What Are Your Options When The Name On Your Flight Booking Is Incorrect?

Hello from Cairo!

Yesterday I flew from Tunis to Cairo on EgyptAir as part of my four month trip. I found a cheap revenue fare (so didn’t redeem any points), and as it was only a three hour flight on a 737, decided economy was fine.

I booked the flight through an online travel agency (OTA) several months ago, as they had a cheaper price than EgyptAir.com.

I happened to check the reservation again about four days before the flight, and noticed that the booking did not show my full first name.

Now, you may remember when I joined the team that James isn’t actually my first name. It’s Benjamin, but everyone in my life (including my Mother), calls me Ben. I have the same three initials as Lucky, so from Day 1 have been writing under my middle name of James to avoid confusion between having two ‘Bens.’

Anyway, I’ve booked hundreds of flights in my life and always ensure that the booking says Benjamin, which is the first name in my passport. But when I checked the itinerary for this flight, the first name only said ‘Ben.’ It wasn’t that the rest of the name was cut off, it was that for some unknown reason, I had only entered Ben. I suspect this was some sort of Google auto-complete error that I somehow missed.

I started to worry a bit, because I knew the names on the passport had to match, especially for international flights. This wasn’t a single letter missing, or in the incorrect place (such as ‘Benjmain’), there were five letters missing. I pulled up the reservation on EgyptAir.com, and it showed the name as ‘Ben,’ without the option of changing it online. I called the OTA, who looked at the reservation as I explained the problem. They said the name would have to be changed (from Ben to Benjamin) in advance to reflect the name in my passport exactly and that EgyptAir would not check me in unless it did.

They requested that I email them a copy of my passport urgently to show the full name so they could correct it.

The terms and conditions of my reservation with the OTA said that any changes to my booking would incur a 150USD change fee, plus any difference in fare.

That was more than the cost of the ticket but I was willing to wear that in order to board the flight, as it was my error.

They never responded to the email (even after the flight), nor did they correct the booking.

I knew that EgyptAir was unlikely to amend a booking booked through an OTA, so did not call them in advance.

Now I thought through this logically. I’m travelling Hand Luggage Only, and if I checked in online for the flight and had a boarding pass on my mobile, it is unlikely anyone would check my boarding pass against my passport until I reached the boarding gate, and then it would only be checked once. And from previous experience, while they may check the photograph in the passport against the person holding the passport, they often don’t check the names that closely.

So if I didn’t correct the name prior to arriving at the airport, the only time it would be checked is when I was boarding, and the gate agent may not even check the names that closely.

Unfortunately though, Tunis is one of the few airports EgyptAir does not allow online check in for!

I asked around a few frequent flyer friends, and they suggested just to arrive early and ask for the booking to be changed, hinting that they may not charge me.

So yesterday morning I arrived nice and early at Tunis airport (around 2.5 hours before the flight departed) and joined the check in queue which was busy and fairly stressful with plenty of standby passengers and people trying to check in excess luggage.

When I reached the counter I handed over my passport, and the check in agent found my reservation. There were no frowns or supervisors called over initially so I politely said:

I noticed the first name on my booking is incomplete. Is that a problem? Could you please update it?

She checked my passport more closely, checked the system smiled and simply said: ‘no, it is not a problem.’

She then promptly checked me in, with the boarding pass still stating ‘Ben’ rather than ‘Benjamin.’

There were no questions asked at security, immigration and boarding despite many checks of my passport and boarding pass.

Now my experience isn’t definitive advice

Each airline may be slightly different depending on the location, fare conditions, systems, and mood of the check in or boarding gate staff so I think it would be irresponsible/naive of me to say every airline would do the same thing Egyptair did.

I’m not confident an airline like EasyJet would let me board if the names didn’t match correctly.

And I’m pretty certain this was my own error in not entering my full name when booking, not any system deciding to truncate my first name.

I think I was very lucky.

So, if this happens to you, my best advice is:

  • Many airlines have a 24 ‘free error corrections’ feature where if there is any obvious error in your booking (such as a first name being incomplete) you can do so for free provided it is within 24 hours of booking.
  • If it’s beyond 24 hours after booking, contact the airline/OTA anyway to see if you can correct any errors in your name ahead of time for complete peace of mind. Depending on the fare conditions there may be fees to do this. Some airlines and fares do not allow ‘name changes’ even for a fee so it would be up to the airline to determine if it is a correction or a change. If the error is very minor that they say it doesn’t need to be changed then they may just put a note on the booking that check in is allowed with the minor error.
  • If you cannot do this, either: (1) arrive as early as you can for check in and plead your case. You do not want to be running out of time to check in if you are going to be waiting for a supervisor to make a decision. Or, (2) if you prefer to take on some risk, check in online, travel hand luggage only and have no interaction with airline staff until you reach the boarding gate. Of course you take on the risk that you will be denied boarding leaving it until the last minute if the gate agent picks up the difference in names. For the record, the EgyptAir gate agent barely glanced at my passport and certainly didn’t say anything about the different first names.
  • Be polite and respectful, especially if it was your error in booking with the incorrect name.

