Wrong names on plane tickets are costly
Airlines can make passengers rebook at a higher fare, and it can be hard to resolve mix-ups
When booking airline flights, your name must be spelled correctly and must also match your passport name.
Getting the name right is important. You probably know that. Mistakes can lead to denied boarding and being required to buy a new ticket.
But you may not know that most airlines give you only 24 hours to correct mistakes without a penalty. Waiting longer than 24 hours to check your email confirmation, and make corrections right away, usually means paying a change fee and higher costs for a new fare.
Take the case of Greg Yashan, who booked a cruise with Princess Cruises and a flight with Lufthansa from Toronto to Rome, return. He received a confirmation from Air Canada on Jan. 6, 2018, and noticed that Air Canada had a co-share arrangement with Lufthansa to handle its booking.
He did not notice that his airline passenger name (Gregstephen Yashan) was not identical to his passport name (Gregorystephen Yashan).
He finally spotted the error in August, while checking in a few weeks before the cruise. He thinks it might have been an autofill problem, since he uses Greg when signing or applying for things.
Air Canada made him cancel and rebook, resulting in an extra $999.23 payment to add three letters to his first name. He retained the same seat on the same flight.
As a goodwill gesture, the airline sent him a $300 discount coupon for a future flight within one year. But he kept asking why it cost so much to fix his name and received several explanations: Misspelled names and tickets with names different from the passport holder can result in passengers being denied boarding.
A lower fare has more restrictive rules about changes. Higher-priced fares allow more flexibility.
His ticket contained flights on other airlines, so multiple reservation systems were involved.
Because so much time had passed since the booking, the fare he purchased was no longer available.
Yashan was frustrated. “Air Canada does not have an escalation process and finding contact information to speak with someone is next to impossible,” he said. “I did succeed in finding someone in their head office, who promptly sent my complaint back to Customer Relations.”
Here’s what surprises me. The emails never mentioned the 24-hour deadline for changes without fees. Nor did they warn Yashan to take greater oversight in the future by checking email confirmations.
Stan Thompson also had a problem with a passenger’s
name on an Air Canada booking. Luckily, he did manage to get a correction without penalty.
Instead of writing to customer relations, he found the names and email addresses for Air Canada’s executive contacts at a U.S. consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.
He sent an email to Twyla Robinson, general manager of customer relations, and sent a copy to me, describing a ticket mix-up that resulted in higher costs and delays.
“My son moved to Alberta four years ago when he was 21 years old, and each year his mom and I bring him home for Christmas to spend some time with his family,” he told Robinson.
“We booked a return plane ticket back in October from Calgary to Toronto, but there may have been a glitch with the online process. Even though I put my son’s name in as the passenger, it defaulted back to my name when I put in my Aeroplan number.”
The problem was discovered
only in December and his son was told to cancel the ticket, which cost $641.71, and buy a new one for $952.51. He would get a credit only for the tax of $101.71.
His email to Twyla Robinson, sent on Dec. 23, drew a quick reply from Anthony Doyle, managing director of customer contact centres. He promised to have his team review the case.
Early on Dec. 24, Thompson got a call from Air Canada’s Nova Scotia office, giving him a full credit for the extra money paid above the original ticket price.
His story shows that nocost corrections can be made beyond 24 hours under certain conditions, especially when the airline may have some responsibility.
The lesson is to check your tickets for accuracy as soon as you make the booking. Each airline has different rules for correcting mistakes. Since getting engaged a month ago, my financial priorities have shifted to accommodate being able to afford a wedding. Also on the horizon — and these other two financial goals didn’t change — is buying a larger home and travelling to Greece for my fiancé’s best friend’s wedding.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be diverted toward these three activities in 2019; and this doesn’t include the mortgage for the home. I’m grateful for all of the saving we’ve done leading up to this point — over two years’ worth — but the costs still keep me up at night.
To reduce any anxiety about my financial commitments in 2019, I’ve decided to set some complementary professional and personal goals to offset the heavy weight of my financial ones. Professionally, my goal is to grow my business, Mevest. Personally, my goal is to to become even more of a minimalist than I am today. Essentially, I’m striking a balance between my finances, my career and my personal well-being, because life isn’t all about money.
Here’s how you can stop feeling overwhelmed by your financial goals and start achieving a better balance between your finances, your work, and your personal well-being.
Pick a theme for 2019: For me, the theme was easy to pick — do more with what I have. This means not trying to reinvent the wheel; rather, use my money more efficiently, grow my business by focusing on my current customer base versus chasing a new segment, and using up things in my home, my fridge, my closet, and storage rather than buying anything new.
Your 2019 theme could be about being more satisfied with your finances, your work and your well-being. Or, perhaps it’s all about growth, such as saving more, getting a promotion, and being physically and emotionally stronger. Choose a theme that you can be passionate about.
Limit your financial goals to three realistic ones: Let’s zero in on how to strike a balance
between your financial, professional, and personal goals. Financial goals are hard to achieve when there are too many of them. Limit these to three realistic ones, such as save $5 per day (which, by the way, is $1,825 in a year, or enough for a vacation), open up a TFSA, pay an extra $100 per week on your line of credit (which is an extra $5,200 in payments), learn how to master your budget, or cut back your spending by using only cash.
Love your work: We spend one third or more of our time working, so make the most of your work and you’ll be happier, and that typically means you’ll do a better job, which leads to making more money. Set up to three professional goals, and one I suggest is that you fall in love with your work in 2019. The others could be about achieving a raise or promotion, travelling for work, going on courses, or learning a new element of your professional craft.
One of my favourite things to do in January is an audit of my work. The audit reveals whether I’m loving my work and if my work is loving me. If the answer is no to one, the other or both, it’s time for change. I put pen to paper and ask myself: Do I love what I’m doing? Is it time for a change? Can I be better at my work (and how)? What have other people said about my performance this year? Am I still learning? Am I making enough money? Do I feel valued and am I adding value?
Be well: What would improve your physical and mental health this year? Going to the gym? Using a guided meditation app like Calm or Headspace? Eating better? Speaking to a counsellor on a regular basis? Making dating a priority? Sleeping more? Stop eating processed foods? Reducing clutter? Purging your home? Aim to set three goals in this category that you can stick to. In the past, I’ve found it helpful to share these goals with a close friend, and sometimes they’ll even join me on my journey.
According to a recent Tangerine survey, improving finances is one of the top-cited resolutions for Canadians in 2019. But balancing between other important areas of your life will make sure that your year, and your life, are more than just dollar signs.
Reduce your anxiety over your financial goals in 2019 and embrace them