Two letters on my ticket cost $300 — are you serious?

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SeanPavonePhoto /
Question: I recently booked two tickets through an online travel agency for my husband and I to fly to the Philippines. When I got his ticket, I noticed that “Jr” was missing from his name. I went back to the site and discovered that there was no “space” provided where I can put a “Jr”.

I called the agency and a representative told me it was “not a big deal” and that I should not worry about it. They suggested I call Delta Air Lines, the airline I was flying on, to give them a “heads-up.”

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This weekend, I called Delta and asked them about the name issue. Delta told me that the name on the ticket should match the one on the passport. Delta said that my husband may not have a problem checking in with the airline but that he may have some problems with security, immigration, and even entry and exit to the country we are visiting.

This set me into a panic mode. Delta also told me that to ensure that my husband would not have any trouble at all, that I call my travel agent and request a name change. My agency says Delta doesn’t allow name changes and that they need to issue a new ticket. I persisted, and they finally agreed to change the name for $300 – that’s $200 for Delta and a $100 fee the agency charges. I find this ridiculous and expensive. Please help us. — Agnes Lednum, Henderson, Md.

Answer: Your travel agency was both wrong — and right.

Wrong, in the sense that it should have offered a section for “Jr” or “Sr.” given how particular TSA, customs and immigration officials can be, they ought to allow you to input your full, legal name.

But your agency was correct about this not being a big deal. I’ve never heard of someone being denied boarding because they were listed as “II” instead of “III” or “Jr” rather than “Sr”.

It’s difficult to tell if this is an airline hang-up or a TSA issue. But in a situation like this, I just follow the money. No terrorist has ever slipped on a plane by hiding behind a suffix. Airlines like Delta, however, collect billions of dollars a year in ticket change fees and other ancillary surcharges.

Airlines need to adopt a more flexible, customer-friendly ticket change policy. That way, a little problem like this wouldn’t get turned into a federal case. I contacted Delta on your behalf. It reviewed your record and agreed to fix your husband’s ticket as a goodwill gesture.

Should airlines charge change fees in order to fix a name?

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68 thoughts on “Two letters on my ticket cost $300 — are you serious?

  1. Considering how quick airlines are to deny any responsibility when they fat-finger something on their web-site, the least they could do is give their customers that same leeway.

  2. The agency couldn’t make the name correction without permission from the carrier. The airline was pretty gernerous considering their rules on name changes.

  3. My tickets always have only my first and last name, and I never had any problem. And my first name is usually written Heliomr…

  4. I sell Delta (and other Asian carriers) to the Philippines literally everyday. The missing JR is NOT an issue. Period.
    Heck you can barely spell many Asian names. The TSA will likely look at your face and the picture in the passport.
    Now, some TSA agents are just asking you to say your name. No one will care about the JR in an international airport.
    Your boarding pass might not even spell your complete name.

    1. actually, Tony, the TSA at LGA is *crazy* stringent about names matching (though i don’t think the “Jr” would matter at all). they constantly send back “Steve” when the ID says “Steven”. i’m not even kidding.

      1. The ones in JFK are ok. Considering the amount to foreigners that pass there, they improvise. As far as Manila and Delta Manila – no problem.
        Been there so many times.

  5. I have three ways to spell my name, and they appear in different forms on different IDs. Some ticketing systems simply refuse to spell it a certain way. I have never had an issue with ID going to six different foreign countries nor any place in the US.

    While we might rightly criticize security for being underpaid know-nothings, matching a slight variation of my name to that on my ticket has never been an issue.

  6. Travel agencies cannot even seem to convey the names properly to airlines. Until there is the ability to transfer the information correctly, this is an absurd discussion. I notice that when a travel agent (bricks and mortar or Expedia) books my ticket, it merges my first name and the first few letters of my middle name into the first name field. This is despite being filled out correctly on Expedia, for example.

    When I stick my ID into the check in machine, it compares the name on my ID and the one on the ticket, one push of a button and the two are identical for going through the boarding process.