Bottom line

I’m very interested to hear your experience of a name being incomplete or incorrect for an international flight. Had my middle name been missing, or incorrect, I would have been less worried as I know some bookings don’t even show a middle name. For example, I recently used Avios to book American Airlines flights and it did not allow me to enter a middle name anyway.

But for first and surnames I’m usually very particular as I know they should match. I suspect had the booking said ‘Bne,’ for example, I might not have been so fortunate as it would have been considered incorrect, rather than incomplete.

I certainly learnt my lesson to carefully check the full names when booking future flights.

Have you ever booked a flight with the wrong name?

Comments

  1. Having a truncated name on a boarding is par for the course for me and for anyone else that has a long full name (4 names in total for me). What needs to be correct name-for-name is the information you enter on the APIS. On the reservation itself, the biggest problem would probably be to get the miles for the flight, as the systems normally requires that the name on the reservation exactly match the name in your account for the miles to be automatically posted.
    But having a name on the boarding pass that didn’t exactly match my passport/ID card never caused any issues for me, even with picky TSA agents (including a couple of them that have asked me if Washington DC was in the US, one of them actually asking a supervisor to confirm that my drivers license was acceptable to travel). And I’ve seen dozens and dozens of variations of my name printed on boarding passes over the year.

  2. Many times I flew United between Singapore and Hong Kong i had my name wrong. Where my first and last name is written the wrong way round. I always go to the heck in counter and they will happily amend it if they can tell it’s human error when entering the name and that you are not attempting a name change.

  3. “because I knew the names on the passport had to match exactly, especially for international flights.”

    No. In fact a single misplaced, missing or incorrect letter in a name is commonly accepted and as others have said truncated names occur very frequently. I’d not have worried about this. Another uninformed post by James…

  4. I have a complicated last name consisting of 3 words. Years ago when registering for MileagePlus since that long of a last name couldn’t be registered at the time I abbreviated it to just the last of the 3 words. Been using it like that for 12+ years now even though it doesn’t match my passport or any visas. I do make a point for my booking to always have a middle initial in there though. I’ve been to many countries in Europe, Caribbean and Asia and never was I denied boarding or anything serious like that. Flying domestically in USA I have never had any issues whatsoever (when departing USA anywhere in general there was never a problem). But recently I was told in Europe that I probably should change it to be the first one of the three instead of last one it would be easier for them (not sure why?) or put the full name in. On one other occasion a supervisor was brought in and they made a notation within their booking system of my full name but on on the boarding pass. After that recent remark I reached out to United about perhaps updating it and they basically said it shouldn’t be a concern as long as its spelled right but that being said obviously they cannot guarantee it won’t cause issues elsewhere in the world.

  5. Booked a flight for a Russian friend, and they use patronymics (father’s first name) as part of their name. His Russian _domestic_ “passport” includes it, but his Russian international passport does not, as I suspected. My trick is to always book using the name as it’s written in the computer-generated strip of text at the bottom of the passport.

  6. I always hear the “match exactly” rules, but my work travel never includes my middle name (which is on my passport), while personal travel always does. I’ve never had a problem.

  7. Mr partner’s name never fits on the last name section (it is made up of 6 names) – so he just pus the last one. This could never legitimately be an issue, as so far, we have not found a single online form where the entire name fits.

  8. Delta is the absolute worst on this and is the only airline I’ve ever had trouble with. I had Delta deny a free bag AMEX credit because the suffix didn’t show up on my ticket and they wanted a change fee to add it.

  9. I empathize with your anxiety regarding incorrect names on international itineraries. Multiple times when I’ve used the Chase Travel Portal to book travel and have included my middle name, their system will combine my first and middle name. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when syncing it to Mileage Plan (for some reason that’s been the most difficult FF to credit to). However, it always seems I over-stress regarding it as I’ve never had anyone second guess it.

