This Very Simple Flight Booking Error Could Cost You Thousands

Do you use a name that's not on your passport or ID? Be careful when booking flights.

wundervisuals/E+/Getty Images
wundervisuals/E+/Getty Images
wundervisuals/E+/Getty Images

There are plenty of reasons why the name we use and the name on our government identification are different. As someone with five government names, most of those don’t make it onto my day-to-day documents. There’s simply not enough line space. But there’s one circumstance where I make sure that I am filling out my name exactly as it appears on my passport. International flight tickets. It is the one instance where I’ve noticed people are very particular about: International plane tickets.

You really, really need to have your plane ticket match your passport for these journeys. It’s a lesson that recently cost one Australian couple nearly $3,200 on a vacation to London, according to Australian news program A Current Affair with Ally Langdon. The news program reported that the husband of pair, Phil, used his wife’s nickname, Kate, when booking return tickets from London on a third-party travel website called StudentUniverse for Flights on Virgin Atlantic Airways.

When they attempted to board the flight they were stopped because Kate’s legal name on her passport is Katherine, not Kate. Virgin told Phil and Kate they would have to cancel Kate’s ticket through the third-party website, and then rebook with the name that matches her passport. The couple would only receive a partial refund on the first ticket-and pay a significantly higher price for the new, corrected ticket than the deal Phil had found when he first booked.

“They didn’t have time, that was their reasoning, to issue a name change on the ticket-but they had time to sell us a new ticket,” Phil told the news program. “I begged them on the phone: ‘Please, you can’t do that, that’s all our holiday money gone in a flash.'”

And while it does seem easier for the airline to simply reissue a corrected ticket with the right name on it, we must all remember that we live in an era of ultimate surveillance. The name we input on booking information doesn’t just go into airplane databases. That information is also relayed to customs enforcement at your arrival location and is used by governments to confirm your identity while you travel.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, the name on your ID must match the ticket when you’re flying for both domestic and international flights. The official language reads: “The name submitted on your airline reservation must be an exact match to the name you provided on your application. If you use a frequent flyer account or online travel profile, ensure that your name is properly saved.”

The only exception to this rule is in the case of suffixes. If your ID features a suffix and your ticket does not, or vice versa, TSA will still accept the documents.

Various travel advice forums recommend contacting the airline directly if you have imputed incorrect information on your booking information to make a change. Sometimes, the airline will be able to make a change to the ticket. It is possible, like in the case of Kate and Phil, that you will be asked to cancel and then rebook the ticket, or be charged a fee. CheapOAir reports that these fees can range between $50 and $200. For simple typos, you can contact your airline as soon as possible in order to make a change-there should be little to no hassle when it comes to addressing a spelling error.

For Kate and Phil, StudentUniverse told Business Insider that it was impossible to make the change so close to the departure date. “In this instance, name changes were not permitted, meaning the only option was to cancel and rebook the ticket,” the StudentUniverse representative told BI. “As we were only made aware by the customer of their error within 3 hours of the flight departure, this led to further airline imposed charges which could have been avoided by acting earlier.”

The lesson here? Have your ID out and make sure you’re typing in exactly what it says on the document. And if for some reason the information on your ID changes, such as a legal name change, contact your airline as soon as possible to inform them of the change if you cannot update the name on your ticket online.

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need help sneaking weed onto a plane, finding an airport where you can sign up for PreCheck without an appointment, or making sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to when your flight is canceled, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for up-to-date travel hacks and all the travel news you need to help you plan your next big adventure.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Journalism from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She’s worked in digital media for eight years, and before working at Thrillist, she wrote for Mic, The Cut, The Fader, Vice, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.


Mad Mex’s New Menu Item Is Inspired by a Popular Mexican Street Food

mad mex chicken al pastor

Mexican restaurant chain Mad Mex has dropped a new protein, and it’s one of the most popular street foods in Mexico.

Enter, Chicken Al Pastor. It’s traditionally made with pork and grilled on a spinning rotisserie with a pineapple sitting a top, but Mad Mex has put its own spin on it, serving chicken bathed in an Al Pastor marinade with a touch of juicy pineapple.

You can order the protein-packed filling in your favourite burrito, bowl, quesadilla, nachos, or in a taco.

As always, these things are here for a good time, not a long time. Pop into your local Mad Mex restaurant, order delivery or through the Mad Mex app today.

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