Lufthansa stranded my 16-year-old son in Detroit

Carolina Smith/Shutterstock
Carolina Smith/Shutterstock
It’s something out of every mother’s worst nightmare: Your child is stranded at the airport and won’t be able to fly home unless he forks over thousands of dollars for a new ticket.

That nightmare came true for Gloria Castillo-Ibrahim and her 16-year-old son, Kareem Amir Gharib, recently. They’re inexperienced air travelers, but in a way, nothing could have prepared them for the trouble they experienced.

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Castillo-Ibrahim wants me to help her fix this problem, but I’m not really sure if I can, or if I should. Your thoughts on this case would be helpful.

The problem began when Castillo-Ibrahim’s husband decided to surprise her son for Christmas by booking two roundtrip tickets from Cairo to Detroit on Lufthansa’s website.

“But he was unaware that our son’s last name was entered wrong on the reservation,” she said. “And I did not notice the error until the day of departure while at the boarding gate.”

OK, for those of you saying, “Hey, you should have looked at your reservation,” consider your point made. No doubt, Castillo-Ibrahim would have saved herself a giant headache by reviewing her itinerary. I think she knows that now.

So here’s what she ended up with: Her son’s name is Kareem Amir Gharib on his U.S. passport. But the name erroneously entered on the airline website reservation read Kareem Ibrahim. A friendly ticket agent might have fixed that at the ticket counter. I’ve seen it happen.

It didn’t happen to her, though. Even though she mentioned the name problem and tried to get it fixed, a Lufthansa agent told her it was “not a problem,” and that they could board.

“The problem surfaced on Jan. 7, the day of our departure out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport,” she says. “While passing through the TSA security checkpoint, I was informed by the TSA agent that my son’s name on the boarding pass must match his passport.”

Castillo-Ibrahim explained what had happened in Cairo. It didn’t matter.

“I was informed by the Detroit ticket counter that my son could not use his return ticket because of the name error, and that his reservation would be canceled and we would be charged $3,001 for a new one-way ticket,” she says.

The agents in Detroit seemed to have nothing better to do than argue with Castillo-Ibrahim and her son.

“The final insult came when the duty manager stated that she had no way of knowing if Kareem was really my son or if he was the person who commenced travel out of Cairo,” she says.

She paid Lufthansa for a new ticket, which came with the added benefit of being a business-class seat. So at least they got something out of it. But efforts to secure a refund were fruitless.

Here’s the response from Lufthansa:

On the ticket which you booked online and purchased for Kareem’s round trip journey commencing in Cairo, the name entered for the passenger, Ibrahim, Kareem, differed vastly from the child’s name on the passport, Gharib, Kareem Amir.

We understand Kareem traveled to Detroit uninterrupted; however, travel from the United States requires that the name on the ticket match the respective travel documents. We appreciate your understanding that, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the passenger to ensure that he or she is in possession of the proper documentation prior to departure, as well as to ensure proper handling of the documents in transit.

The airline bears no responsibility for handling of travel documents; therefore, any transactions are handled between the passenger and the respective immigration authorities. While agents may, on occasion, provide information at hand, the consulate or embassy of each individual country included in a passenger’s itinerary should be consulted before commencement of travel, due to frequently changing immigration and customs regulations.

In light of your situation, as a gesture of goodwill, our representatives provided Business Class seating from Detroit to Frankfurt, and, as advised previously, our colleagues in Cairo will be pleased to refund the unused portion of the above-mentioned ticket. While we realize our response may not be the one anticipated, no new information has come to light in support of your claim for a refund of [your one-way ticket]; therefore, I regret we are unable to provide further compensation.

Our response in no way suggests that we are insensitive to what happened and trust the remainder of your experience was in line with the fine service our customers have come to expect from us. Please be assured that we will work harder than ever to restore your confidence in our ability to provide good service as we look forward to welcoming your family. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Castillo-Ibrahim is unhappy with that response. She says the airline should have fixed this in Cairo, before she left for her Christmas trip. I agree with her. Threatening to leave her son in Detroit was not a J.D. Power moment for Lufthansa.

“I understand my husband was at fault by mistakenly typing our son’s name wrong on the airline website, but I feel the Lufthansa Cairo ticket counter had a responsibility to inform me of the name discrepancy on my son’s reservation before printing the boarding pass,” she says. “They should have advised me of options for how to correct the error before our departure out of Cairo.”

Still, I’m not sure what else can be done here. Refunding the walk-up fare would be a good start, or at least paying the difference between the refund for her son’s unused ticket and the walk-up fare. How about an apology? She’s already received two of them, a form apology and a fairly personalized letter with a resolution.

Should I mediate Gloria Castillo-Ibrahim's case?

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279 thoughts on “Lufthansa stranded my 16-year-old son in Detroit

  1. Presumably the date of birth on the original ticket was correct.

    There has to be a middle ground where passengers can fix an error like this for a reasonable change fee — something less harsh than $3,000.

    It’s not a security issue: once a new ticket was re-issued for $3,000 then it didn’t matter anymore if this was the same person who commenced travel out of Cairo or not.

    1. That’s a good point. If the birthdate and first matched, it is very unlikely that fraud was being committed.

      And with naming convention varying radically around the world, especially if Roman letters aren’t being used, it gets very interesting. For example, between the Library of Congress and the New York Times, there are at least 112 different ways of translating former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi’s name including Mulazim Awwal Mu’ammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi.

        1. It was a surprise for the family. Not much of a surprise if Dad asks to see passports.

          But to the larger point, this doesn’t appear that uncommon. My full name is Carver Clark Farrow Jr. An any piece of documentation my middle name or the Jr. might be omitted. I wouldn’t know short of looking.

          1. My last name is O’Shaughnessy. The apostrophe always causes problems because some places can accept the character and others can’t. For example, my name on my license is O and a space where the apostrophe is, but my husband’s license is OS… with the apostrophe completely omitted. This always causes a problem when my name is searched, like for an account or reservation.

          2. In case you were curious, the reason many places can’t accept the apostrophe is because SQL, the most common language used for computers to interact with databases, uses the apostrophe to terminate queries. If the system blindly accepts the apostrophe, you end up as “Rebecca O” to the computer, with all sorts of fascinating consequences (including apsotrophes embedded within entries as a common way of carrying out a computer attack called “SQL Injection.”) There are relatively simple and uncomplicated ways of getting around this limitation, but lazy programmers often don’t bother, and simply end up rejecting it.

          3. I wasn’t just referring to GDS systems here; Rebecca referred to “some places”.

            In any case, many reservation systems (especially the web-based ones) have to go through a SQL-based front-end (and/or standard website input security modules) before queries will work their way to the actual GDS.

          4. I usually work with Oracle, so we just analyze the string itself for an apostrophe, and replace it with a double apostrophe, before the insert or query is generated. What trips us up is when people cut and paste from Word. Word often replaces the Unicode characters with some special non-standard characters, like the short hyphen. Our DBA has a function that can replace them with standard characters, but new ones seem to emerge all the time.

          5. Escaping or replacing embedded quotes in SQL data is a matter of calling one function. Being too lazy to code this into your SQL query in a reservations system should be grounds for termination.

          6. Did you miss the fact that most GDS systems predate SQL and therefore do not have such a calling function?

          7. NO. The dash “-” is the first character in the PNR’s name field. Essentially it is the create name “command” to enter a name in the PNR.

        1. No. Airlines claim that the reason that they won’t make name changes is to prevent fraud, e.g. I buy a cheap ticket but I can’t fly somewhere so I sell it to you allowing you to avoid purchasing a potentially much more expensive ticket.

          In the Harry Potter world of airlines that is not permitted. That concepts violates so many traditionally acceptable business practices it makes my head spin.

          Tthis is a perfect example of form over substance. The situation that the rule was intended to prevent does not appear to be here. The difficulty in translating Arabic names to English is well known.

          The airline chose to blindly follow a rule to a very unfortunately result for their customer

          1. I did not read that in Lufthansa’s COC. There’s a whole section on name change if you care to look it up.

          2. Lufthansa charges 50 euro to change a name. I wouldn’t quibble about that as its a cost to the business. If they had let the mom pay 50 euro to correct her sons name, I’d say live with it.

            Their actions are doubly bad in that it happened on the return trip when the passenger is most vulnerable

          3. Unfortunately, they CANNOT change the name on a return portion – it must be changed at the outset. The one-way fare was the only option at that time.

