How to change my name on a Delta ticket by using our help forum

Lee Makela wants to know: “How to change my name on a Delta ticket”? It’s not for him, but his wife. Delta wants to charge her for a second ticket after a middle name mixup. But that proposed resolution is so ridiculous that my advocacy team must get involved.

Question

My wife and I have reservations to fly from Cleveland, Ohio, to Osaka, Japan, via Detroit and Incheon, South Korea. Our flights to Korea are on Delta Air Lines; the last leg of the trip, from Incheon to Osaka, is on Korean Air.

I have discovered that my wife’s name on her ticket omits one of her two middle names and, therefore, her ticket name differs from her full name as shown on her passport.

Delta attempted to correct the name on our reservation, but Korean Air rejected the change. A later conversation with a Korean Air representative indicated that we could abbreviate the middle names. But that the names needed to agree with the passport.

Korean Air said that any change needed to be initiated by Delta, which issued the original ticket. That’s a catch 22 since it appears Korean Air doesn’t allow any name alterations even though Delta does.

A Delta representative indicated the name discrepancy likely would pose no problem for the Delta flights and suggested my wife bring a second form of identification with her in case Korean Air raised any questions.

A Korean Air representative, however, reiterated the need for the name on the ticket to match that on her passport exactly (with the exceptions noted above). Otherwise, Korean authorities would deny her entry into Korea and transfer boarding in Incheon for the flight to Osaka. Her only suggestion was to cancel the current reservation with Delta altogether and make a new one using the correct full name.

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Is this our only alternative? Is this discrepancy as serious as we assume? We two are traveling together, are in our late seventies, carry well-used passports with pictures matching our identities and have identical names on passport and ticket aside from one missing middle name on my wife’s ticket. — Lee Makela, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Answer

This is not a serious problem. This is a stupid problem.

Think about it. What are the odds someone with your wife’s exact name — minus only a few letters — would try to fly with you to Japan? The exact-name match rule, rigorously enforced by the airlines, is meant to penalize passengers and travel agents who are sloppy typists. This has nothing to do with aviation security and everything to do with greed.

Oh, and that little game of “pass the buck” Delta is playing with Korean Air? That’s one reason why code-sharing shouldn’t be allowed. Airlines that codeshare have to help each others’ customers. This Catch-22, as you describe it, may not be intentional, but the net result is that a frightened passenger will buy a whole new ticket.

Next time you book a ticket, remember to check your name very carefully. It’s not clear when you discovered the error, but you could have easily fixed it within 24 hours of your purchase and at no additional cost.

How to change my name on a Delta ticket? Climb the resolution ladder

You could have handled this one of two ways. First, you might have appealed this to someone higher up at Delta or Korean Air. I list the executive contacted for Delta Air Lines and Korean Air Lines on this site. A brief, polite email might have helped.

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Or, you could have asked our forum advocates for a hand. Remember, we have a team of dedicated advocates on call 24 hours to help with problems like this.

But under no circumstances should your wife have to purchase a new ticket. Never, ever.

How we resolved this Delta case

You chose door number two and posted your case in our forums. Our advocacy team responded quickly and showed you how to fix the wrong name yourself. You applied for a new passport under the incorrect name.*

Am I the only one who thinks there’s got to be a better way to handle this “How to change my name on a Delta ticket?” case? I mean, why give a customer like this a runaround and threaten them when a fix is so easy for an airline to implement? And to think the only reason they’re not fixing it is that they’d be missing all those ill-gotten profits from passengers having to buy a second ticket.

No wonder the airline industry has the reputation it does.

*Note: An early version of this story suggested that Makela solved the problem by going to the airport. In fact, she reapplied for a passport under the incorrect name. Go on, commenters. Don’t hold back.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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