  10. @Michael- I think James’ posts are usually very well informed and add a bit of colour to the blog. He seems to complement Lucky really well.
    I had a similar incident where work has booked my travel for an urgent trip under Mike rather than Michael. No issues on the way out (I didn’t even notice this) but major issues on the way back. I was flying back from a rather ummmm pedantic Asian country. It involved a bunch of supervisors and very anxious phone calls. It was sorted out but took a good 45 minutes to produce a boarding pass under my “passport” name.

  11. @AG – six names! That’s pretty awesome.
    Without disclosing their name or anything, can you give an idea what it looks like? Many “von”s or “de” s?

  12. I would not trust this to work in most other countries. Names have to match exactly based on my experience in China, India and be the US. (I have a last name that has been misspelt, when making reservations by phone).

  13. I have a two part last name and a few times the first part of the last name was dropped. And when I noticed, I never brought it up fearing the worst. Of all the people who checked my passport no one commented.

    Not willing to test fate, these days I make sure autofill and auto correction is turned off when making flight reservations as that could end up being a problem as I use a nickname often and I always check the reservation before confirming. Scary stuff, glad everything worked out.

  14. Easyjet have an online facility to change name.
    It allows for changing person, in which case it charges you (unless you are a member of Flight Club)
    But it has some code to recognise “minor spelling mistakes” in which case it does not charge.
    I used this last month when my check the night before showed that my wife’s name had two letters transposed (like you, this was presumably my fault on purchase)
    It would be good if all airlines had this.

  15. @Bagoly: Any limit to the number of times you can use this facility? With enough steps it ought to be possible to change any name into any other name one character at a time. (Unless they retain the very first name on ticket and compare to that, rather than the immediately prior name).

  16. This is a useful post — I’ve never had issues with middle names, swapped first/last names, single letter misspells, spaces vs. hyphenated names outside the US, ever. On the rare occasion where I have been questioned about a spelling mistake, I’ve always played the “HUCA” game successfully by simply going to another agent/security line. Almost all minor errors are passable. The only times where I’ve had issues, down to the most minor of details, has been with Precheck/Global Entry.

  17. Had my first name and my brother’s first name once on an international ticket due to a family emergency and we weren’t sure which of us would fly. No one asked any questions both on departure and return.

  18. Some languages have female/male last names – no problem booking under either, except for South Korea & China – those two are rather anal. Otherwise, I’ve been booked as the wrong gender, misspelled TERRIBLY by phone agent twice, and never had any issues.

  19. This same thing happened to me recently, and I even have the name Ben (but Benjamin on passport). I somehow booked it as “Ben”, didn’t worry about it, was able to get a mobile boarding pass online, and ultimately *not a single human ever looked at the name of my boarding pass* (this was flying domestically in EU). So my name could have been almost anything.

    Internationally is a different story though and I’d be much more careful with that, especially in countries that may not be familiar with shortened English name variants like this.

  20. I had a similar experience on MIAT Mongolian! All fine and no notice taken at the airport…

  21. Ben Hughes raises an interesting point: come to think of it, it’s entirely possible to board a flight without a single ID check in the EU, even with checked-in baggage in some countries. You just need an airport with automated bag drop-off and self-boarding gates. You can go through the entire process without interacting with a human once!

    As for spelling changes, airlines vary: Brussels Airlines was able to fix this quickly over the phone, the entire call took less than two minutes. On the other hand, Czech Airlines charged €20 for changing a single incorrect letter, even within the 24-hour period, and even though we have official agent status with them.

  22. Hello Ben/James in Cairo!

    As it happens, we’ll be passing through Cairo briefly next week. Did you do the e-visa or visa on arrival? How was the website process / how were the queues?

  23. @James/Ben S, in addition to checking for name mismatches, you should probably check your posts for typos as well.

    “She checked my passport more closely, checked the system smiled and simply said: ‘no, its not a problem.’” *it’s
    “If it’s beyond 24 hours after booking, contact the airline/OTA anyway to see if you can correct any errors in your name ahead of time for complete piece of mind.” *peace
    “Or, (2) if you are prefer to take on some risk,” *nix ‘are’

    As for your name, I get the feeling that it’s not a big deal when names are shortened, as in your case. Something like ‘Edward’ and ‘Ted’ or ‘James’ and ‘Jim’ would obviously be an issue, but ‘Ben’ is part of ‘Benjamin,’ so perhaps that’s how they saw it?

    @Austin, IIRC, a lot of systems seem to combine first and middle names, so I don’t think that’s an issue. I’ve seen my BP show up as FIRSTMIDDLE many, many times.

