/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Up to £160: the cost of a spelling mistake on an airline ticket

Pen crossing out error

What’s the cost of a misplaced ‘e’? Not a lot, I’d have thought. If I misspell my name ‘Grey’ and then correct it to ‘Gray’, it takes a split second. So why can it be such a drawn out and costly affair for airline passengers?

Which? member Frederick Hubbard missed an ‘e’ out of his name when he booked a flight on Lastminute.com.

He thought it’d be easy to put right, but when he told Lastminute.com, he was informed he’d have to pay a £45 admin charge plus the full £540 cost of the return ticket to Detroit. He would get the £540 he spent on his original ticket back, but potentially not for four months.

So that’s £45 plus potentially being out of pocket by more than £500 for a third of a year. That’s a lot of money to loan to a travel company for four months, and as Frederick told us: ‘it might be £540 I don’t have’.

‘The whole principle of having to pay a charge as well as buy another ticket and wait that long for a refund, just to make a small spelling change, is lunacy,’ he added.

Shouldn’t it be free to correct a spelling mistake?

Now, I understand that changing airline tickets isn’t always as simple as you might think. And airlines also have to guard against agents bulk-buying tickets, who then sell them on to customers and changing the names as they do so. But surely a tiny change like inserting an ‘e’ should be free? The European Commission thinks it should and is planning to reform the rules governing name changes on airline tickets so that spelling mistakes will have to be corrected free of charge.

I’m all in favour of the change, but I don’t see why airlines and travel agents like Lastminute.com can’t stop charging now.

When we looked at airlines’ T&Cs to see what they could charge, we found many reserved the right to levy between £20 to £50. Monarch reserved the right to charge £120 for a name change made through a call centre, and Ryanair reserved the right to charge £160.

Both said that that size of payment wouldn’t apply to simple spelling errors. Monarch said there could be no charge at the discretion of customer services, and Ryanair said minor errors would be just £10.

Other airlines also told us they wouldn’t charge for spelling mistakes. However, if you want to have the best chance of getting the change for free, call the airline or agent customer services and argue your case. Don’t rely on their website.

Have you had to correct errors after booking an airline ticket? How did you find the airline or travel agent handled it? Did you get charged?

Should spelling mistakes on airline tickets be corrected free of charge?

Yes (87%, 276 Votes)

Maybe - the charge should be reasonable (11%, 35 Votes)

No (2%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 316

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I always book tickets while logged into my frequent flyer account of whichever airline I’m flying with. This ensures not only that my name is correct but also that my frequent flyer number is on the booking to earn miles. I realise this might not work for budget airlines, but I avoid using them anyway.

I use the Ryanair site to book tickets on a regular basis and take ages to book a few flights. I have to be careful not to make a costly mistake. You are bombarded with offers for car hire, insurance, a suitcase, hotels, reserve seats, priority boarding, etc. all distracting you from the basics of booking a flight – not surprising we make mistakes.

Ian says:
22 June 2013

I booked return flights to Australia for my wife and myself using Frequent Flyer points in a phone coversation with a French agent. He got my surname correct (because it was in my Frequent Flyer details), but got my wife’s surname wrong (although it was the same as mine). We didn’t notice the error until check-in where they found that there was no Australian visa for my wife’s ticket. The airline applied for a visa to match the ticket and she flew in both directions with a ticket which did not match her passport. There was no charge for this service.

Here’s what Ryanair has said in response to this:

“Passengers are asked to ensure that the details they enter at the time of booking are correct before completing their booking, thus avoiding the need to make any amendments. Small spelling errors can be amended, subject to a £10 administration fee, by calling Ryanair’s reservation centre.

“However, Ryanair must charge a name change fee where there is a substantial name change to discourage ‘screenscraping’ whereby travel websites purchase Ryanair’s cheapest fares and later sell them on to unwitting consumers at hugely inflated costs. Ryanair hopes to reduce the cost of this service when the EU bans the practice of screenscraping and the unauthorised sale of Ryanair tickets by third party websites is banned.”

Charging £10 to correct a name does not seem unreasonable, otherwise those who are careful have to subsidise the careless.

In my experience, those with dyslexia get their own name right but I can envisage that errors could be made. If this is a risk, someone else should check the booking or the company should make provision for telephone booking.

Correctin a miner errer is a smell problem and can bee dun with litell effat or kost. Korectin kustemers errers is yused as an excuse to milk the publik of there munney

Have you a problem with dyselksia Briam?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I have little doubt that Brian is simply pulling our leg, Duncan. In my experience, dyslexia is easy to spot.

Briam is oven-baked ratatouille. It seems remarkably able to communicate with consumers for a vegetable dish.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Ivan Benjamin says:
12 July 2013

A few months ago I booked a flight with EasyJet. The flight was for the departure date of 6th January 2014 but in making my online booking I inadvertently put in the 3rd instead of the 6thh. I realised my mistake immediately and within a minute or two changed it to the 6th. However I had to bear a charge of twice times £45.00, i.e. £90.00, as the booking was for both me and my better half. As you can guess I felt somewhat peeved.

