Wrong name on plane ticket means son won’t be home for Christmas — what now?

Mariana Damon thought she had booked a ticket for her son to fly home for Christmas when she called Travelocity.

Not quite. For some reason, the reservation was in her name. Repeated attempts to convince Travelocity to fix the ticket have been unsuccessful. I’ve tried to help, too, and I’ll get to the results in just a moment.

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Damon’s case raises several important issues, the most obvious of which is: Who is responsible for getting the name on a ticket right? Should passengers read a confirmation email, and verify the accuracy of a name and other details?

What if they never get the confirmation? And what, exactly, is a service guarantee worth when you’re booking a ticket online?

Damon says she called Travelocity on Nov. 2 to buy a ticket for her son to fly from Philadelphia to Nebraska. It was important to have her son home for the holidays, because her husband had recently passed away.

The gentlemen I spoke to had heavily-accented English. In addition, after the transaction was made, he was unable to send me a confirmation email stating that something was wrong with the computers that evening.

On the evening of November 18, I learned that he had mistakenly booked me as the passenger instead of the person buying the ticket. I was told that there was no way the name could be changed and that it was all my fault.

I pointed out that there was no way I would book myself a flight from Philadelphia since I live in Nebraska and that, in addition, I had spent almost $700 for a ticket that the Travelocity representative was now telling me was completely useless.

Well, not completely useless. After some more back-and-forth — all by phone — Damon was told she might be able to get a name change on her ticket. But when she tried to make the change, she says she was told the airline was “too busy” to help her.

I suggested she send a brief, polite email to Travelocity, but it replied with a form letter saying that name changes are “not permitted” by her airline.

I contacted Travelocity on her behalf. Maybe the online travel agency had audio recordings of her order, or other electronic records, that might shed some light on her case.

Here’s how it responded to her:

After a review of our records, we show that the reservation was made on November 2, 2010 by phone with one of our agents and an automated email was sent to [your email] after the ticketing was complete. We were not advised of any errors with the reservation until 2 weeks later on November 18. Since we were not contacted immediately to advise of any errors with your reservation, this complicates our ability to assist with your request.

The rules of the ticket indicate that it is a non-refundable, therefore, in the event of cancellation it will maintain a credit for future travel with American Airlines for 1 year from the purchase date. Any changes to the itinerary will be subject to a penalty of $150.00, and any difference in fare will be due.

Additionally, changes must be made with the assistance of an agent, and there is a Travelocity service fee of $30.00 for any changes that we process. As a courtesy, we will waive our $30.00 change fee, however the change fees from American Airlines cannot be waived.

We have been advised that it may be possible to change the name on the reservation, however there are additional fees associated with this special process. The airline penalty of $150.00 and any difference in fare will apply, along with an additional name change fee of $100.00. A new reservation will need to be made on American Airlines with the correct name, and we will need to contact American to complete the request. If you do not wish to change the itinerary or attempt a name correction, then the reservation must be cancelled prior to the scheduled flight departure time in order to maintain any value on the ticket.

Should you have any questions or concerns with this issue, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for choosing Travelocity.

Big help,” she says. “I’m back to square one.”

I’m troubled by some of the inconsistencies between Travelocity and Damon. For example, she says a representative couldn’t send a confirmation, yet the company insists that it did. Travelocity also initially said the name couldn’t be changed, but now it apparently can be. I’m really not sure who to believe.

The big question is: Now what? What do you think?

A poll of 855 readers today came to the following conclusion: A majority (63 percent) thought she should appeal to Travelocity, asking it to review the recording of her transaction. Almost 18 percent said she should dispute the charge on her card. Another 9 percent said she should sue Travelocity, while 7 percent said pay the change fee. Nearly 3 percent thought she should buy a new ticket.

(Photo: brian jm atis/Flickr Creative Commons)