Have you ever had one of those days?
I booked tickets for my wife and I to fly up to Vancouver, British Columbia for the TBEX conference. As is my habit I used the TripAdvisor flight search which is my day job. TripAdvisor flight search searches a variety of sites and the cheapest fare for me happened to be found at CheapOAir.com. So far so good. I booked the tickets separately, paid with my credit card and received two emails from CheapOAir.com with the details for the flight.
Problem – My Airplane Ticket has the Wrong Name
That’s when I noticed that although my wife’s name is Joan, I had booked using her computer which apparently has a problem that the “a” key sticks. The ticket had been issued to “Jon”. Crap. You may have heard that you can’t change the name on an airline ticket (not true) or that changing the name can be an expensive hassle (somewhat true).
I contacted CheapOAir right away and they got back to me and told me the good news. I had booked this ticket with United. You used to be able to reserve a ticket on United for 24 hours without paying anything. You can’t do that anymore but it turns out you do have 24 hours to cancel the ticket with no charge. All we had to do was cancel the ticket and reissue it.
Different airlines have different policies (see AirfareWatchdog.com’s Airlines’ courtesy fare-hold and 24-hour cancel/change policies for details).
Bigger Problem – I Failed to Notice the Problem Right Away
By the time we got the new ticket it was over 24 hours after I booked it and only then it occurred to me that since my problem came from a sticky keyboard I really ought to check the other ticket. You guessed it. The name on my Ticket was “Chri Christensen”. I contacted James at CheapOAir again and he told me that I would probably have to pay a $114 fee to change the ticket. Those are the rules for United. James said he would try to get the fee waived but certainly could not promise anything.
Fortunately James was able to sweet talk United into waiving the fee. Now, I have contacts at CheapOAir because I am a travel blogger and honestly I don’t know if that helped me. But I am thankful for the help that James, et al gave me. The mistake was mine, not theirs. All they got for their time was a hassle and my thanks.
The lesson here is:
- Make sure you check the name on the ticket before you book your ticket
- Double-check it as soon as you get the confirmation.
I was lucky to be able to change the name on a ticket after 24 hours but you should not count on that.
For answers to other frequently asked air travel questions check out 23+ Air Travel Questions Answered.