    So it seems:

    -They don’t convey the names properly in the first place.

    -It is fixed easily and at no charge when ID is presented.

    If the travel agent is charging $100 for this and the airline $200,. they both deserve a kick in the butt. I’d certainly get a new travel agent.

    1. The TA doesn’t do this, the computer does. There are only so many characters allowed.
      The OP panicked and the agency has to charge what the airline tells them to charge plus the agency has their own fee…which all could have been avoided as JR wasn’t necessary.

      1. True. My point is that the interface between the travel agency and the airlines ends up in the legit information being modified…middle name moves and concatenates to first name, middle name is then blank. Second point is airline fixes it upon check in.

        1. Also, with limited space, if isn’t uncommon for a person with a lot of letters in their name to even print out on a ticket receipt.

    2. NO – its because the actual computer system used by both agencies and airlines are set up in that manner. And no, we can’t just “fix” a name in the computer, as the ailrines do not allow us to do so.

      1. What I’m saying is that until the airlines/travel agent systems get their act in order, any “name change” that involves correcting a name (and not changing who is flying) should be a non discussion item. Since it doesn’t go through correctly anyway, the airlines should fix it at no charge when the ID is presented. And actually that’s what I am seeing on Air Canada and United. However, I must say that I am preferring to book directly on the airline sites so I don’t see this problem at all.

        1. Online booking engines are not the same as the GDS, thus you are not booking on a travel agent computer. What gets typed into a GDS doesn’t change. What might possibily be happening is the online information gets typed into the GDS, thus an additional step that can have errors. Southwest’s system is different, but for the major carriers booking with a OTA, you are just using what we call a vending machine.

  7. Another thing….this is not a “name change” it is a “name correction”. Everyone, particularly airlines, should learn the difference. A name change is where the person flying is changed to a different person, in my opinion, and that’s what they really want to prevent. This all should never be used for corrections.

  8. If the OP insist to have it, he should pay for it. A note in the reservation PNR file can solve the problem easily. My brother-in-law made a round-the-world (including several segments in the US) with an error in the name and a note in the reservation PNR, without any problem.

  9. Interesting when American computer system failed I did not hear that AA was offering compensation for all the messed up travel plans. It seems to me only fair that AA should pay up since they and all the airlines are so quick to collect money from passengers for the smallest mistake.

    1. AA did allow full refunds of all tickets including non-refundable ones if you chose not to fly. They also allowed rebooking with no additional charges. So it was something.

      I know this did not help those who were stuck at an airport in route overnight due to the cancellations who couldn’t cancel their plans. But I haven’t heard from anyone saying that AA did not provide meal vouchers or other compensation. I think we would have.

  10. find a new travel agent or do the travel sstufff is not hard.. they were at fault for not asking and checking what was on ur passport then they want $100 they already got at least 10% of all of your booking for this trip…..

  11. I wish some smart attorney would take this whole thing on as a project. Changing even the name on the ticket is now a matter of a few computer keystrokes. Why should that cost anything at all? The time they spend on the phone with us and the goodwill they lose by this nonsense has to be worth more than they earn by being so inflexible.

    1. That’s the thing, isn’t it: Airlines generally seem to care more about the money than the goodwill they can generate in a situation like this when, in the long run, the goodwill is worth a lot more.

      1. Actually, you don’t know what is required to make a name change/correction. These are accountable documents and if a ticket has to be reissued, there is paperwork involved. If booked through an agency, they can’t just retype a name field. Everything has to be approved by the carrier or an agency gets fined.

        1. How many airline tickets are actually printed as “accountable documents” nowadays rather than being purely electronic tickets? This is 2013, not 1983.

