/ 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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Comments
Member

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.

Member

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.

Member
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.

Member

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.”

Member

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.

Member

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

Member

Have you a problem with dyselksia Briam?

Member

If you take his name as a clue Wavechange , he could be Greek and not fully conversant with the English language.

Member

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