Paul Cooke says:
16 July 2014

Good to see nothing has changed this was originally posted last year. I booked a holiday including flights thru Gadventure.com this Sunday and managed to add an additional character to my Surname by pressing the O and P key (next door on the key board) at the same time. The details of the holiday were sent for me to check on Monday and I immediately responded high lighting the problem. I now face a minimum £150 charge from Air India to change the name on a ticket that has not even be issued to me yet from Copoke to Cooke. The justification these airlines hide behind is that the charges are to prevent block reselling of tickets but when you realise the Credit Card used to purchase the ticket has a name that matches the change requested and the passport details you are increasingly asked to provide also match it looks a pretty poor fig leaf for a cynical revenue generating exercise. I am speaking with them again tomorrow and will post the outcome.

Paul Cooke says:
17 July 2014

The outcome so far is that Air India have given me to local UK numbers to call. One which rings out. I litterally spent 40 minutes calling repeatidly. When I called their call centre to report this I was given another number to call in the UK which is constantly engaged. I’ve called 6 or 7 times so far and used the ring back service without any joy. Will post an outcome when I actually speak with somene

Paul Cooke says:
17 July 2014

Ok spoke with the call centre again and given another UK number that I must call. Assured this number would work. I have been told the three numbers given to me are for the London City office. Tried this number. Constantly engaged again tried at least 6 or seven times. I’m now cancelling my flight at a cost of £125 and will book with someone else. I would rather do that than deal Air India. Lamentable

Mark Rose says:
30 August 2014

Following a football draw yesterday I booked three lots of return flights for 6 passengers with Wizzair, easyjet and Pegasus Airlines. I had to book them very quickly as the prices rise within minutes following such a draw. When I looked at the email confirmations I noticed that I had made a spelling mistake for one of the passengers on the Pegasus Airlines booking. I spelt the first name as Dornon when the correct spelling is Doron. I found their help desk number online and got through straight away – no queue. I gave them the reference number and within 30 seconds they corrected the error and emailed me an updated confirmation.

The same has happened in the past with two other airlines and both corrected them without any hassle. The key thing is to check your email confirmation and correct the error swiftly. Even budget airlines like Ryanair and easyjet state that they will correct minor errors free of charge if notified within 24 hours. A problem can arise if the error is noticed near the travel date.

Amelia says:
28 May 2015

I booked return long haul flights and spelt my surname wrong by one letter. Although Emirates said they would change the e-ticket, the booking agent has charged £360 for the privilege!

Paul Weller says:
10 July 2015

I noticed that a first name had been spelled wrong on a Ryan Air flight. Simple mistake Adelle spelled with only one L (Adele) Contacted via Live Chat and changed with no hassle or problems within 5 minutes and confirmation email sent immediately. Thank you Ryan Air. After reading all the horror stories, I was worried I would charged a fortune. Thought it appropriate to comment positively when things go smoothly 🙂

Roger Payn says:
5 October 2015

I made a typing error when inputting passenger details with Monarch. Contacted their customer service by phone and they corrected immediately, without charge and sent confirmation of change. Well done Monarch.

I am a Filipino and my husband is an English. He has booked us a flight to the Philippines for a holiday months ago but he said that my complete long name cannot be typed fully so he just entered Ma only which means Maria. Although I trusted him that it will be fine but I was in doubt so I asked him to inquire about it. My husband had phoned and email the agent and he said it should be changed otherwise I will be denied in boarding the flight and he also said he will get back to my husband last night. I am wondering how long it would take and how much does it cost to add my remaining 7-letter in my name. My husband also asked to confirm our transit lounge. I am worrying now because the agent said he would contact the airline but has not heard from him yet. We are leaving on Monday. I just hope that it will be sorted out soon or I will be devastated.

Good morning Maria, I think that it may be best for you to call the airline and check their requirements before you travel on Monday.

Hi Lauren. We had to book a new flight in my correct name and it cost us a fortune. My husband called the China Air and he called again the Travel Trolley travel agency. The agent kept telling lies and that made him so mad. They said he has to cancel the flight and rebook in my complete name. That was ridiculous! I think my husband called 3 offfices that day. We just ended up booking in China Air not in the agent anymore and it would be a bit less expensive than them but had already cost us a fortune. He was mistaken in the date of coming back home. Instead of 20th of Feb, he has booked 19th of Feb. It was nice that I have double checked it. He was already tired and had to sleep yesterday. We were charged £95 to correct the date. On my itinerary it says 2 pc x 23 kg for the luggage. Would that mean I would have 2 luggage allowance for 23 kls each? My husband’s name is Charles but in his passport Charles Matthew. He said that Matthew is his middle name and that’s how English names here. On the ticket it’s Charles only. Would that be ok? This is indeed a traumatic experience! They wanted to give him £130 refund but my husband doesn’t bother anymore so we will have 3 seats then. He doesn’t want them to sell my seat and make them earn out of it any longer. We leave Sunday because we have booked a hotel. We have a free transit lounge for 4 hours in Beijing. We just hope and pray that everything goes well on Monday. We just need to have a break and enjoy out holiday.