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Middle name on your passport? Don’t make this airline ticket mistake

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

What happens when your middle name is on your passport and airline ticket, but your last name is missing? Eleanor Rasmussen can tell you because it happened to her.


If your middle name is on your passport, you probably always try to add it to your airline ticket. But many airlines and booking agencies don’t give you that option.

The reason for this omission? Travelers aren’t required to include a middle name on their airline ticket – even if one appears on their passport.

In Rasmussen’s case, the online booking agent her friend used to book their airline tickets didn’t have a specific field to add a middle name. That led to a travel fiasco that left her with an unusable ticket to Tokyo with only her first and middle name.

Now, with her middle name on her ticket where her last name should be, Rasmussen is asking for our help. She’s hoping Consumer Rescue can convince Singapore Airlines to correctly rewrite her ticket.

But will the third-party booking agent cooperate?

Looking for the best flights to Japan

Last March, Rasmussen and her friend Karen decided to plan a trip to Japan for the fall. Karen offered to research and book the best flights for their adventure. 

Having successfully used Kayak previously to find great deals on flights, Karen headed to the site to start planning the trip. 

Side note about Kayak 

Kayak (parent company Booking Holdings) is an aggregator site. Travelers enter their details and Kayak scans the internet, looking for the best deals that match those details. When searching for flights, Kayak will suggest various options available directly from the airlines and through online booking agents. 

If a traveler chooses one of the suggested flights, they’re taken directly to the website of the airline or booking agent to complete their reservation. 

Booking tickets on Singapore Airlines via Budget Air

As Karen scrolled through Kayak, she suddenly zeroed in on a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. She was directed from Kayak to another website she had never heard of before called Budget Air.

“There was a fabulous deal on a nonstop flight on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles to Tokyo,” Karen recalled. “I booked our tickets and let Eleanor know we were booked.”

The itinerary of the flight on Singapore Airlines would take the ladies from Los Angeles to Tokyo.
The ladies would fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo on Singapore Airlines

Soon, she received a confirmation with their 13-digit ticket numbers. Karen glanced at the reservation and then tucked it away for safekeeping. 

The friends were all set for their journey to the Far East. 

At least that’s what they thought.

It would be six months before the friends looked carefully at those airline tickets and noticed Rasmussen’s middle name where her last name should have been.

My middle name is on my airline ticket instead of my last name. Help!

One month before their trip to Japan, Rasmussen and Karen were excitedly making some last-minute preparations. Karen had not sent her a copy of her airline ticket previously, so she asked her friend to do so. 

The confirmation for her ticket from Budget Air began with the salutation “Dear Mrs. Eleanor May.” Rasmussen thought that it was a bit odd to use her middle name instead of her last name in the greeting. But then, as she scrolled down to the ticket information, she understood why. 

It was at that moment Rasmussen realized her trip was in jeopardy. The ticket from Singapore Airlines meant for her was in the name of Eleanor May. 

This airline ticket has a middle name in the wrong place, missing last name, not valid for travel airline ticket, wrong name
Rasmussen realized instantly that she wouldn’t be able to travel with this airline ticket, which had her middle name where her last name should be.

She called Karen to let her know about the problem.

Karen felt terrible, but she was sure that this was a mistake with the Budget Air website. She told me that she would get Singapore Airlines to put my last name on the ticket and move my middle name to where it belonged.

Eleanor Rasmussen

Rasmussen assumed the booking agent would soon correct the problem and that she and Karen could continue looking forward to their trip. 

But Karen was about to find out what happens when you book airline tickets through an obscure online agent with no customer support — and you have a problem. 

You’ll have an even bigger problem. 

The booking agent needs to remove the middle name from the airline ticket

Karen first tried to fix the problem with Budget Air. The website was easy to maneuver and even had a button that seemed to suggest a name change was possible. 

I pressed that ‘request a name change’ button multiple times and went through all the steps. Each time, I removed Eleanor’s middle name from the last name area on the ticket reservation and replaced it with Rasmussen. Each time, on the last step, when I pressed confirm, I received an error that said, ‘Oops, try again later.’

Karen

After circling through this cycle five times with no successful results, Karen next called Singapore Airlines. 

The airline’s agent confirmed that Eleanor would not be able to fly on the ticket with her middle name, where her last name should be. She reminded Karen that the first and last name on the ticket must be the same as on Eleanor’s passport. 

The agent explained that Singapore Airlines couldn’t change the ticket because Karen had purchased it from a third party. Karen would need to contact Budget Air to determine if the name could be changed. 

Frustrated by her lack of progress fixing what she thought would be an easy problem to correct, Karen told Eleanor the bad news. 

Karen assured her friend that she intended to do whatever it took to get Eleanor’s correct name on her ticket – even if it meant buying a new ticket. 

Can Consumer Rescue fix this airline ticket/passport name mismatch? 

While Karen continued to try to find someone – anyone — at Budget Air to talk to, Rasmussen began her own attempts to fix her ticket. 

Searching through the internet, she came across an article I had written about another airline passenger faced with a ticket and passport name mismatch.  

