check in, you had already contacted South African Airways on your own and asked if this extra letter H could be problematic.

The SAA representative reiterated that your ticket must match your passport and that your only option was to cancel and rebook.

Further complicating matters? Your entire family was listed on the same record locator, which would mean that all tickets would need to be canceled and rebooked. However, SAA was kind enough to separate your ticket from your family’s so as to mitigate the new costs.

But you were under the impression that we have had tremendous success with these type of cases, so you decided to contact us before canceling and paying the additional fees.

We receive a multitude of requests each month from consumers asking us to contact airlines on their behalf to correct a spelling mistake on a ticket.

The fact is that airlines do not change spelling mistakes — no matter how minor. If you make a spelling mistake and do not correct it within the first 24 hours, you will find yourself in a predicament that is going to cost you.

Related story:   Hey South African Airlines, I want $10,000 for my inconvenience!

Unless there is some type of unique extenuating circumstance, we don’t typically present these cases to the airlines — because we already know the answer.

But as I stared at your ticket, with that unnecessary (and potentially expensive) letter H, common sense won me over and I decided to contact SAA to ask if it could be possible to simply delete that letter from your ticket — without incurring any fees.

And to my surprise, I found a sensible SAA executive who immediately responded that the airline would be willing to work this out directly with you. She took your information and soon after contacted you to resolve this problem.

While she was not able to simply delete that letter H, she was able to cancel and rewrite your ticket with your correct name.

And the best part?

South African Airways rebooked your ticket at the original rate and did not charge you a change fee.

This is fabulous news to you and to us. It is always satisfying to find a company executive who is fair-minded and wants to help.

I hope you and your family enjoy South Africa — it’s a beautiful country. And now we know it has a reasonable and helpful national airline. Happy travels!

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of She is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.