Why can’t I change the name on my frequent flier award ticket?

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Delta won’t make a name change on a mileage ticket, endangering one family’s cruise. Can this trip be saved?

Question

I recently booked four tickets between Milwaukee and New Orleans using my Delta SkyMiles so that my husband, son and my son’s friend could fly to our cruise port. All was well, but then my son’s friend’s parents decided that they would not get him a passport, as they had promised, so we had to make changes to the cruise and the airline to accommodate a new guest.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was great about making the change — just some correspondence from our travel agent did the trick. However — and I think you know what is coming — Delta is refusing to make a name change. Its policy is never to make name changes. Delta offered to allow me to re-deposit the miles for a $150 charge per ticket, and then let me re-purchase the ticket using SkyMiles. But the cost for the ticket has quadrupled, going from 25,000 miles to 100,000 miles.

Since the airplane is otherwise full, the chances of me being able to get a ticket for my son’s friend on this flight is pretty much nonexistent if I release the ticket I have already purchased. I have appealed to the supervisor and Delta’s customer care department via its website to make an exception, since I’m a loyal Delta flier. It has refused to bend any rules for me. Can you help? — Colleen McGuigan, Brown Deer, Wis.

Answer

Wow, you really painted yourself into a proverbial corner on this one. I’m not sure if things would have been much different if you’d paid for your tickets with real money, as opposed to miles. Delta’s rules are uniformly strict, no matter how you settle the bill. It won’t change a name, which, by the way, is an industry-wide policy.

But you would expect Delta to take a close look at your case, if for no other reason than that you are a loyal customer. The airline is hitting you with two fees for changing your mind — first, the “re-deposit” fee and then the markup for booking tickets so close to your travel date. And finally, there’s a very good chance no seats will be available, meaning that all this was for nothing. (Here’s our guide on booking an airline ticket.)

I can’t blame you for feeling like giving up.

Here’s how to smooth the way

The solution an airline might recommend is booking completely refundable, flexible airline tickets. But those can be two to four times more expensive than an advance-purchase fare, and they’re priced for business travelers on an expense account — not passengers who are on their way to a leisure cruise.

Cavalry Elite Travel Insurance takes the worry out of travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com

My solution? Try sending a brief, polite email, and if that doesn’t work, appeal to a manager. I list names, email addresses and phone numbers on my advocacy site.

My advocacy team and I contacted Delta on your behalf. As it turns out, the new ticket will only cost you 50,000 miles. Changes in redemption levels are not unusual, which is why it’s important to check back often to see if you can get a better deal. As an exception, Delta agreed to waive the $150 re-issue fee and allow you to re-deposit the miles to your account at no additional charge.

Next time, make sure you have your passport before booking your tickets.

Do frequent flier "award" tickets have too many restrictions?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Related Posts