  24. Once a issued a brazilian domestic ticket using LifeMiles flying Avianca Brasil. After finishing the process I noticed my last name was posted twice. Called them in El Salvador ( where their call center is located) and there was no way they could fix it. They suggested me to cancel the ticket, pay the fees ( expensive by the way) and re-issue another ticket. This process would be more expensive than purchasing a new ticket direct with Avianca Brasil. So in the end I decided to check in online and fly with hand luggage only. When the boarding started they were asking volunteers to jump to another flight because this one was overbooked. Got a little bit nervous because I knew I would be the first one to be denied to board but they didn´t pay attention to my duplicated surname and I had no problems.

  25. When we signed up for Iberia accounts, the system somehow did our names wrong. Mine shows as First Last Last and my Husband’s as First MyLast HisLast. We have since corrected that in our Iberia Accounts (multiple times), and it shows normal. But still every time we book a ticket it comes out with those wrong names, and we have to call to correct it. They always say it is not possible, that they do not pull data from the Iberia Plus profile, but that is obviously incorrect.

  26. @James Interesting and useful post. With respect to auto-complete, the problem (which has happened to me in other contexts) is that you might enter your name and other details correctly, but then you get to one box down the page and you just click to accept the auto-fill and it inputs that box but also revises boxes that you have already completed based on the information previously associated with the box that you auto-fill so you are unlikely to notice it unless you carefully review the full page. So if auto-fill is used anywhere on the page, it is important to check any prior inputs.

  27. I guess that for flight you took, high drama and general chaos would have been the order of the day and your concerns regarding your name would have been of no consequence whatever! Some interesting insights above; thanks for deceiding to write of your experience.
    (Do the Grammar Police really have to correct every tiny infraction they detect?)

  28. What do you do if you have child who goes through a name change between the time that the tickets are booked and the trip actually happens?

    My family took a trip to Norway this summer (6 tickets) on points. We booked the flights 11 months in advance and had to split the family into two separate flights to get it all on points. One of the flights included our foster son who was going through the adoption process. Since we didn’t know if the process would be complete by the time the flight occurred, we booked the flight under his given name using United points on Lufthansa (outbound) and Austrian (return). When his adoption went through before the flight, Lufthansa indicated that they couldn’t change the name on the tickets because it was United points and United indicated that they couldn’t change the name on the flight because it would require rebooking the ticket (and thus loosing the opportunity to fly on points). We went to the Dulles airport ahead of time and Lufthansa assured us that they would let my son through with the appropriate court documents showing the adoption and name change (his passport was under the new adopted name).

    On the flight out, everything worked as promised by Lufthansa at check-in, through TSA security, changing planes in Munich, and arrival in Oslo. The passport, ticket and court documents were enough to get through without a hitch even though the ticket name and passport didn’t match. However, on the flight back (Austrian airlines with SAS as the agent checking us in), the agent required that we work with Austrian to change the ticket before she would let us through. On the phone, Austrian predictably indicated that they couldn’t change the ticket and told us to work with United, but United predictably told us the same story that they would have to rebook the ticket. After we spent an hour in different lines unable to get anyone to help us, we were finally able to get a SAS agent to speak to someone senior enough at Austrian to make a decision and let us go through with 30 minutes to spare. Fortunately the Oslo security was empty, so we were able to breeze through and run to the gate as the last passengers on the plan. Our plane change in Vienna had a couple of minor hiccups, but generally went well and then our return to customs in Dulles was easy.

    All of this would have been easier if the tickets were booked with United points on United flights. In addition, it probably would have also been easier if the gate agent in Oslo was Austrian vs. SAS since SAS didn’t want to (or couldn’t) address the situation. Fortunately, it all worked out, but required a little more stress than we were counting on in Oslo before returning home.

  29. We just had this issue last month
    Name truncated Daniel to Dan
    Could not get ticket fixed
    No problem Vienna to JFK

    Changing award tickets can be a royal pain
    Our tickets were bought on United portal, on Austrian Air
    United said Austrian had to change the tix.
    Austrian couldn’t see the ticket
    We could see tix on Lufthansa, but they referred us back to United

    So we just crossed our fingers and went to airport
    They couldn’t fix there either
    But it caused zero issues

    In general truncated names don’t cause issues

    Eg: Benjamin to Ben, Daniel to Dan, Patrick to Pat

    What DOES cause problems are truncations that change spelling
    Eg James to Jim, Gerald to Jerry, Gwendolyn to Dolly etc.