That column chronicled the experience of two friends as well. The couple intended to go island hopping through Greece together. But all those plans ended in tears at the check-in counter. That’s when an airline agent denied Jacqueline boarding because the name on her passport didn’t reflect the name on her ticket. Instead of flying to Athens that night, “Jackie” drove back home. 

Although that case did not have a happy ending, Rasmussen thought  Consumer Rescue might be able to help her since it was still several weeks before the flight.  

She sent her request for our advocacy team’s (free) assistance and hoped for the best.

How did the middle name get in the wrong place on this airline ticket?

When Rasmussen’s case hit our inbox, it was just three weeks before their much-anticipated trip to Japan. The friends were understandably becoming more panicked as the days went on. By then, the prices for flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo were greatly inflated. 

If Rasmussen was forced to buy a new ticket to Japan, it was going to be very expensive. I was hopeful that we could help.

Karen felt awful about the situation. But she told me that she was sure that she had booked Eleanor’s ticket properly. 

My big mistake was to book with Budget Air. I admit that now. I knew it was risky, but they have a big presence on Kayak and I just couldn’t resist getting reservations on a nonstop to Japan with Singapore Airlines. However, the other mistake was theirs. 

The Budget Air site states everywhere “We are there to help.” NOT SO.

I book several flights each year and know exactly how to fill out the form. There WAS a space for a middle name because they put my middle name on my ticket (even though they ran it together with my first name).

Karen

However, the reason I’m not using Karen’s last name is that I don’t want to embarrass her further, but the mistake was hers. Reviewing the documents and visiting the Budget Air website gave me a clear understanding of what had happened. 

There is no place to put a middle name on the Budget Air website

There is no middle name field on the Budget Air website.

Booking form on Budget Air, no middle name field, online airline booking
Despite Karen’s certainty that there was a middle name field on the booking site where she purchased this airline ticket, there isn’t.

There are clear instructions on the page that explain that the first and middle names of the passenger go in the initial box with no spaces. The last name goes in the second box. Additionally, even though there is a button that says “request a name change,” there is also a warning that says the tickets are nonchangeable and nonrefundable. 

Middle names on these airline tickets go in the first block with the passengers' given name.
“…the airline reservation system does not accept spaces or punctuation marks.”

Karen had successfully booked her own ticket, putting both her first and middle name without a space in the first box. For Eleanor’s ticket, she had placed a space between the first and middle names. That had moved her cursor into the second box, and that’s where she put Eleanor’s middle name. 

Next, she hit the return button again and added the last name. When she confirmed the ticket, any letters after the space bar were deleted. Those letters were Eleanor’s last name. 

The confirmation that Karen received just minutes after completing the booking showed that she had booked a ticket for her friend in the name of Eleanor May – not Eleanor Rasmussen. But Karen never looked at that confirmation carefully until half a year later. 

That was a mistake that almost cost these friends thousands of dollars. Almost. 

Will Singapore Airlines allow a complete name change on this ticket?

My experience trying to find someone at Budget Air who was “Here to Help” was the same as Karen’s. There appeared to be no one anywhere able to help. 

I then asked our executive researcher, Meera, to hunt down someone at Budget Air or its parent company. And even then, we were unable to reach anyone at Budget Air “Here to help.”

So I turned my sights to Singapore Airlines, an airline I know to be highly customer-focused. 

Hello there!

I’m working on a case for one of your passengers, Eleanor May Rasmussen, who hopes to be traveling to Japan in two weeks. Unfortunately, her friend purchased the airline tickets six months ago from the website “Budget Air,” and it wasn’t until last week that they discovered the friend had inadvertently added her middle name into the last name field — and left off her last name altogether.   

So now Eleanor has a ticket in the name of Eleanor May, instead of Eleanor May Rasmussen.  Budget Air has not been responsive and so the friends have no idea what to do and they’ve reached out to us for help.

I know Singapore has a policy of allowing name correction of up to three letters, but what about a situation like this? Is there any way to add Eleanor’s last name to the record? The only other alternative would be for her to buy a new ticket, which she’s hoping not to have to do.  

Thank you! (I’ve included a copy of her passport and ticket below.)😊

Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer advocate

The good news: Singapore Airlines fixed the ticket for $50

The same day that I sent this request over to Singapore Airlines, Karen was also desperately trying to correct this mistake. She was investing a great deal of her free time to make sure her friend had the right name on her ticket.

I soon received a phone call from Singapore Airlines informing me that the airline had granted a goodwill gesture to the friends. Even though the name change policy at Singapore Airlines doesn’t allow for a full name alteration, the airline fixed Eleanor’s ticket for just $50. 

This came as a great relief to Eleanor and Karen, who are right now enjoying their trip to Japan. 

Before they left, Eleanor had some parting words of wisdom for me:

Thank you, Michelle,  You spent a lot of time on this problem and explained well how we could try to solve it, as well as reminding us to read the reservation very carefully when [as soon as we receive it] –  don’t just see what you expect to see.  

I will get to fly to Japan as planned.  

