Travel Troubleshooter: Damage? It's no new stinkin' damage

04/21/2013 12:00 AM

04/19/2013 2:30 PM

I recently booked two tickets through an online travel agency for my husband and me to fly to the Philippines. When I got his ticket, I noticed that "Jr" was missing from his name. I went back to the site and discovered that there was no space provided where I can put a "Jr."

I called the agency and a representative told me it was "not a big deal" and that I should not worry about it. They suggested I call Delta Air Lines, the airline I was flying on, to give them a heads-up. This weekend, I called Delta and asked them about the name issue. Delta told me that the name on the ticket should match the one on the passport. Delta said that my husband may not have a problem checking in with the airline but that he may have some problems with security, immigration and even entry and exit to the country we are visiting.

This set me into panic mode. Delta also told me that to ensure that my husband would not have any trouble at all, that I call my travel agent and request a name change. My agency says Delta doesn't allow name changes and that they need to issue a new ticket. I persisted, and they finally agreed to change the name for $300 – that's $200 for Delta and a $100 fee the agency charges. I find this ridiculous and expensive. Please help us.

– Agnes Lednum, Henderson, Md.

Your travel agency was both wrong and right.

Wrong, in the sense that it should have offered a section for "Jr." or "Sr." given how particular TSA, customs and immigration officials can be, they ought to allow you to input your full legal name.

But your agency was correct about this not being a big deal. I've never heard of someone being denied boarding because they were listed as "II" instead of "III" or "Jr." rather than "Sr."

It's difficult to tell if this is an airline hangup or a TSA issue. But in a situation like this, I just follow the money. No terrorist has ever slipped on a plane by hiding behind a suffix. Airlines like Delta, however, collect billions of dollars a year in ticket change fees and other ancillary surcharges.

Airlines need to adopt a more flexible, customer-friendly ticket change policy. That way, a little problem like this wouldn't get turned into a federal case. I contacted Delta on your behalf. It reviewed your record and agreed to fix your husband's ticket as a goodwill gesture.


Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or email him at chris@elliott.org.

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