Here’s why you shouldn’t change your name after you buy an airline ticket

Newlywed Margarita Lewinter’s TAP Air Portugal ticket, booked through Expedia, is in her maiden name. Neither TAP Air Portugal nor Expedia is willing to change her ticket. Her husband asks our advocates for help.

Question: Prior to our marriage, my wife, Margarita, and I booked nonrefundable tickets on TAP Air Portugal through Expedia for an upcoming trip to Europe.

Margarita changed her last name to Lewinter after we were married. Her passport is in her married name, but her air ticket is in her maiden name.

I contacted TAP Air Portugal to ask that Margarita’s ticket be changed to her married name, but the airline told me that Expedia had to request the change. Expedia’s agent told me to email the agency copies of Margarita’s passport, her driver’s license and our marriage certificate, and Expedia would process the name change with TAP Air Portugal. I promptly emailed Expedia the documents, but we did not receive a new air ticket for Margarita.

Although I followed up several times with Expedia, it removed her from my reservation and created a new one for her without issuing her a ticket. She now has two reservations – one in her maiden name and one in her married name. But without a ticket, she can’t board the plane!

Can you help us get Expedia and TAP Air Portugal to issue a ticket in Margarita’s married name? — Gregory Lewinter, Newton, Mass.

Answer: What an awful way to begin your married life – worrying that your wife won’t be able to travel with you because of an air ticket with the wrong name on it.

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Sadly, your case illustrates why it’s important to make sure that your name on your ticket matches your name on your identification at the time of your trip.

Your wife changed her last name at the time of your marriage because you were applying for a mortgage together, and she needed to renew her passport. But all airlines require that names on their tickets match the names on identification.

TAP Air Portugal is no exception. Its general conditions of carriage contain the following provision: “We will provide carriage only to the person named as Passenger in the Ticket/s and so you may be required to produce appropriate identification.” It will also refuse carriage to passengers when they “do not appear to have valid travel documents.”

It’s standard practice in the travel industry to refer customers back to travel agents to change or cancel any tickets or reservations that were booked through those agents. But when Expedia promised to process your wife’s ticket change upon receipt of her documents, it should have followed through and not kept her hanging.

After you made multiple unsuccessful attempts to get both Expedia and TAP Air Portugal to issue your wife a new ticket, you might have escalated your complaint to both companies using the contact information on our website. Instead, you requested our assistance in speeding up the name change process.

You asked us if you and your wife should cancel and rebook your tickets and dispute the original credit card charge, but we advised you that this course of action is generally unsuccessful with nonrefundable air tickets.

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Our advocates reached out to both Expedia and TAP Air Portugal on your behalf. We learned from Expedia that its customer service team has worked with TAP Air Portugal to process your wife’s name change on her ticket.

We congratulate you on your marriage and wish you a wonderful trip and safe travels.


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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