          4. I feel that they should have correctly identified the fact that it would be an issue when they realized the name did not match the passport and told them to do a 50 euro name change. While it’s clearly bizarre that this man doesn’t know the name of his stepchild (and I still don’t understand why he didn’t ask his wife, it clearly said that the trip was to surprise the SON, not both of them), the fact is that they should have dinged them for the 50 euro name change, kept the fare she paid, and given them the one-way as a mea culpa as they should have been made aware of the error before a 50 euro problem became a $3000 problem.

          5. All they have to do is stop defining a ticket transfer as “fraud”, and the name game problem, and several others (passengers flying sick, sudden changes of plans, etc), go away immediately and a lot of new goodwill could be generated. If you define giving an unused ticket to someone else as “fraud”, then you have to put in an elaborate bureaucratic mess to “prevent fraud”.

          6. Didn’t you like unbundling and ancillary fees? 🙂
            This one subsidizes those who do things correctly.

          7. You’re conflating two issues 🙂

            No, there is no subsidy. This is a money grab. Had the name been done correctly, the airline would not have received the additional money. A subsidy is when a business loses money that it would normally receive or incur an extra cost. At best, the subsidy would be 50euro.

          8. How is this a money grab? The father made a mistake and they had to pay for correcting the mistake. Heavens, don’t make an error with a lawyer as their billing will cost you hundreds of dollars…talk about a money grab!

          9. Because 3k is punitive under the circumstances. If the mistake were to cost the airlines then I’d be the first to say that the OP should pay. But the cost imposed by the airlines is highly disproportionate.

          10. It is based on the current fare and they got a refund on the unused coupon, so it isn’t unfair. Do you know what your office charges clients to redo something?

          11. Yes, I do. Its all based on the client relationship and the amount of work required. Minor edits are generally free.

            The analogy would be drafting a will, the client made an error, but I charge for a new will. If I did that, I’d be in hot water with the State Bar.

          12. Carver, you need to blame the TSA. The airline actually issued a boarding pass in the name of the stated passenger, but the TSA denied entry.
            If you want the airline to issue another boarding pass to a totally different surname, then buy another return ticket.

          13. Ignoring the fact that the last part is simply silly, Attorneys generally bill by time. A screw up generally requires additional time. That’s time that I don’t have to devote to other resources. But the client only pays for the additional time. If no additional time is required then no additional fee..

            For example, a client gave me the wrong spelling of a defendant. The result was that I had to redo the docs. It was a simple edit and reprint. The client might have paid an extra $50.00

            In airlines, the cost to the travel is disproportionate to the cost of fixing the error.

          14. It is all relative Carver. Businesses charge for mistakes. What you charge is high to someone outside of your industry. What does it take to edit and reprint, two minutes? For $50? Pretty expensive by the minute. We all view others work and fee differently that we do our own.
            I don’t work behind a ticket counter at the airport, so maybe someone who does can enlighten us to what they can or can’t do with international changes. All I know is what I have to do and do it correctly or I get fined.

          15. I don’t think so.

            This is an issue of making the customer enter into a completely new agreement. We would never do that. That would be unconscionable. If I do legal work for you and you need changes that were previously undisclosed, any additional charge is relatively minor.

            What I wouldn’t do is require you to re-engage me services at a new rate.

          16. yeh airlines are such a good investment. I think I’ll sell my house & invest in airline shares (NOT)

          17. Under current regulations it is fraud. It was also fraud to use a ticket issued in someone name, that wasn’t yours back before all the extra security issues came about. Name changes stopped being allowed back in the latter 1980’s.

          18. My guess is carrier rules backed up by the courts. Airline tickets are accountable documents and if they say nontransferable you can’t willy nilly give them to someone else to use.

          19. Actually, since the LAST name did not match, the US will NOT allow travel. We aren’t talking about a problem with middle name/names, but the fact that his ACTUAL last name was nowhere on that ticket at all! So a one way ticket with the CORRECT name is the only option for them at that point. The restrictions in Cairo were far more lax than here, and it is the client’s responsibility to ensure their documents match their tickets. This is nothing new – too bad it turned out to be such an expensive lesson.

          20. Do you charge to correct a client’s error or redo documents? I bet you do and it isn’t done for free!

          21. If the fee is a flat fee, you’d be wrong. Minor errors are anticipated and corrected gratis in flat fee matters such as drafting a will, or a bankruptcy petition.

            For example, a client hires me to do a bankruptcy petition. They forget a creditor. I’ll update the paperwork at no charge as that’s fairly easy, but they have to pay the additional court filing fee.

          22. How is the additional court filing fee any different than the airline charging for a new ticket? If the OP had caught the error her husband made earlier, the cost would have been much lower. In the airline industry with cost goes up closer to departure. At least they got the old ticket refunded. The court would never refund the original filing fee or upgrade their court date. The court making them pay a new filing fee is no different in my opinion.

            BTW, you are a nice attorney. Mine charges us $100 for each and every change we make to our will. I have some minor corrections to make, and am waiting until I need to make other changes before I ask for them to be done.

          23. Thanks for the kind words. I wouldn’t charge a good client for occasional minor changes. Now, problem clients… 😉

            Regarding the court filing fee, that’s not a fee to me, but rather a third party costs that must be paid. I have no discretion in that.

            For example, I did an eviction for a client on a flat fee. Turns out the amount of back rent was wrong. The client had forgotten about a rent check that he had received from his tenant. The case could not be saved due to that fatal error.

            The result was that we had to refile the papers which ended up costing another $500 in court filing fees, process server fees, and overnight mail. I don’t benefit a penny from that. The amount of extra work was negligible, so I didn’t charge any additional attorneys fees, but the third party costs were the client’s responsibility because his actions caused them.

            If I were like the airlines, I would say, oops, you screwed up, you have to pay me for a new eviction, effectively charging twice for the same service

          24. And that’s the point I was making, the court is charging them again because of their mistake. So how is that different? Other than airfare costs a lot more. I agree that it sucks for the OP, but I am a stickler for rules.

            With my attorneys case, its the office policy, not her specifically. She ended up giving us a huge break of the cost of the initial will and other legal docs because we volunteered with her charity. I think she took it out of what she makes. But the change they have an admin make and I have to pay the firm.

          25. How is it different? A fair question.

            I believe that if you cause others to do extra work, additional cost commenserate with the work is appropriate.

            When I refiled the papers, the court redid everything from scratch. They could not make any use of the original filing. New case number, new scanning, new docketing, entirely new case management procedures, everything. The process server had to go out and serve new papers. The overnight couriers had to go back to the destination. Double work double pay.

            United did not have to give up an additional seats to accomodate the OPs son.

          26. The cost of a name correction is 50 euro for Lufthansa according to some research done by someone else on the thread. $3000 is exorbitant and you know it.

          27. Technically the e-ticket coupon status should all be OPEN FOR USE if you want to exchange/re-issue a ticket. After check in and printing a boarding pass you really can’t do that easily. The airline needs to make sure no one has used the boarding pass or someone is traveling for free.

          28. Absolutely correct. The boy could not legally travel with his name not matching his passport, and the airlines should NOT fix these errors. Honestly, how is it that his own father doesn’t know his name??

          29. It’s his stepfather, and it seems he incorrectly believed that the child’s surname matched his wife’s. I’m not sure why he didn’t check with his wife, though.

          30. many airlines now offer a name change fee, if you can’t use the ticket. This often means more revenue for the airline.
            A few cases i’ve seen the airline only charged $100.

      1. Well my birthday and my brothers are the same date and our names are different. How do you know that one twin son flew from Cairo to Detroit and the other twin son want’s to fly back? I would think Mommie knows how to spell her own child’s legal name.
        So fraud could have been committed getting one son out of Cairo and one son back to Cairo.

        1. Its not a question of what could happen, but rather what is the most likely scenario. Twins are relatively uncommon. According to wiki in the US twins number 33.3 per 1000 births, which translates to 0.0333%. Or stated differently 1/3 of 1/10 percent. That’s a tiny number.

          Besides, I’m guessing you and your brother don’t have the same first name

          1. 33.3 out of 1,000 is 3.33%
            It’s one thing if the birth dates match and there’s a typo in the name. This is a completely different last name. Many more people share the same birth date than the same last name.

            It is also not uncommon in some countries for twins to have the same first name and different middle names, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to let someone pass because the birth date and first name match.

          2. You’re right about the math. I had a brain fart.
            But as to your twin scenario. Already, it’s at least 96.7% percent unlikely given the number of twins.
            Lets walk through the scenario. Mom has one twin in Place A. Dad has the other twin in Place B. The parents want switch the twins but presumably want to pay a RT fare, not two one ways. There’s a movie about that (kinda). Its called the Parent Trap.
            Admittedly its possible, but its such a far fetched scenario (that’s why Disney? made it)
            Its simply not plausible

          3. And even if the objective was to absolutely eliminate that far fetched scenario, how would matching ticket names to IDs even achieve that objective?