          1. ALL tickets are accountable – does not matter if they are electronic – think of it this way – they are money.

    2. Changing the name on the ticket is a much bigger issue. People who make this case are always thinking of the occasional individual issue. Airlines are thinking of ticket brokers buying tickets in one name, then reselling them at a profit; businesses reserving seats in dummy names at bargain fares to later switch to the real name of the passenger flying that day; scalpers snatching up all available seats on a popular route. I think the name change issue is much deeper than just looking for revenue. That said, I do think a spelling correction could be treated differently from an actual change of passenger.

  12. Just this week, my husband booked a trip for my sister and me in June, and misspelled her name (Caroline vs Carolyn). I called Frontier, explained the issue and they fixed it. No hassle, no charge. Adding “Jr.” should have been just as easy.

  13. If you read the article, the OP was the one who provided the name online, not speaking any agent. If there was no box for Jr, Sr, I, II, etc, that is when she should have called if she had a question about it. How would Jr show up if you don’t provide that information? The OP got nervous so she paid to have the name corrected but she didn’t have to.

    1. I just completed a trip to London on Virgin Atlantic. My middle name was not included on my reservation. There was a specific warning (in red) that passport names & ticket name must be identical. I called Virgin & they told me not to worry, it would not be an issue. I didn’t worry & it wasn’t an issue

  14. Typos happen. And, in this case, she had no option to enter the suffix. Airlines need to be a little flexible, esp. since tkts are mostly electronic nowadays. It’s a matter of a couple of keystrokes!

    1. Again – no, its NOT just a couple of keystrokes – this is an accountable documents so ANY changes means a reissue – what you see online is NOTHING compared to what else is being done to this ticket. So not as simple as it seems.

      1. Please explain to us non-accountant types what is meant by “accountable document” since there is no physical document being created for airline tickets in most cases. It is just an entry in the computer.

        1. Every ticket has a number. That number is reported to ARC, which is the Airline Reporting Corporation. All tickets are then trackable, hence accountable. Etkts are accountable, just like paper tickets are. When you print out your boarding pass, your ticket number is on it.

  15. I voted “yes” but not in this case. If it’s to correct a slight misspelling for the same person, that’s different from switching the name entirely. In the former case, I agree it should not be done.

  16. I had this happen way back just after 9/11. It regarded using my maiden name as my middle name and it is not my legal name. To fix it, American Airlines charged me $100 before they would let me board. Also, I seem to remember a case with Joan Rivers being denied boarding when she was outside the country for a similar issue. These charges make my blood boil, and they usually happen when someone else makes the mistake. I am neurotic about this now and check and double-check when I purchase a ticket.

  17. Side note: my wife just printed our tickets for our United flight tomorrow. Despite giving them both of our full names and their being room for my full name (my wife’s given & middle names have 1 more character than mine), my ticket has my middle name shortened to just the initial. Oh, but it includes the entirely unnecessary Mr and Mrs on each.

    Weren’t they supposed to have fixed this kind of crap by now?

    And yes, like this OP, I am concerned that as long as airlines keep doing this, I’m liable to get stopped by TSA as a result.

    1. Your middle name is in the PNR as is your DOB and your gender. A middle initial is fine. I agree that the Mr or MIrs, Miss, Mstr, Ms is outdated and I never add it to any name fleld.

      1. UA puts the title in wether you want it or not. When my boarding pass prints, my first name is “Markmr”. So far no one has questioned it. But I am just waiting for when I am trying to board a plane somewhere half way around the world and someone gets picky …

        1. UA doesn’t put it in when it is done on a GDS unless the agent adds it. As mentioned before, there are just so many spaces on a printed ticket or boarding pass that letters do get run together and often not all of a name even prints out if the letters exceed the alotted space.

    1. It that what you get paid on hour? She requested the correction that didn’t need to be done, hence there is a fee for that.

  18. If the TSA (and the US Government) is going to require that names on tickets and names on official documentation match, then airlines should be required to accept name corrections at no charge. I’m not a fan of the federal govt making regulations, but this is one place it might be appropriate.

    That would end all this: the airline will be fine with it, but we don’t know about the TSA. No, get your acts together and either agree to make notations that both can see, or make the correction.

