Her baby has big ticket problems. Who can fix this?

Her baby has big ticket problems!

Cathy Ndvolu thanks the powers that be that she checked her reservation with Air Canada before she left for the airport. Had she not done so, she would have had to purchase a new ticket for her baby. Air Canada issued her infant daughter’s ticket with her name misspelled. If Ndvolu tried to use that ticket to take her daughter to Paris, Air Canada would tell her Au revoir!

Ndvolu complained to her travel agent, Expedia.

Unfortunately, Expedia kept her waiting for a prolonged period of time on the telephone while it “looked into” her case. Ndvolu worried that she might never receive assistance at all — until she came to our forum.

Ndvolu’s case offers a reminder to air travelers to carefully check their reservations to ensure that names on tickets match identifications. But it is also a warning about using third-party travel websites, such as Expedia. The cost savings of cheaper tickets come with risks — which you can avoid by booking directly with travel companies.

Her baby’s name is misspelled, causing ticket problems

Ndvolu used Expedia to book a trip from Toronto to Paris to visit a sick relative. Her reservations included round-trip tickets on Air Canada for herself and her 20-month-old daughter. Expedia emailed Ndvolu confirmations of her bookings, which correctly showed her and her daughter’s names.

One week before they were scheduled to depart, Ndvolu contacted Air Canada to make sure she had no ticket problems. Her own ticket was fine. But her baby’s name was misspelled on the ticket. Air Canada’s representative claimed that Expedia had provided only the baby’s initials and not her name. The representative informed Ndvolu that Air Canada would not allow her to board the plane with the baby.

Who is responsible for processing a name change?

Unfortunately for Ndvolu, the Air Canada representative was correct that the baby would not be allowed on board the aircraft. Air Canada’s international tariff provides that

Each passenger desiring transportation across any international boundary will be responsible for obtaining all necessary travel documents and for complying with all government travel requirements. … Carrier reserves the right to refuse carriage to any passenger … whose documents are not complete.

Ndvolu would need a corrected ticket for her baby. And like all travel companies, Air Canada would not directly assist a customer who had booked through a travel agency. Ndvolu would have to contact Expedia to resolve the matter.

After four hours on hold, her baby’s name was still misspelled

Ndvolu then called Expedia for help. But after waiting four hours on hold while its agents “looked into” her case, Ndvolu had had enough. She contacted our advocates for assistance. Michelle Couch-Friedman, our executive director, invited Ndvolu to post about her case in our forum.

The forum members advised Ndvolu to contact Air Canada and Expedia using our respective executive contacts for each company. They also suggested that she book future flights directly with the airlines.

Meanwhile, Ndvolu continued to contact Air Canada and Expedia. A sympathetic Air Canada representative told Ndvolu to call Expedia’s name correction department with specific instructions. Above all, said the representative, she was not to take no for an answer from Expedia.

Ndvolu then called Expedia’s customer service and asked for its name correction department. The Expedia employee to whom she spoke suggested that her daughter’s name was too long to appear correctly on the ticket. But when Ndvolu gave him the instructions she had received from the Air Canada representative, he backed down. He processed Ndvolu’s name change request for her daughter’s ticket, but he told Ndvolu that she would have to wait 72 hours for the correction to take effect.

Air Canada still couldn’t correct the ticket for the baby

An Expedia executive emailed Ndvolu and spoke to her twice by telephone. The executive assured her that Expedia had sent Air Canada her name change request for the baby’s ticket. According to the executive, all was in order with Ndvolu’s reservation and she didn’t have to worry further. But Ndvolu didn’t want to take Expedia’s word for it — and she was wise not to do so.

She followed up with Air Canada, which had received Expedia’s name change request. But according to the agent to whom she spoke, the airline couldn’t just fix the ticket problem. Expedia needed to send the request to a specific Air Canada email address. This would supposedly allow the airline to correct the ticket within 24 hours. Less than 72 hours now remained before Ndvolu was supposed to depart, but she still didn’t have a valid ticket for the baby. The agent told Ndvolu to send copies of her daughter’s passport and birth certificate, along with her booking reference number, to that email address.

Meanwhile, our forum co-director and advocate, Dwayne Coward, reached out to Expedia on Ndvolu’s behalf.

Expedia processed the name change … and apologized!

An Expedia representative responded to Dwayne’s contact with an apology to Ndvolu:

I can see from the [forum] thread that our agent made a mistake, and we’re really sorry she had to go through the stress of getting this resolved. I can assure you we’re following up with the agent and supervisor involved here to make sure we’re doing some corrective training.

On the day before her flight was scheduled to depart, Ndvolu at last received a new ticket for her baby. Ndvolu still wouldn’t take it for granted that her baby would be allowed to fly. She indicated that she intended to arrive at the airport three hours early, and she would bring her daughter’s birth certificate. Hopefully, Air Canada would then allow the baby to fly on her new ticket, without a misspelled name.

Ndvolu’s case should remind travelers with ticket problems to follow up multiple times with travel companies to resolve their cases. Don’t take a customer service agent’s word for it that you can fly without tickets showing correct names. If necessary, write to our executive contacts, observing the three P’s of consumer advocacy: patience, politeness and persistence. Start with the primary contact and allow that person a week to respond before escalating to the next ranked contact.

And as our forum members advised Ndvolu, save yourself ticket problems by booking directly with the travel companies in the first place.

Should airlines correct names on tickets at the direct request of travelers who purchased the tickets through third parties?

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