            How do you prove the twins didn’t swap IDs? 🙂

        1. Think about it.

          It’s four elements of commonality, not two.

          1. Same Name
          2. Same birthdate
          3. Want to travel same dates
          4. Want to travel the same place

          Besides, if they had the same name, this would be a non-issue.

    2. Hmmm… is the “Secure Flight” information that contains the DOB always retained? I’ve had to input my DOB on each checkin pretty frequently since it often won’t “stick” in my reservation record.

      1. SFPD are entered as SSR messages and are supposed to be passed through to TSA. They have no other use in ticketing.

          1. Actually there is a bigger discrepancy not caught by the readers which of course you, bodega and I know 🙂
            How could a correct SSRDOCS been issued if the surname was different?
            That meant that even the TSA SFPD was given a different surname as the one appearing in the passport. Bad all around !
            A terrorist could have flown under this situation.
            PAX should have been denied boarding before US flight.

          2. I am wondering how he got through customs and immigration. He had to have a visitors visa, too, that was incorrectly issued.

          3. The visa must match the passport, not the ticket. The Borders Officer only asks your passport, not your ticket.

            He may ask for your return ticket if he has any doubt about your intention to return, but it never happened to me in US (I’m Brazilian)

          4. Notice that computer screen when you come through? Why didn’t that catch the name error as the passport doesn’t match the passenger name list? He was a US citizen, so no US visa on his passport.

          5. Correct. but a different SURNAME in PNR and SSRDOCS compared to passport will trigger a search on a different name from the do not fly list.
            So really if you present a passport with a different surname you should NOT be boarded at all since you were vetted under a different name. This is definitely a security risk and should be reported to DHS.

          6. Yes, I agree. LH in CAI screwed up! But didn’t customs and immigration, too? The passport name and ticket name didn’t match when they entered the US.

          7. US CBP must have been give wrong APIS by Lufthansa. Kids name on manifest is probably wrong and he was vetted using a wrong name.
            Very bad!

          8. But they don’t always look at the ticket, merely the passports and visas. Only at time of boarding would this have come up, and Cairo was far more lax in the matter.

          9. SSRDOCS is the “command” we use to enter TSA SFPD into a PNR.

            PNR is Passenger Name Record

            SFPD is Secure Flight Passenger Data of the TSA

            CBP stands for US Customs and Border Patrol

            APIS stands for Advance Passenger Information System

            Bottom line the US Gov’t wants to PREscreen everyone flying – especially one going to US Airspace or US soil.

            You cannot close the door of an international flight (including from outside the USA) unless the US says you can.

            So you must send the US a passenger manifest.

            If this kid name was sent as Kareem Ibrahim but let’s just assume for argument’s sake a terrorist named Kareem Amir Gharib boarded the flight, then we are in a lot of trouble.

          10. That’s what I don’t understand.

            I assume that if there is a name change an update would be sent to the US government. I also don’t understand the security issue. If the same person can fly by paying money a la a new ticket how is that secure.

            Unless name updates aren’t sent to the US government?

          11. I think you miss the point. CAIRO and FRANKFURT allowed a person with a different name to board a US bound flight.
            Only Kareem Ibrahim was vetted if that was the name submitted to US authorities.
            Note I am assuming that Kareem Amir Gharib was never entered anywhere in the system, ok.

          12. I get that part.

            My question is, if United had made a name change in Detroit. Would that Kareem Amir Gharib be vetted by the US government before being allowed to fly. If so, what’s the security issue.

            I get that if he buys a new ticket as Kareem Amir Gharib that would for sure be vetted as Kareem Amir Gharib.

          13. The US CPB will vet whatever is entered by the airline in APIS. This is an INTERNATIONAL flight so APIS is definitely gonna be used. If the airline scanned his US passport (with the readable code) then Kareem Amir Gharib will be passed to APIS. APIS happens just before the departure

            Note APIS does not cross match names on boarding pass. Therefore, the TSA (those in blue uniforms) will do a different enforcement action. They will check your boarding pass to make sure it matches your ID.

            In addition there is another matching going on. It is the one for TSA-SFPD but that one uses the name entered in SSRDOCS (not APIS). TSA SFPD is needed at least 72 hours prior departure so that matching is happening even before APIS.

            Note I am not a gov’t agent so the above is only my understanding of how these systems work.

            The airlines also will do a match as far as I know 🙂

            Obviously all these systems are just as good as who is actually allowed to board or go in screened areas.

          14. For the sake of argument, the opposite scenario is also bad (could be deadly).

            Suppose a person holding a US passport checks in as Kareem Amir Gharib. The agent takes his passport and scans it (or enters it) into APIS (our US security check for international travel). So now APIS will search the list for Kareem Amir Gharib. Let’s say that name is cleared no problem. But the airline issues a boarding pass to a totally different person named Kareem Ibrahim (who for argument’s sake is a terrorist). Now why on earth should Lufthansa board Kareem Ibrahim? He is a danger to the USA.

            There is a good reason the name on the boarding pass, the person actually boarding, the name on the DHS approved travel document and the name submitted to APIS and TSA SFPD be the SAME !!! You and I want to fly safe (especially from a country like Egypt).

          15. Because his correct name was on the ticket, and matched his passport – he STILL would have had more scrutiny with TSA as this was a last-minute ticket in their eyes.

    3. Presumably a father should know his sons own name. PERIOD. Middle ground was reached, they refunded the unused portion of what was probably a non refundable ticket. That seems like a pretty good middle to me.

      1. I don’t believe this was the boy’s father. The OP kept saying “my son” not “our son” so I wonder if this was his stepfather, hence the differing last names.

      2. Imagine if you had to declare an Arabic version of your Roman (English) alphabet name. I’m sure your family members couldn’t possibly have any confusion about it.

        1. Especially if there’s more than way to translate it. My maternal side of the family has two radically different versions of the same translated name. The only commonality is that they both begin with “T”

        2. “Imagine if you” did a little research before commenting. First of all, English uses the LATIN alphabet and an Egyptian Passport looks like this. They have the name printed in Arabic and again using the Latin alphabet like most passports from countries that don’t use the Latin alphabet. Now what’s your excuse?

          1. ROFL. Wasn’t he a US citizen? A US passport maybe?
            Did the kid have dual citizenship? 2 passports?

          2. Then you misread the article. The Egyptian passport isn’t the issue. The difference in name is on his US passport. The point is that Dad was probably thinking in Arabic not English.

            Editted: Roman alphabet is an acceptable alternative for Latin alphabet

          3. If Dad wasn’t thinking according to the English alphabet, he might have written “Karim Emir Gareeb” or something like that instead of the son’s legal name “Kareem Amir Gharib”. But in this case, the dad got the surname completely wrong. He was probably thinking that the son had his (the stepdad’s) surname rather than his birth father’s surname, or something like that. Nevertheless, people ought to know the legal names of their own immediate family members, especially if they are going to book airline tickets for them.

          4. He could have spelled Gharib as bippity-boppity-boo but that doesn’t change the fact that the father used the completely different last name of Ibrahim (a pretty common surname, I’ve know two people of Egyptian descent with that last name). The father ticketed this wrong, plain and simple. If the kid had a US or Egyptian Passport both would have had his surname spelled out. So there’s no excuse other than not checking.

          5. That would certainly be true for a Western name. That’s completely untrue for an Arabic name. Remember Mummar Qadafi can be translated 112 different ways. Some names translations don’t even have the same number of words.

          6. I can accept that Qadafi, Kaddafi, and Ghadaffi are all versions of the same name. I can’t accept that Amir Gharib and Ibrahim are versions of the same name.

          7. Understandable, as we don’t speak Arabic and have a western paradigm for naming convenitons. Consider Moammar Khaddafi is legitimately translates as

            Qathafi, Mu’Ammar el 70
            and the even more surprising

            Mulazim Awwal Mu’ammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi
            Would you accept those different translation?

    4. Wouldn’t a ‘middle ground’ be to buy the cheapest round trip ticket and toss the return portion? Then ask Lufthansa to refund (please, please oh pretty please) the unused return? Or buy any cheap ticket that connects through Cairo and just get off in Cairo?

      I’m sure the one way to Cairo wasn’t the ‘only’ option.

      1. What you are suggesting is illegal according to the airlines and since this was done at the airport, they are not going to do any of your suggestions.

        1. They don’t get that – I mentioned that above — if you are only travelling one way, they don’t issue a roundtrip, as this IS ILLEGAL. You might do so, but they definately won’t violate their own rules. When I worked for UA, if someone asked for a one way fare, said WHOA, TOO HIGH, and then asked for round trip, we would tell them we could not give them a quote, as this was not what they actually planned to travel.

