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

StarMetro Halifax - - DAILY LIFE - Ellen Rose­man PER­SONAL FI­NANCE COLUM­NIST

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

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