    As for the TA making the error, then they should be taking extra steps to ensure it’s transposed properly. If they can’t do that then they should pay for ticket. Make that mistake a few times and they’ll figure out how to get it done properly.

    1. Maybe, just maybe, people need to pay attention to their name and if they are DIY’ers, as the OP was, then don’t do it online if you don’t like what you are having to put in or not put in. I can’t tell you how many people don’t know how their name appears on their DL or passport.

    2. TA in this case is an online agency – when your everday folk chose to become their own TAs, this became so much more of a problem.

  19. Etihad Airlines charged me a similar amount to change my wife’s married name to her maiden name since her passport still had her maiden name

    1. This is why you need to have the ID in front of you when you make the reservation so you won’t have to go through the time consuming process and fees of getting this corrected.

  20. Fixing a name, like John instead of Jon or Kathy instead of Cathy, should be done without a fee. Changing a name, like “John Smith” to “Tom Jones”, should not.

    In the first examples, it is easily something the ticketing agent could have mis typed. The later is assigning the ticket to a completely different person. it gets more difficult when someone gets married and updates their ID to the married name, but airlines should allow those changes as well with proper documentation.

    The only reason for the fee is a source of income for the airlines. There is no reason name corrections could not be done by the ticketed individual with no assistance from an airline employee. It would be fairly simple to program the computers to allow for simple corrections. Those such as married last name changes would still require manual intervention.

    1. I disagree with your assumption of this being something a individual should be able to do. There are security issues, fraud issues that you are not taking into consideration. Changing Tom Smith to Tom Jones isn’t a correction, it is a complete name change, which isn’t allowed on APEX fares. In the rules of the fares, tickets are not transferable and with the name examples you gave, that is exactly what it would be. Also, changes to a ticket often means reissuing as these are accountable doucments, not just some piece of paper you print out at home. There is more to tickets and ticketing that you see or know. The internet has made nonprofessionals in airline ticketing think they know more than they do.

      1. “Fixing a name, like John instead of Jon or Kathy instead of Cathy, should be done without a fee. Changing a name, like “John Smith” to “Tom Jones”, should not.”

        I think there was a typo or a miscommunication here. What I think Mark meant about changing from “John Smith” to “Tom Jones” should of have “should not be allowed” or not done without some sort of cost. That is the way I read it based on the context of his first sentence.

      2. Amen! Which is also why the folks here have no clue WHY it is so difficult – they don;t understand just how much Big Brother is watching! 🙂

  21. I used to work for an airline and we never charged for name corrections…and the TSA never cared about something as minor as “Jr”. Usually we only had to reissue a ticket if the name was vastly different (sometimes people would use a nickname that was nothing like their real name…or they’d use their middle name instead of their first name). Putting the name “Tom” in a reservation when your name was actually Thomas or “Josh” instead of Joshua…that sort of thing was fine.

    I don’t think this woman’s dilemma was typical of airline policies…

  22. When I flew to Vegas last year, my son had made the reservations and paid for the tickets as a gift, and he had typed my name “MELISAA” instead of “MELISSA” and I was freaked out they’d give me grief. I called the airline, I called Expedia. Nobody “could” do anything but “put a note in the computer.” When I got to the security checkpoint and handed over my boarding pass and ID,no doubt looking as fidgety and guilty as possible, the TSA agent looked at them, looked at me, looked again and finally, after what seemed like several minutes, said, “Lost some weight, eh? Have a good trip, little lady.” I don’t think they even notice the names if they’re similar to what’s expected, and in the future, I’ll breathe a little easier knowing that obvious typos etc.. seemingly aren’t triggering a disproportionate response at the airport.

  23. I had the same thing happen to me a couple years ago. There is a huge difference between a “name change” and a “name correction.” One involves a different person traveling entirely, while the other involves the same person. We had a spelling error between travelocity and the airline. I used the resources provided on this site and got it tixed for a mere $25.00, which I thought reasonable under the circumstances.

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