    5. There’s a dash in my legal name. That being said, I live in California where driver licenses no longer can contain any dashes. I remember all of a sudden a clerk said they couldn’t put a dash in any more. This was back when the driver license was still a composite photo of a piece of paper along with my image, and I had to take a new photo for every renewal. These days it’s just a digitized photo, and I’ve had the same one for about 15 years. I’m not sure if they can do it now, but I’ve never had to go back for a new photo or for a renewal.

      I’ve had my name variously changed to putting in a space or combining the name. I’ve never had a problem traveling. Southwest can accommodate the dash, but United, Amtrak, and Priceline can’t. I’ve never had an issue, but in my case it’s pretty obvious. I’m just wondering if perhaps her son informally goes by several names.

    6. It depends when you catch the error. I’ve had our travel agent book international employee tickets using their nickname rather than their name on the passport. Within 24 hours we’ve been able to cancel and rebook. Sometimes we lose the fare, a few times it’s gone down.

      With domestic tickets I call the airline and tell them the travel agent screwed up. I usually get the change comped, sometimes I pay a $75 fee.

      However, I’ve never tried to change the name on the ticket in the middle of an itinerary. Maybe it’s also a little different because the international flights originate in the US, so a passenger is less likely to get stranded, but I know I check the requirements for entering and exiting a country before I travel. I don’t think saying that the airline can’t be sure her son was the same person who took the first flight was much of an insult. When only the first name on the ticket and passport match, that is kind of also true.

      And when exactly was the teenager stranded as the title suggests? It sounds like they paid for the new ticket and he got on the plane. If you do mediate, ask for a refund of the unused taxes on the original ticket. I have always been able to at least get that back.

    7. the fee wasn’t $3k. That was the cost of a new ticket in business class.
      How do we know that someone other than person the ticket was bought for, wasn’t trying to travel under another name.
      Always 2 sides to any story.

      1. How do we know that someone other than person the ticket was bought for, wasn’t trying to travel under another name.

        That’s not a security issue. That’s an airline ticket transferability restriction created for business reasons.

        And a matching birthdate would tell us it’s pretty unlikely to be a different passenger.

        1. of course it’s a security issue !!!
          “pretty unlikely” what does that mean ?
          TSA has a no fly list, however, you can’t search for similar names to that on no fly list or 1000’s of people would be getting harrassed at airports in the USA everyday & civil rights advocates would be all over the media.

          1. Fix the ticket and put the name on the Passport in the Secure Flight record. No security reason that has to cost $3k.

  2. I say don’t mediate. It’s not like it was a couple letters off, the last names are totally different and the middle name is omitted. The airline has no way to tell if they’re the same person. The agent in Cairo shouldn’t have told her it would be fine; but that is really not the heart of the issue, IMO.

    The OP (or her son, who is old enough to check it too) should have noticed this right away. I’m sure it could have been fixed if it was shortly after the ticket was originally purchased. But omitting a middle name and having a totally different last name makes me side with the airline, especially for international travel. The letter she received doesn’t appear to be a form letter; someone obviously took her appeal seriously. An upgrade to business class and a refund of the unused ticket is (more than?) fair compensation.

    1. I’m glad the “no”s are winning.

      a mistake was made- the airline followed protocol and punished the family for their mistake. you can bet that family will never make that mistake again.

    2. If Lufthansa in Cairo, where the gate agents are presumably knowledgeable about Arabic naming conventions, didn’t object to the name, the Detroit agent had no business objecting. This was a good old screw job applied to a traveler who was away from home and outside his language area.

      1. Sadly, it appears that because we are not familiar or comfortable with some foreign naming conventions, we see this as a huge deal, given the number of posts about how different the names are.

      2. NO – the US requires the name to actually match – in this case the LAST name did not – and that is grounds for refusal to allow flying on the ticket. It’s not a “cultural” difference here, such as a mixup of middle/last placement – it was a blatant difference of the last name.

        1. I wonder if the real (passport) name was or had an alias in the no fly list? It was quite different from the Mom’s.

        2. Exactly. It has nothing to do with naming conventions, it’s just common sense that your ticket has to match your passport.

  3. I know people are going to jump on the significant differences in names as the sign that the family didn’t make an effort, but I have to say that if all involved were inexperienced travelers, they really might not have registered that it was even vaguely an issue. I am not saying it is an excuse or that it justifies mediation by Chris, but as an American living in the Middle East who has to contend with a lot of HR issues, I can attest that naming inconsistencies are part of day to day life here. I have several team members that were introduced to me as one name – that is the name on their business cards, that is the name on their CV, even on some of their ID. But when I see their passport or driver’s license, it is a completely different name. Again, I’m not saying it is an excuse, and since it appears the mother is a Westerner, her radar should have gone off, but these people aren’t quite as clueless as one may think.

  4. Mistakes can be expensive. Whats their to mediate; careless/stupid (sorry not trying to be offensive, but cant think of another word, that does the intent and meaning justice) people shouldn’t be responsible for their mistakes? How is this the airlines fault really they didn’t do anything except print the travel document as provided. What about the personal responsibility, at what point did any of these people call the airline to even ATTEMPT to correct the problem before complaining about a refund?

    Okay second issue, and not trying to be racist, but this is America, this is the TSA and this is someone flying from Egypt a very “Islamic” country. Not trying to profile anyone, but if I was the security agent and I had an Egyptian with a ticket with one name and a passport with the other, I wouldn’t let them board either. For no less of a reason then it would probably mean losing my job even if it was completely innocent. Its called CYA,

    1. On your second issue, you ARE bringing race in to it. If the agent wouldn’t have the same reaction to Jane Doe trying to fly on “Jane Smith’s” ticket (where Doe was the maiden name not yet on travel docs), that IS profiling. It would be the very definition of “racial profiling” in fact.

      1. I’m going to disagree with you. This isn’t “racial profiling.” A term that gets far over used in the US. If we wanted to treat him differently because he’s of Northern African decent, that’s racial profiling. If you want to treat him differently because he’s from a certain religious background or lives in a certain country, that’s profiling. One is unconstitutional and the other is a form of risk based assessment.

        And shall we talk about the number of warning bells that this situation would have set off? I’m not going to turn this into a TSA discussion but think about it….

        1. I’m not saying the TSA should not have denied him passage. There are clear rules about the name matching the ticket, and this didn’t fit. What I AM saying is that Kareem Amir Gharib vs. Kareem Ibrahim should be treated no differently from Jane Doe vs. Jane Smith.

          For the purposes of anti-discrimination laws, “religious background” and “country of origin” are in the same category as apparent physical race, and commonly all three are lumped under the name of “racial profiling” in public discussion. All three forms of discrimination are explicitly prohibited by statute and contrary to the most basic principles of US law.

          As a side-note, Egypt has a significant Christian population, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that somebody who’s Mom is named “Castillo- Ibrahim” isn’t even Muslim, even if Dad is (and I have no idea if that is the case.) We don’t even know which country the son was born in… the son is a US citizen, so he was either born here, or has a parent that is a US citizen.

          Justice (and the law, via the TSA) is supposed to be blind to things like creed or where your parents were born. The son is a US citizen, and that’s supposed to be all that matters. Isn’t that one of the things that is supposed to make the US special?

    2. Half of one of my client’s employees are Egyptian. 3/4 are Coptics which are Christian, the other 1/4 or Muslim.

    3. Actually, Dearborn (a suburb of Detroit) has the largest number of middle eastern citizens living in the US, so they would not have jumped to such a racist conclusion – they merely would have had the problem of his last name NOT being that as on his passport – and they would be concerned as to whether this was indeed the same person as who entered the country initially.

      1. Not necessarily true. In 1989, my father and I traveled from Detroit to London. We are Latino and my dad has a dark complexion and a beard. As we were boarding the aircraft, we were pulled out of line and asked how much money we were taking abroad and that we had to declare it if it was greater than $10,000. We were the only ones pulled aside. So it is possible for Detroit employees to jump to a racist conclusion.

        1. If they SPECIFICALLY asked about money, someone must have seen you carrying what appeared to be a lot – plus secondary checks happen all the time – I am a red-haired pale-skinned person, and guess what? I’ve been pulled after AFTER the security area as well.

  5. Hardly the airline’s fault. They had nothing to do with entering the guy’s name nor his documents. They followed the rules. Treated him with respect. That’s it. Done.

  6. Why in allah’s name would an airline refund a lifted ticket, especially one seated in business class?
    Would they do that for Kareem Abdul Jabbar?