Thanks again,

Eleanor May Rasmussen

We wish the ladies a wonderful time and we’re happy to have been able to help!

How to avoid a middle name fiasco on your airline ticket

Travelers should keep in mind that the first and last name on your international airline ticket must match your passport exactly. To avoid any confusion, add your middle name to your ticket whenever possible.

But middle names are not required on your international airline ticket, even if you have one on your passport. So don’t be overly concerned if there is nowhere to add your middle name when you’re making an airline reservation. However, if you add your middle name to your record, it must be in the correct field. Otherwise, you could end up like Rasmussen with an unusable ticket.

Here’s how to avoid a mismatch between the name on your passport and the one on your ticket.

Use a professional travel advisor

Many of the fiascos you read about on the Consumer Rescue site could have been avoided had the traveler used a professional travel advisor. In this case, had Rasmussen asked a trusted travel agent to book her trip instead of a friend, it’s guaranteed that she would not have ended up with a ticket in the wrong name. 

And in the worst-case scenario, if a professional agent makes a mistake, they’ll correct it at no expense to you. Errors and Omissions insurance makes that possible. An experienced travel advisor carries that type of insurance against mistakes, but your friend doesn’t. You can find a reputable travel advisor through the American Society of Travel Advisors ( ASTA) website.

Book directly with the airline

It’s always easier to fix problems without an unnecessary third party involved. Buying an airline ticket through an online booking agent inserts a middleman into your reservation.

If you have a problem with your ticket, as Rasmussen did, you’ll have to go through the booking agent to correct it. And unfortunately, many online booking agents, especially obscure ones, come with zero customer support. So, while you may save a few bucks initially, if things go wrong, you’ll quickly discover that savings is worthless when you need personalized help.

If you’re intent on self-booking your trip, beware: you’ll ultimately be responsible for any mistakes with your ticket – or with any other kind of travel plans you make on your own. (See: My Expedia booking went all wrong. How did I end up owing $6,987 extra?). Making your reservation directly with the airline will allow you to contact the carrier to fix any ticket problems you might face.

Read all the instructions on the booking screen

Whether you book your airline ticket directly or through an online agent, it’s imperative that you read all the instructions and information on the screen in front of you. In their haste to snag a great deal, many travelers will breeze past critical warnings like “Here’s where your middle name goes” and “This ticket is nonrefundable and non-changeable.” Unfortunately, this careless booking style can lead to giant – sometimes irreversible – problems.

When self-booking your travel, slow down and focus on precision rather than bargain hunting and speed. Before pressing the confirmation, review all details of your reservation. On an airline ticket, ensure that the first and last names appear exactly as they are on your passport. If you’ve added your middle name, check that it is in the correct location on the ticket.

FYI: Remember, if you add your middle name to your ticket, some airlines and booking agents will smoosh your first name together with your middle name. Don’t be alarmed. But if your middle name is merged with your last name, that is a problem that you will need to fix. 

The limitations of the 24-hour rule

The Department of Transportation requires all airlines selling tickets in the United States to provide a 24-hour cancellation period after purchase. That’s when travelers must thoroughly review their airline ticket, ensuring every detail on the confirmation is correct. If there is an error, that is the time when passengers can cancel their reservation and receive a full refund with no penalty.

Two important warnings about the 24-hour rule:

  • Online booking agents are not bound by the 24-hour rule: Some more widely known OTAs like Expedia and Priceline have adopted the 24-hour rule for airline tickets. However, self-bookers must be aware that most airline tickets purchased from an online booking agent will not provide an option to cancel within 24 hours of purchase without penalty. That means travelers should be very cautious when clicking that confirmation button.
  • 24-hour hold option: Some airlines, like American Airlines, allow customers to put a reservation on a 24-hour hold before booking. If a traveler uses that feature and then books a ticket, the 24-hour cancellation rule doesn’t apply to the reservation.

The bottom line

We’re pleased that, in the end, Singapore Airlines made an exception for Rasmussen. But it’s important to note that the complete rewrite of her ticket was a goodwill gesture from the airline. Travelers in a similar situation should not expect the same results.

If you choose to book your own travel, whether it be airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, or cruises, it’s your responsibility to make certain your name and other details are correct on your reservation. If you don’t, you may spend money on a trip you’ll never get to enjoy – and that’s an easily avoidable fate. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
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LiLi

Glad this worked out in the end, and Singapore at least offers the option to fix names.

Tangent, but I find airline’s general hostility to do good faith name change to be so consumer unfriendly. They can claim “security” all they want, but in the end its because they want you to cancel your ticket, then buy the ticket again, usually at a higher rate. Why make a customer pay once when they can pay twice for the same ticket?

Tim

I put my middle name on all my tickets. I am enrolled in Global Entry (that gives me TSA Pre-Check); since GE has my full name, I put my full name on my tickets to ensure I can use the Pre-Check security line. Not sure if that helps or not, but I do it anyway.

But I agree–check any reservation you make immediately to make sure there are no mistakes–weather it is for a flight, a rental car, a hotel, etc.

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