You book the flights for your vacation or to visit your family abroad, a couple of days later decide to look at the confirmation email, and it hits you – you misspelled your name. Or, you entered your first and last name in the wrong order.
Situations like that are not common, but they do happen no matter how frequent of a traveler you are. Personally, while I never (knock on wood) misspelled my name on an airline ticket, I flipped my first and last name twice. Once, I was able to fix it for free, the other time I had to pay.
In this article, I’ll look at what the best course of action is in case you made a spelling mistake in your name when booking your flight.
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What to Do If You Misspelled Your Name?
The first thing you should do as soon as you spot the error is the following: contact the airline or travel agent immediately!
This is imperative – the quicker you act, the quicker you can get the issue resolved. More than that, though, the quicker you act, the higher the chances of being able to fix the issue without having to pay a high price.
If you booked directly with the airline, contact them. If you booked your flights through a travel agent, contact them – contacting the airline in that case will only result in the airline telling you to contact the travel agent.
Once you inform the airline or travel agent that you misspelled your name – you will be told what to do. The procedure to correct a spelling mistake can vary from airline to airline and travel agent to travel agent, however, the below are some common pointers:
- The airline will usually allow you to correct simple spelling mistakes
- There may be a small fee involved to make the correction
- Your flight documents will have to be re-issued
Below, are some examples of standard airline procedures relating to misspelled names:
- British Airways allows spelling mistakes to be corrected over the phone and there is usually no charge. You may have to send documents to their customer support team.
- American Airlines allows simple spelling mistakes to be corrected either via phone or over the internet without charge.
- Virgin Atlantic is quite lenient regarding spelling mistakes and name changes. If you have made a simple spelling mistake, the booking and ticket can be amended for free. You can also change your ticket if you have legally changed your name.
- Lufthansa has quite strict policies regarding name changes. On their website, they state: “It is not possible to make a retroactive name change for a booking.” I would advise contacting their customer service team immediately to resolve the issue.
- Ryanair does allow minor name changes for free within 24 hours. However, past that point, there is a substantial fee of 115 EUR. As such, if you don’t realize your mistake right away, in many cases, you might be better off buying a new ticket.
What to Do If You Flipped Your Last and First Name?
A similar problem to misspelling is if you have actually flipped your first and last name. Let’s say you’re John Smith. What happens if you booked your ticket as Smith John?
In most cases, you can do exactly as you did above – contact the airline or travel agent and inform them of the mistake. Common sense should prevail – the booking agents should see that you have made an error and correct it for you.
Just like with the case of a simple misspelling, it is important that you don’t leave this too late. Correcting a mistake within 24 hours of making your booking is generally straightforward. In the US, for example, the DOT (Department of Transportation) has implemented a 24-hour rule. This rule gives travelers the right to correct booking errors (or even cancel bookings) within the time period without any charges from the airline.
Also, while there are plenty of reports of people having no issues with flying on a ticket with flipped first and last name, I strongly suggest you solve the problem before arriving at the airport. That is because if you don’t fix it, you will be leaving the situation up to the airline employee – and while you might get lucky, you might also get unlucky and be denied boarding if your name does not match the name on your passport.
Always Double (or Triple) Check Your Inputs
While, as human beings, we make mistakes every now and then, the best way to avoid issues with misspellings is, of course to avoid them.
When I book flights, I always go over the information I enter at least two or three times (while that helped me avoid misspellings, I flipped my first and last names twice so far). Also, if someone happens to be in the same room while I’m booking a flight, I’ll usually get a second pair of eyes to look at the data I entered.
Besides double and triple checking the information you entered, and perhaps getting someone else to look over it, here’s what else you can do to avoid misspelling your name or personal info and to avoid troubles while checking in:
- Ensure that your caps lock key is off on your keyboard
- Ensure that your name and date of birth matches with your current passport
- Ensure that your passport is valid for (generally) at least 6 months after you plan to enter a foreign country
- If you are using a smartphone, turn Auto-correct off
- Always enter your information exactly as it appears on your passport
In an ideal case, of course, you will enter the right information from the very beginning. After all, prevention – in this case double or triple checking before clicking the “book” button – is the best medicine. Also, right after booking, make sure to go over your ticket and check these five things to avoid bad surprises when you try to check in.
Should you happen to realize you made a spelling mistake after booking the flight, though, act quickly. In many cases, if you find it out within 24 hours, you will be able to fix the mistake free of charge. If you find out about it later, there might be some fees involved depending on the airline or travel agent you use.
In either case, make sure to contact the organization you booked the flight through (airline or travel agent) as soon as you find out about the mistake.