Can this trip be saved? Wrong middle name on my airline ticket

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By Christopher Elliott

Having the wrong name on your airline ticket is no longer a minor inconvenience. The TSA has begun enforcing its name-matching requirements for airline tickets. And that could be a show-stopper for Jesse Demastrie and his wife, who are scheduled to fly from Washington to Las Vegas for the holidays.

The problem? Demastrie’s father, who booked the flights through Travelocity, got his wife’s name wrong.

“He inadvertently used my wife’s old middle name,” he says. “She actually dropped her middle name and now uses her maiden name as her middle name. So the ticket she was issued has her correct first and last name but her old middle name.”

Passengers must now provide their full names as they appear on a government-issued ID, their date of birth and their gender when they book a flight.

Demastrie is concerned his wife won’t be allowed on the plane

I have called United Airlines and Travelocity numerous times and no one will confirm with me that we will have no issues travelling because of this issue.

Do you have any advice for dealing with this? It feels as though the people on the phone are telling me it “should be OK” partly to just get me off the phone.

I am just worried that we will get to the airport and they won’t let my wife travel. I would rather know now and cancel her ticket/book her another one now, rather than have to pay top dollar for a new ticket that day.

I agree with Travelocity and United that Demastrie’s wife should be OK. But I base that on a few things. First, I’ve mediated dozens — if not hundreds — of wrong-name cases, and have only come across a few where an intransigent ticket agent refused to allow a passenger to board.

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

If Demastrie is allowed to print a boarding pass, then the Secure Flight process is already complete, and there’s no need to argue with an agent when you go through security at the airport. You can read the details at the TSA’s Secure Flight section of its website.

TSA even addresses Demastrie’s situation — to a point

What if a passenger’s boarding pass and ID do not match exactly?

At the security checkpoint, TSA strives to ensure your identification and boarding pass are authentic and validate you are who you say you are. Small differences in the name on the boarding pass and ID, like middle initials, should not impact your travel. It is not uncommon for the information printed on boarding passes to differ slightly from the information on IDs, depending on the boarding pass printing practices of individual airlines.

Demastrie is already planning to bring a copy of their marriage certificate to show his wife’s maiden name, as well as her passport, which also has her maiden name. But he wants to know if there’s anything else he can do.

I always recommend trying to get any assurances that an airline will make a notation in your reservation in writing, not by phone. He could have contacted Travelocity and United to get something by email. (Here’s how to get a refund on a non-refundable airline ticket.)

But Demastrie wants a sure thing, so he’s also purchased a fully-refundable ticket for his wife — just in case.

None of this ought to be necessary. There should be a simple way to change the name on an airline ticket without having to jump through all of these hoops. But there never will be, as long as air carriers make inordinate amounts of money from change fees.

I’m unhappy that neither Travelocity nor United could just edit his wife’s name. Given the government’s requirement that names on tickets and IDs match, it’s the least they could do. But I’m also reasonably confident that the couple will fly to Las Vegas without incident.

So what do you think? Should my advocacy team and I mediate this case, or are the Demastries good to go?

Survey says … he’s good to go.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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