    1. I read it as they issued a new OW ticket and refunded the unused return portion or the original (wrong name) ticket. Fairly standard procedure.

      1. Yup, that’s the way I read it too. LH refunded the denied boarding portion of the CAI-DTW-CAI ticket. Why should they refund the new DTW-CAI business class seat ticket that was flown?

        1. Because that ticket was purchased under Duress. If this wasn’t the airlines, it would be a really easy case. So easy I’d hand it off to a very junior attorney

          1. I’m not the legal expert, so correct me if I am wrong (or if Wikipedia is wrong :)) But it appears to me the requirements of Duress have not been met by this case:

            For duress to qualify as a defense, four requirements must be met:[1]
            1. The threat must be of serious bodily harm or death
            2. The threatened harm must be greater than the harm caused by the crime
            3. The threat must be immediate and inescapable
            4. The defendant must have become involved in the situation through no fault of his or her own

            A person may also raise a duress defense when force or violence is used to compel him to enter into a contract, or to discharge.

          2. A good question. Check out economic duress. Same concept but in a civil setting not a criminal one.

            For example, your employer holds up your salary to gain some tactical contractual advantage. That would be economic duress and that contract would be void

          3. They could fly on another airline or another date. The doors in DTW airport are not shut are they?

          4. That one is much harder to follow. Very ambiguous wording. Here is what I found. I still don’t see it as applying in my interpretation, see below.

            The elements of economic duress:

            1. Wrongful or improper threat: No precise definition of what is wrongful or improper. Examples include: morally wrong, criminal, or
            tortious conduct; one that is a threat to breach a contract “in bad faith” or threaten to withhold an admitted debt “in bad faith”.

            2. Reasonable alternative (but to accept the other party’s terms). If there is an available legal remedy, an available market substitute
            (in the form of funds, goods, or services), or any other sources of funds this element is not met.

            3. The threat actually induces the making of the contract. This is a subjective standard, and takes into account the victim’s age, their
            background (especially their education), relationship of the parties, and the ability to receive advice.

            4. The other party caused the financial distress. The majority opinion is that the other party must have caused the distress, while the
            minority opinion allows them to merely take advantage of the distress.

            1. There was no threat other than they had to buy a ticket to comply with he US law.
            2. They got a refund of the un-usable ticket, so I don’t believe this applies.
            3. They did not have to fly. They could have purchased a ticket from another carrier.
            4. It was actually the OP that caused the problem, not LH.

          5. I’d characterize it differently

            1. Buy another ticket of don’t fly
            2. Even if they went to another airline, presumably the price would be comparable at that late date. So the choice is illusory.
            3. This threat was the sole reason for the purchase of the additional ticket. The loss of 3k minus the partial refund.
            4. The contract is unconscionable in the incorrect name under these circumstances should not result in a forfeiture particular if the identity can be established.

            In the airline world, number 4 fails. That’s why its not a good case, because airlines operate by special rules.

            But imagine a non-travel situation: you go to the gym, sign up and prepay a three year membership, but the same naming issue occurs. The gym wouldn’t dare try to keep the money and deny you access. You would simply go through the process to establish you identity.

          6. Then never buy the 2 year pass to 24 hour fitness. When you sign up, if your name is entered incorrectly, it can not be fixed, and you forfeit the membership. I don’t know anyone who entered it incorrectly and tried to challenge them, but they sound as strict as the airlines.

          7. Oops, sorry. I thought I said “According to the terms and conditions” in my post. The terms and conditions say that its forfeited and can’t be fixed. They even recommended I go in and activate it in person with a photo ID rather than do it myself on-line.

          8. A dirty little secret about contract drafting. Companies put all sorts of stuff in their contracts that’s not enforceable.

            When I was 19, I was hired by a tutoring service for calculus and physics. They had a noncompete clause in the tutor’s contract that they admitted wasn’t enforceable, even a little bit. They bragged that did it because it scared enough people into compliance.

            I quit the next day. I wasn’t going to work for sketchy company.

          9. That would scare me away too. Sadly, the only way to challenge the contract is to sue the airline, company, etc.

            I am curious on your opinion on something. I used to work for a university, and we had a policy that if a student registered for a class, they had to pay for it unless they dropped it during the refund period. The policy even stated, “Non attendance does not remove your obligation to pay.” We had a published refund schedule, and basically once students could no longer add the class, there was a 0% refund for drops. I had students all the time who refused to pay and either dropped to late, or never dropped. They always argued that they don’t have to pay for a service they never received, and I always argued that because we held a seat for them, they had to pay whether they used it or not. We did have a generous appeal process with narrowly tailors criteria. But many people didn’t fit the criteria and didn’t want to pay because they never attended. However, despite their argument, we won in court 100% of the time.

            In my years as a consultant, working mostly with universities, many schools said they would remove the obligation to pay of the student could prove they never attended. They questioned how anyone could win in court if we were claiming a debt for a service we never provided. Despite that, we always got judgments in these cases.

            Do you see the policy as legally enforceable?

          10. Your policy is perfectly legal. I see no problems with it at all. Especially as many classes are full, that’s a seat that another student could have.
            So someone is going to ask me, how is that different from an airline having a no show policy. Two reasons,,,

            1. Not showing up for class all semester is per se a very deliberate choice and college refund policies tends to be graduated and generous.

            2. An airline seat, especially on routes popular with business travelers, can be sold until the plane lifts off. After a few weeks, it is impossible to “sell” that last seat in advanced calculus as catching up is impossible.

  7. It does seem a shame that this can’t be fixed, but I’m having a hard time getting past the fact that the father entered his own son’s name incorrectly. We’re not talking about a minor spelling error, either. He entered a completely different last name for his kid. How does that happen?

    I think in the past when I’ve booked airfare, the site tells me to enter my name exactly as it appears on my passport. Maybe Lufthansa’s site doesn’t do that?

    1. I’m guessing the confusion comes from different names being used in different contexts. You see the same thing in a lot of cultures. (Ever read a Russian novel? Happens all the time.) Dad put in one name, the name on the passport was another.

      Someone with actual experience with the culture is welcome to correct me here…

      1. I guess it might come down to a major cultural difference. In America, the idea that a person can have two totally different (but equally acceptable) names is unheard of. If the Lufthansa site told them to enter their names as they appear on their passports, then I’d probably say don’t mediate. If it doesn’t give that instruction, then I feel more sorry for them.

        1. Having two different names used in different contexts is quite common here; you just don’t think about it. In America, we have:

          – Stage/Pen names (although I agree that’d be rare to make a reservation under)
          – Maiden names
          – Nicknames

          This site has, on multiple occasions, mediated people accidentally reserving under their nickname (I think there has been more than one case of a secretary reserving under her boss’s nickname), or reserving under a married name before official documents got changed.

          I’m sure the website gave instruction to use the correct name, but it’s a common-enough “brain fart” to use the name you use all the time. (And brides/grooms justifiably think it’s very romantic to use a married name on the reservations for the honeymoon.)

          1. Yes, the web site states the following:

            “Please note: The passengers name cannot be changed after the booking is completed and must be entered as shown on passport.”

            It is very hard to miss.

          2. It does state that today on the .com site. It’s on a dynamic booking page, so we can’t check webarchive to see what it looked like a year ago.

            I’d like to think it’s been there for a long time.

            But we also recently saw a case where everyone jumped on the OP for missing terms that — in fact — we could verify from webarchive were not there just a few months earlier.

      2. This is a very common problem for many Middle Eastern/South Asian names, one which has caused me much hair-pulling over the years while trying to help book tickets for relatives. The problem is naming conventions, and more specifically, differences in how naming conventions are used colloquially vs. how they appear in official documents. For example, “Jane Smith” and “Smith Jane” would be used interchangeably in India, and the issue can be further confused by varying use of “unofficial” middle or last names, such as persons who include both the father’s and mother’s names. Look at an e-mail signature block of any CSR based in India; I bet you’ll often find people who sign only with their first name, or with a name entirely different from the one that shows up in the “From” line.

        While not excusing the failure to check his name against his passport, and while I am not an expert on Egyptian naming conventions, it is possible that “Kareem Ibrahim” is how his father/stepfather/family in Egypt refers to him in practice, even though that’s not how his name is listed in his official documents.

        1. When I get an e-mail from a CSR in India, they usually have a name like “Mary” or “John”. The best is when I call and speak to Mary who has a male voice. It has actually happened more than once. Mostly with or Comcast customer support.

          1. I had a Cambodian colleague whose Khmer name sounded most like Mary. Everyone had a moment of shock when they saw him face to face for the first time after corresponding with “Mary”. After about a year, he changed it to “Murray”.

