When the name on Robert Hofman’s airline reservation does not match his passport, Expedia dismisses his request for a correction. He is worried he will be denied boarding. Will this really be a problem?
Question: My wife and I booked a flight from Miami International Airport to Lisbon on TAP Portugal through Expedia. When I checked on our reservations a few hours later, I noticed that my name was incorrect. The reservation was missing my middle name.
Since I was traveling to a foreign country, I wanted to avoid any potential problems. It was important to me that my reservation be an exact match to my passport. I called TAP and asked that my name be corrected, and it referred me back to Expedia. Expedia’s response was that TAP had to make the change, and it would cost $30 per flight. I believe the error was made by Expedia. My flight reservation from Rome to Lisbon had my name listed correctly. I was caught in a tug-of-war between TAP and Expedia, but neither would correct my ticket.
I was still within the 24-hour cancellation period, but during the time lost on lengthy phone calls, the airfare had increased dramatically. I missed my opportunity to cancel our flights and rebook them with the correction.
I contacted the U.S. Department of State and was told that since it was my middle name that was missing, it probably would not be an issue. Expedia and TAP reiterated the same.
I did not want to rely on a probably — I wanted a definitive answer. Can you please help me resolve this situation with Expedia and TAP? I would like my tickets to be corrected. — Robert Hofman, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Answer: I applaud you for your efforts. When traveling abroad, the advice that you probably will not have a problem can be unsettling. Even if other travelers have not experienced any issues, if you do not have peace of mind, it will take away from your trip.
On a daily basis at Elliott.org, we hear from numerous travelers whose trips were shattered because of seemingly insignificant details. It pays to be a conscientious traveler.
In most instances, it would not be an issue if your middle name is listed on your passport, but not on your ticket. However, that is not a guarantee. When booking a ticket, it is important to use the same name that is listed on your passport or government issued ID, and these should match as well. The first and last name should be identical to your passport, and by adding your middle name, it will set you apart, especially if you have a common name.
According to a representative from the U.S. Department of State, the airlines determine whether passengers can board. If there is a concern that the destination country may not accept a passenger’s passport or other required documents, the airline will deny boarding. Some countries and international airlines can be more stringent and may require the name on the passport and reservation to be a precise match. The airlines can get fined by the government concerned if a passenger is flying without the appropriate documents or identification.
Worst-case scenario? Being denied entry into the country after arriving. When a passenger is denied entry, they are detained at the airport and are required to board the next available flight (usually at their expense) and return home. When this happens, neither the U.S. government or the Embassy can intervene on their behalf.
For more information on “passport and visa” requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State.
The terms and conditions of several airlines also confirm that the reservation name should match the passport. For example, Southwest Airlines states,
You should ensure the name provided when booking your travel matches the government ID that you will use when traveling. Passengers should strive to obtain consistency between the name on their government-issued ID and their travel information. The TSA strongly suggests passengers amend the name on their driver’s license to match the name that appears on their passport.
Where TSA is concerned, the first and last name must match the government issued identification or passport, and it cannot be misspelled. For example, if the name on your passport is Robert Michael Smith, but your ticket says Mike Smith, you could run into a problem.
Keep in mind that software restrictions on airline reservation systems may cause your name to print out differently on the ticket and boarding pass. If it is a long name, spaces may be eliminated or the last part of the name may be cut off. As long as it is listed in the reservation system correctly, this will not be a problem. Under TSA’s Secure Flight Program, it is the reservation name that is run through the federal government watch list for domestic and international flights. Any discrepancies could cause a problem.
This case is a reminder of how important it is to double-check your reservation as soon as you receive it, or at least within the 24-hour cancellation period. Check your name, flight times/numbers, dates (even the year), class of service, etc. If there is an error, it can be corrected or the tickets can be canceled and rebooked.
You turned to our advocates for support, and they provided insight on how to handle your case with Expedia, along with management contact information.
The executives at Expedia responded to your request and corrected your reservations on TAP at no cost.
Your diligence paid off, and now you can relax and enjoy your trip.