  30. I had this issue on an Air France flight to Egypt that I booked last year. Auto fill reversed my first and last name and i didn’t notice it. A few hours later when I got the email receipts noticed it. It was after hours so I tweeted Air France and after a few interactions they fixed it for me. I had no problems traveling..

  31. “…any errors in your name ahead of time for complete piece of mind. ”

    “Piece of mind”? Should we also blame Google for that one?

    😉

  32. @Mike, I’m not @AG but I can also answer that. In Portugal, where I originally come from, 6 names is not that uncommon. And that’s without counting “de”, “da”, “e”, etc.
    At birth you can have two given names (first+middle) plus two last names from each parent, so that makes it 6 total names. When you get married you can add another 2 from your spouse (and, unlike the US, you don’t remove your previous last name, you keep them), even if you are a man (very uncommon to add your spouse last name nowadays, even for women). So you can end up with 8 names, plus any “connecting” works before each last name (“de”, “da”, “e”, etc.), so if you count those it would be 14 words in total max. Some last names can be hyphenated as well, as these count as last name even if they have more than one word.

    There is an article on wikipedia called “portuguese name” where you can find some examples of long names.

  33. @Michael

    “No. In fact a single misplaced, missing or incorrect letter in a name is commonly accepted and as others have said truncated names occur very frequently. I’d not have worried about this. Another uninformed post by James…”

    You would be surprised . The airline that I work for certainly does not allow that. And if I were airport staff – also would not. And I do not work for a low-cost. Another uninformed comment by Michael…

  34. In my case my nationality provides on my passport two last names and two first names. The two last names are from my fathers side so when I book flights for him I Always use his two last names who are the same on his passport and on mine. So, when he is only flying one way I use very much times he’s return flight and I never had any issue, domestical or international. Even Intercontinental.

  35. I had a similar issue when flying from ICN to SIN yesterday. I checked my wife & I in online but wasn’t able to print our boarding passes & obtained them at ICN. We arrived at the entry to Security where an officer was scanning boarding passes & mine set off an alarm. The officer compared my passport & boarding pass, entered something in on his keyboard & waved me into Security

    When we were finally airside, I noticed my boarding pass was showing only my given name while my passport shows my given & middle name

    This was after we overnighted at SIN on the way to South Korea & my wife managed to cut one of her thumbs lightly at the hotel, enough to create a difference between her thumb prints on arrival & departure. I had already passed through Immigration & watched while an Officer escorted her out of my range of vision to a separate counter. Fortunately, she joined me less than 5 minutes later

    At our age we don’t need this level of ‘excitement’ when travelling

  36. I was just in Tokyo checking into a flight on ANA and had a similar issue.

    The automated check-in kiosk refused to accept my passport because when United sends my booking information over to ANA’s system, it always merges my first name and middle initial into “CHRISTOPHERV” rather than “CHRISTOPHER V.” This usually isn’t a problem since United’s check-in systems don’t seem to care, but ANA’s kiosk at Haneda kept bouncing me out and refusing to let me proceed any further.

    Luckily, when I was directed over to a manned desk by a staff member (after they too were unable to get the kiosk to verify my passport) they accepted it without any questions. The desks hadn’t been my first choice since I was traveling with just a rollaboard and didn’t need to check baggage, but they sorted it out without even mentioning it.

  37. That happened to my last year when I was planning my European vacation. I booked a flight between France (Orly) and Barcelona using Transavia Airlines, I put my name in the last name space and vice versa… I was freaking out because was my first time traveling to Europe… I noticed really quick and called the airline in Luxemburg… The girl was really polite and changed the names and last names. I flew with no problems and no extra charges.

  38. We’re in the process of converting all of our FF clubs, CCs & car rentals
    so that they exactly match our US passports and CDLs (which have First Middle Surnames).

    We go First & Middle names (in the first name field) and then Surnames.
    Putting the Middle name in the Middle name field doesn’t work. It gets left off the tix.

    Tickets do often truncate to FirstMiddle name and then Surname.

    That’s cool with us, it’s still a match.

  39. A couple of airlines regularly conjoin my first and middle names on bookings. I’ve never had a problem, in so much as my full name is present, simply without a space between the first and middle, but it seems like it’s really easy to screw something up that’s supposedly so important.

  40. My problem is that my last name is a popular first name, and often people reverse my name and sometimes add an “s” i.e Peter Allen = Allen Peters. Easy to explain but hard to correct. Thankfully, have never been denied boarding, but have been unnecessarily hassled, through no fault of my own.

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