  8. Kareem is a common-enough name (and the last names totally off) that I can see the airline’s position that they don’t even have any idea that he’s the same person that flew over. This was not a case of misspelling or a nickname being used instead of a given name here…

    Maybe this would be a good opportunity for a “split the difference” solution?

      1. SO??? I know 3 other Lindas with my date of birth. Which is why they need the NAMES to match the passport as well.

        1. Yes, but do they also want to use your unused plane ticket. That’s three elements of commonality. Statistics suggest its really you.

          1. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t selling a one-way ticket at the last minute on a seat that would probably be empty for an exorbitant amount while selling that other seat to someone else as a last minute for an exorbitant amount. I’m sure they are.

          2. There is a cost to flying the plane. For those who book early and they have your money for awhile, you get a ticket for less money than those who wait. If they took the cost of the flight, divided by the number of seats and charged you that amount, you and the other’s wouldn’t like the price. First and business class ticket keep coach tickets lower in price for those earlier bookers. Same as at concerts. You pay more for certain seats than others and if they didn’t do that and everyone paid the same, you know that those who pay for the cheap seats would complain at the higher cost. Everyone complains about how things are done, but in the long run, if you don’t screw up and book when prices are low, you won’t be paying the higher price.

          3. I’m not sure what this has to do with what I said at all. I’m discussing the narrow context of the situation under discussion.

  9. Ultimately, it is the traveler’s (or purchaser’s) responsibility to check with the correct authority regarding documentation. The dad made a mistake by not checking the passport; the OP made a mistake by not double-checking. How are either of these Luftahansa’s fault? Yes, Lufthansa could have handled it much differently but ultimately it is the traveler’s responsibility.

    I’m getting kind of tired of hearing of these scenarios where a traveler doesn’t check documentation requirements for themselves via the resources available directly from the government that is responsible for enforcing the requirements, and then pushes the responsibility onto someone else when something goes wrong. This is 2013 – information is readily available on the internet as well as libraries, phone calls, etc. 20 years ago I’d maybe cut people a little more slack for not knowing what the particular requirements are because the internet wasn’t in widespread use, but not now. If you choose to take a trip (flight, cruise, train, etc) it is your responsibility to know the documentation requirements.

    1. That’s a bit of a red herring. This isn’t about documents. This is about whether this mistake justifies a $3000 penalty.

        1. Not penalty in the contractual sense of the work, more from an economic sense. If you believe that the OP was wronged, then any additional monies is a penalty.

          The measurement would be the difference between 3k and the refunded portion

          1. Yes it sucks! But a lot of things that suck are legal. Do I like to pay this crap? Heck NO! So I do my best to avoid making mistakes.
            Quickie Marriages in Vegas are legal. The divorces that come after are very expensive, too.

          2. At least we agree that this situation sucks. I myself strive not to be the cause of anything that sucks.

          3. I demand to see the passport of my clients when International Travel is concerned otherwise they must email me their passport names and I simply copy and paste them. But then again this was a DIY (father did it). Instead of arguing similar cases again and again, maybe CE should have a link at the right teaching people how to avoid these expensive mistakes.
            A smartphone can easily take very sharp pictures of passports. Good enough for me.

          4. Yep – great rule of practice – NEVER know what they have on their passports – I have clients who argue only their middle initial is on, and when they send the passport page, voila – full middle name! 🙂

          5. That’s why the uninformed should either get information or hire someone like yourself that’s knowledgeable.
            On my first European trip, I made a beeline to an old classmate of mine from Greece and has been traveling internationally since he was a preteen. He gave me solid intel which saved me a lot of grief.

          6. Not necessarily me. All we need is a link to a good FAQ in more places. There are so many smartphones but not too many smart people. So write an FAQ accessible to smartphones.

  10. I just thought I’d point out that Chris has mediated “name difference” issues on more than one occasion and I think posters are being a little rough on Dad here. This case is really no different from Billy “Bob” Smith’s secretary accidentally making his reservation for Bob Smith, or Jane Doe nee Smith buying a ticket for Jane Doe before getting her travel documents changed. It’s a common enough mistake and one worthy of mediation, if not a free ride.

    I think the real issue here is that the agent in Cairo let them go without fixing the record first (perhaps with a fee)… if he/she had, there’d be no problem; instead, the Cairo agent put Lufthansa/DTW in an impossible position.

    EDIT: See Chris? I don’t always disagree with you and come down on the OP like a sack of bricks!

      1. This situation is one I am torn with. I can see both sides. But if the documents were fine with the name in Cairo, I really don’t see where Lufthansa became any more responsible. The agent in Cairo was only responsible for boarding in Cairo, not the return trip.

        1. But the agent in Cairo not fixing the issue on this round-trip ticket meant only a very expensive fix was available in DTW. It would have been a small fee (if anything) to fix it at origin; fixing it on return was much more problematic.

          1. But did the agent in Cairo know the name would be a problem? The story says the agent in Cairo said it would not be a problem. They were probably working on the information given to them by their company so based on yhe info rmation the agent had in Cairo, there was no problem to be fixed.

        2. Not true. The tickets were round trip tickets, not two one way tickets. Acceptance for the first half implies acceptance for the second. If there were going to be ticket issues in Detroit then it was the airlines responsibility to deny boarding initially. Their acceptance in Cairo implied acceptance at Detroit

          1. The tickets themselves were fine. The problem was they didn’t pass security in the US. According to the story, the agent’s information was the name wouldn’t be a problem. The topic of required travel documents have been discuss at length when dealing with cruises. Bottom line is it is the passengers responsible to have the correct documentation, not the gate agent who probably doesn’t know all the rules for the return trip.

          2. I can’t agree with that. Names matching is not an esoteric rule that company employees might be clueless about. Especially an agent working an international flight, would expect them to be well versed in common issues.

          3. Carver, bear in mind the only duty of the gate agent in CAI is to board the passengers for FRANKFURT. Not their job to figure out the TSA’s role in the USA would be since this flight itself was bound for FRA.

            Note according to the mother (OP) she only saw the discrepancy when she was at the BOARDING AREA in CAIRO.
            That means the first eticket coupon status is checked -in and not open for use. Trying to reissue a ticket under those circumstances is challenging at best.
            What would be a good fix for you? The gate agent stops what she’s supposed to do (get ready to accept boarding of an A-321) and deny this family boarding? Is she wanted to make a change it really should have been much earlier. Sorry.

          4. Not so – the problem here lies with security here in the US – they trump the ticketing desk in cases like these. Not the same in Cairo.

          5. Isn’t it interesting that they did not bother to fix it while in the USA? They already knew in Cairo (boarding area) that the name was different. How long where they here? Why did they wait till the return flight? Is the mother and/or father American? They have never heard of TSA horror stories at the airports?

          6. No, it isn’t very interesting given what happened in Cairo:

            Even though she mentioned the name problem and tried to get it fixed, a Lufthansa agent told her it was “not a problem,” and that they could board.

          7. Excuse given is someone in CAIRO said ok.
            Yeah OK FROM CAIRO since they control the gate. They have no clue about the USA and cannot talk on behalf of the TSA. If these passengers are AMERICANS then they must be hiding under a rock in Egypt.

    1. And therein DOES lie the problem. The airline in DTW has no way of knowing if this is the same person who entered the country, as the names DO NOT MATCH. Again, this is the client’s fault – names MUST match what is on the passport, and this is NOT something new.

  11. Most likely, this boy has a name registered in US and a different one in Egypt. He might even have an Egyptian passport with the Ibrahim name on it.

    It;s not the airlines fault, of course. They could have been more understanding and tried to help. Hell, it would be great PR to show compassion. But it’s not their fault. They could offer to reimburse in funny money? Maybe that could be a good middle ground…

  12. It is not the airline’s fault. How do they know that the same passport was used on the inbound flight? Were there notes in the reservation that there was a problem on the first flight? From the security agents and airline agent’s perspective, this could be a totally different person traveling. The reservations were booked by the traveler’s family; therefore, they should have entered the correct name. I am a travel professional and am careful to ask for and enter the name as it appears on the passport or government issued photo idea. I would not take this case.

  13. Considering that he has a common first name, a completely different last name would set off alarms at a TSA checkpoint. Especially a young male traveling alone. One thing people still do not appreciate is that just because a person has passed through security in another country does not mean that they will pass through security in the US. This is neither the airlines nor the TSAs fault. Having said that I think that the airline should have been more accommodating since they did let him fly by having him purchase a new ticket.

    1. Have you traveled on an international flight to the US recently (except maybe from Canada)? There is almost always additional paperwork (that usually happens before you make it to the checkin counter) that happens on almost all flights to the US. (I’ve most commonly seen it as a row of contractors with laptops on little stands stuck in the middle of the checkin line… they put a little sticker on your passport cover after they fill out the paperwork.) Those screeners are supposed to catch problems like this at the country of origin.

        1. The airline is the one that hires the security screening agents in the foreign airport; they are supposed to know, and enforce, US travel requirements.

          1. Why is this the screener’s problem? The father entered the name wrong, that is his problem.

          2. Why would a non-us based carrier in a country other than the US be required to know and enforce US travel requirements?

            I am curious about these kiosks? Are they new, because I haven’t experienced them before. Thought I have had my bags scanned and ID checked upon entry to foreign airports and they put a sticker on my bag and passport cover. But this is before even getting a boarding pass.

          3. The kiosks are temporary made up ones (knocked down afterwards on some airports like HKG). They are placed basically for US flights since the DHS requires special handling or screening (like SSSS, manual check of hand carry and extra questions like did you pack your own bags?).

            In Rome you have a totally separate terminal for US and Israel carriers.

          4. Ohhh… Okay, I thought from Sirwired’s post that they were pre-check-in counter and required paper work which I have not seen.

            I am familiar with them setting up little tables or stations in the gate area before boarding and they check our carry on bag, ask the standard questions, sometimes use a metal detector wand, usual inspect my shoes, etc. on US bound flights.

          5. This kiosks are overseas. My passport is so sticky because they keep on putting those small stickers on the back. When I remove them, the glue stays and you need to scratch the rest off.

          6. Oh interesting, maybe I saw then and didn’t even notice. I do have stickers, but I thought they put it on elsewhere. However, would these kiosks be responsible for making sure your return flight and documentation was inline with TSA regulations?

  14. It seems to me it was the TSA that denied him boarding, not Lufthansa. It’s the TSA that requires that the name on the ticket match the name on the passport. Seems the family should have contacted Lufthansa to change the name on the ticket (if this could be done) during their time in Detroit prior to their flight back so they wouldn’t face the problem that they did.

  15. This is not worth the time to mediate. The name was completely wrong and not close to what is on the young man’s passport. A surprise is one thing but when dealing with international travel and the ID required a surprise would be better left alone. The father should know the son’s name, the family should have checked the tickets, the gate agent should never have allowed them on the plane. It is almost a comedy of errors, but the fault lies with the person who booked the tickets and not with the airline.
    Sure the airline could have done something, but the original error was in no way their fault. Allowing the son onto the plane was a security issue that should not have been allowed. And I cannot help but wonder about that. When I was in Egypt right before Arab Spring, LH was giving a person in our group a very difficult time at check-in because there was a one letter difference between the name on the passport and name on the ticket.
    I realize you do not like airlines at all, but they are not responsible for mistakes made by consumers booking on line. I realize that is a lot of money this family paid for a mistake, but it was not simply a couple letters out of place. The name was completely wrong and in this instance I do not see why the air carrier is being made out to be the villain in this story. Personal responsibility has gone by the wayside. The mother accepts some of the responsibility, but wants the airline to accept more of the blame. It is not LH’s fault. They could have done more, but in this instance I do not fault them for making the passenger purchase a new ticket at the current rate.

  16. The name was not even close. They could have fixed it by cancelling the first ticket, paying the fee, and buying another one in advance. To expect someone to be able to travel with two different names is not a reasonable expectation. How much of Lufthansa’s time was wasted by their mistake?

  17. I voted no. She got a business class seat for a economy walk up fare and the offer to refund the unused portion of the original ticket.

    Let’s face it…this wasn’t a matter of a “Pete” vs a “Peter.” This looks like an entirely different name…and if parents can’t get their own kids’ names right…well…I’m gonna call that a Stupidity Tax.

        1. HAH! Not in Detroit – what with Dearborn (a suburb) having the largest group of middle eastern citizens in the US – which is why this was not handled racially in the first place.

  18. Once again, a misleading headline. Did Lufthansa strand the kid in Detroit? I think not. The kid’s father, who didn’t even know his son’s correct name, is the one who stranded him. The headline should read “Father who doesn’t even know son’s name strands him in Detroit”.

  19. A friendly ticket agent might have fixed that at the ticket counter. I’ve seen it happen. Really? An agent will change his last name from Kareem Ibrahim to Kareem Amir Gharib. You must be dreaming!

    I feel the Lufthansa Cairo ticket counter had a responsibility to inform me of the name discrepancy on my son’s reservation before printing the boarding pass. They should have advised me of options for how to correct the error before our departure out of Cairo. Here we go again. Blame the airline employee for your own mistakes. Perhaps it would have been better if they denied your son boarding in Cairo. The article would then read my American-citizen son was denied boarding in Cairo.

    Lady, if you request a (totally different) surname change and you already have a boarding pass in hand, the only option is to deny the passenger boarding and reissue a new ticket. You will pay a walk-up fare from Cairo (and would have alerted US authorities of an airport instant purchase). I just checked my GDS… if you did that today it would actually be more expensive than what you paid doing the change oneway from Detroit. And BTW, your son paid a oneway Y fare DTW-CAI and got upgraded to Business Class since the oneway business class ticket (C2E) costs $5884.50 (almost twice what you paid). Consider yourself lucky. It could have been worse.

  20. At what point are people going to start accepting responsibility for their own mistakes? If the agent in Cairo catches the mistake, the headline becomes… “Heartless airline denies child flight to see mom for Christmas over simple error.” Its not going to be “Dad makes boneheaded mistake and enters wrong name for child.”

    in addition, how many times have people argued that airline should make exceptions for this or that… Under the argument put forward by a number of people… If a check in agent happens to overlook that/ opt not to charge you for your bag is 0.5 lbs overweight on the outbound leg of your journey, the airline should also do the same thing on the return? Really? You can’t be happy that you got one over on the outbound?

    This case is simple… the US Government in its multitude of agencies requires that your ID match your ticket (notice that I didn’t say airline XYZ). The child’s ticket did not match his passport and its not a case of Bob vs Robert or T instead of Taft. Its a completely different name. Sorry but the outcome of this was correct and cheaper for her than if they caught it in Cairo

    1. The US Government doesn’t require for it to cost $3,000 to fix this mistake and get a ticket that matches.

      And I see last minute round trip fares from Cairo to DTW right now for $1600 (whereas one way from DTW to Cairo on Lufthansa is $3200+)

      1. An airline WILL NOT issue a roundtrip ticket when travel is only one way – that is an illegal ticket if you didn’t know!

        1. Re-read John Baker’s post. He asserts that it was cheaper for the OP to have the mistake caught in DTW than CAI.

          And that’s absolutely false if a one-way from DTW->CAI is $3,000+ and a round trip from CAI->DTW->CAI is ~$1600.

          1. That’s a different subject. I was addressing John Baker’s assertion.

            And I wouldn’t assume that Lufthansa can’t make an exception to a Lufthansa policy, particularly if Lufthansa was in error to allow travel from the origin.

          2. Actually – NO – they would need to turn over to the FAA, and when they blatantly violate ticketing rules, they are heavily penalized.

  21. Mother is right – if the name discrepancy was such a big problem for Lufthansa, it should have been noted and fixed in Cairo before departure. But airlines love imposing silly rules that you can buy your way out of by paying what in effect are huge fix-it fees.

  22. I voted no. Not noticing the name difference well before the trip was a major boo boo. And the airline gave a business class seat which it could have used to upgrade someone else and offered to refund the unused portion of the original ticket.

  23. Once upon a time, in the good old days, people could travel with 1 letter for First Name… and the Airlines don’t care even if the last name miss a letter and computer terminal still a luxury for most of travel agent who worked mostly only on phone. And everybody were happy: the travellers, the travel agents, the flight attendants, the pilots, the airlines… what did we do to get to this point of General Dissatisfaction of all the elements of this chain.

  24. In the airline business, there is NO middle ground. You do it correctly or the TSA will destroy your ticket. Lufthansa is not at fault, however, TSA is able to fine the heck out of them if they allow the incorrect name to be passed through. If you have worked behind an airline counter, (USAIR for 10 years) You will here every excuse in the world. It was long before today’s security measures, but the stories are always the same. I made a little error. This is far worse than Alex Trebeck accused the kid the other day that he spelled immancipation proclimation badly. No seat for you today! PAY! Use a travel agent and pay a small fee. They ask the correct name as “it is on your passport”!

    1. If it’s really a security issue, then don’t let him buy a new ticket at all.

      If they let him cancel the old ticket and buy a new one, then it’s up to the airline, not TSA, to decide what to charge for that.

      The last name on the Secure Flight data from Cairo to DTW didn’t match for this passenger’s Passport. Should Lufthansa have been fined for that?

          1. Because TSA refused to allow him to fly – so he NEEDED to be correctly ticketed, and LH has no other option but to do so correctly. AND that costs money.

          2. Show us. Kindly refer us to the TSA rule that gives LH no other option but to charge $3,000 for a corrected ticket rather than some other amount. Like, say, 50 Euros.

          3. Once again – you’d rather bark than listen. TSA returned him because of an invalid ticket. Once LH realized this, they have no option BUT to issue a new ticket, and since he was travelling one way, it is at that cost. SHEESH!

          4. Believe it or not, I really did already comprehend that argument. And I also comprehend that there are employees who have the authority to exercise discretion and manually override costs in the course of fixing a problem. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes.

    2. How long did this family stay in USA? Why didn’t they fix it as soon as they got here? Why did they wait till the return flight to CAIRO?
      Sound’s like very irresponsible since they already know his name on PNR was wrong.

      1. Why would they think they needed to fix anything when they were told, incorrectly, everything was fine and nothing needed to be fixed?

  25. It seems like the error should have been fixed in Cairo before departure. The name on the ticket could have been changed to the name on the passport right then which would have corrected all problems. If the agent said it was OK and sent this person on their way with an error, then the ticket agent is liable for doing that. Even a misspelled name is a problem if the rule is to be observed.
    The name on the ticket does not have to include the full name on the passport, but must have whatever name on ticket included in the passport name and to be the same.

  26. The more I think about this the more improbable it seems. It is very unlikely that security at Frankfurt would have let this passenger through with a boarding pass that did not match his passport. I travel regularly through Frankfurt and each time I am heading to board my US bound flight my passport and boarding pass are thoroughly checked. Simply does not pass a smell test at all. I can see a security failure at one point, but these multiple security failures have me questioning the veracity of this story.

  27. Lufthansa should have known it would be a subsequent problem, especially in the US with an Arabic name. They passed the buck. Letting him on the plane in Cairo, without fixing the entire ticket was incompetent and negligent, exacerbating the problem she would have later.

    1. You probably are referring to a lowly paid EAS Egyptian contract employee in Cairo. What do they know about TSA rules? The probably issued boarding passes all the way to DTW transiting FRA so the FRA agents did not check again.

      1. Then let this lowly paid EAS Egyptian contract employee answer “I don’t know”
        If you’re not a seasoned traveler, you ask a question of someone wearing an official uniform, you might actually believe them, else why ask the question in the first place?

        1. Carver, anyone who travels to a foreign country better know the difference between someone who has authority and someone who does not. REISSUING a ticket of this sort in an airport like Cairo will require someone like a manager. Lots of times foreign gate agents and cabin crew simply smile and say YES to everything because they are either trained to do that or that is the culturally accepted practice. Go to Asia and see how many people will say NO to you (especially you a big guy).

          This is the reason people who come here and say “but they said YES in xxx” to me is like saying the dog ate my homework.

          1. Most Americans are way too dramatic or histrionic. Super whiners. I think you know what I mean since you are from V.I.
            Relax and buy the correct tickets. Be happy Don’t Worry.

        2. You’re too American 🙂 Yes to most foreigners means YES for this flight (since I’m the one letting you go inside the airplane) ha ha 🙂

          Added: IDK is rarely heard in some countries.

      2. I think you’ve expressed that this situation poses a serious flight safety issue. If you also believe the employees are systematically not up to the task of addressing it, then that implies a serious, systemic flight safety hole.

  28. If this sentence wasn’t in the story, I would say it was all her fault. The customer asked for the error to be corrected prior to initial departure. However, an airline employee refused to change it, did not offer an option to pay for the name change service, and assured her there was no problem. To me, this is completely the airline’s fault at this point.

    1. Not necessarily – THEY are not necessarily actual LH employees, and are unfamiliar with US TSA rules – the fact she only discovered this AT THE CAIRO AIRPORT says they never even looked at the tickets – the gate agent there would probably been unfamiliar and unable to make any changes at that late date.

  29. She may be inexperienced, but once it was a problem in Cairo, she knew it was going to be an issue on the return trip and should have had the person in Cairo fix the ticket immediately – OR have it fixed by that same airline IMMEDIATELY upon arrival in Detroit.

    1. The thing is if she is inexperienced and was told by the airlines it wasn’t a problem, why would she think she would need to do anything?

  30. hey the name on my ticket in Obama but my real name is Osama (& by the way I’m a big terrorist).
    Surely I can travel on a ticket with name mispelt. It’s only 1 letter.
    I promise not to blow up the plane or crash it into a building (at this not the one I’m on)
    Can beleive that I’m actually agreeing with the TSA (who i feel are a totally useless organisation)
    Get the name right (it wasn’t even close) or get it fixed before you get to the airport.

    1. Sure, you are absolutely welcome to come with the wrong name on your ticket.

      We just won’t let you leave unless you cough up an extra $3K 😉

          1. yes everyone has to pay huge $$$ for useless TSA, who haven’t stopped one terrorist while costing hundreds of billions of dollars & inconveniencing lots of people.
            About time to get rid of the TSA completely.

          2. Have we had any issues? Might those who had ideas to hurt decided to redirect their attentions and not do something with planes due to the TSA?

  31. Seriously, why do people do this?? I call it a really stupid move (mistake is too easy a term). You don’t know your child’s name or what is actually on their passport ?? I’m sorry, I see this every day. It ‘s just another case of passengers blaming and whining to everyone about THEIR error. LOOK AT YOUR PASSPORT if you are traveling internationally before you make the actual booking whether online or with a travel company. Your name must match – passport name with reservation !! I don’t care if it’s your grandmothers maiden name and this is the “custom” in your country, book under the actual name on the passport. As for the airline employee at the origin, they should be heavily fined or fired – especially coming from the Middle East ?????

    1. In this case, the father may have been halfway around the world from his son (or step son) when he booked the ticket. And he wanted it to be a surprise for Xmas.

      So good advice, but he would have needed to give up on the surprise part.

  32. So many of the issues that get mentioned on Chris site from travelers never use to be problem when there were only two ways to buy a ticket; through the airline (by phone, at the airport or at their city offices) or through a travel agency. The airlines have had rules for their fares before many of us ever took our first flight, yet with all the computer wizards who are DIY’er, do any of them bother to read up on what they are about to buy? For international travel you need a passport, so how hard is it to figure out that your name on your document needs to match that passport? If you are unclear, call the carrier or use a professional travel consultant.

  33. I don’t fly Lufthansa, but it is my impression that they primarily fly international flights. As such I would expect their gate agents to be knowledgeable about common things like this. This was not an arcane, little known rule that was suddenly enforced, but a common rule on a common route that they fly day after day.

    Unless it was his/her first day on the job, the Lufthansa gate agent in Cairo should have known that they would need to have the names match in order to fly back from the US. To tell them it would be OK was the root cause of the mess.
    Yes, Chris, I think you should mediate for a better settlement.

    1. No airline wants to be responsible for the whims of the TSA. The kid was issued a boarding pass already. It was the TSA who blocked him. Get real.

    2. But this would most likely NOT be a LH agent, but a simple contracted agent – many places have these. They would be completely unfamiliar with US TSA requirements.

  34. I understand their frustration but, the name was different!! What father doesn’t know the name of his son, or step-son (if this is a step father) They are returning the unused portion of the ticket. The kid wasn’t stranded in Detroit. The airline bumped them up to Business class! Not all errors are the fault of the airline, ( I know, shocking) but these people have to take some responsibility for their error. We are talking about travel docs for international travel to a known troubled hotspot, and I think if the people in the U.S.A are sticking to the rules then so do those who come and visit here.

  35. This is unbelievable! I am also having extreme trouble with Lufthansa! I booked a flight for my children – Rome to Frankfurt, then change at Frankfurt and Fly to Atlanta. My children have been with my mother for 6 weeks. They are supposed to fly back this Sunday. In the meantime I have obtained a job IN FRANKFURT. My husband will be here as well. We have asked that the children get off the plane at Frankfurt, to save us from driving all the way to Rome, Italy (a 15-hour drive). Lufthansa refuses to let the children get off (they are being accompanied by lufthansa personnel because they are only 13) and says if we want to change the flight (which will be less flying and they can sell the flights from Frankfurt to Rome) we must pay an additional 738 euro! I am incredibly upset as this means I will not see my chlidren before the end of September. We have called lufthansa at least 8 times and they have told us that nobody can do anything, ‘not even the CEO.’ That this is an ‘individual family situation’ and they have rules and conditions. So much for flexibility.

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