Using the wrong name cost me $500 — reader mistake story
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Kelly, who neglected to review the personal information on a recent airfare purchase:
For my daughter’s 21st birthday, I planned a spring break trip to Iceland to see the northern lights (hopefully). I purchased the ticket through Vayama in July of 2019 for travel in February of 2020, and paid $540 for flights on Icelandair out of Orlando. I recently discovered a huge mistake: I had input her correct middle initial and date of birth, but I put my own first name instead of hers! I have no idea how it happened — perhaps autofill on my computer, or just a good old-fashioned mistake?
I contacted Icelandair immediately, but they refused to correct the name since I was requesting a name change and not a correction. They referred me to Vayama as the travel agency that sold the ticket, and Vayama said they would change the name, but Icelandair wouldn’t allow it. I even went to the airport to speak with someone at the Icelandair check-in desk. They couldn’t help me, but said it happens more frequently than you would think. They gave me another number to call, but it just led to Icelandair and Vayama passing the buck back and forth with no resolution.
My only option now is to cancel her first ticket and eat the cancellation fees of $200 from Icelandair and $100 from Vayama. That leaves me with $240 to purchase a new ticket, which is currently priced at $721. So it’s basically a $500 kick in the teeth for a stupid mistake. A word of advice to all: double/triple check your names before and after you purchase a ticket. Despite being a seasoned traveler who has booked a lot of flights online, this happened to me.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Airlines are reluctant to change the name on a ticket both for security reasons and to protect their revenue, but it can be done with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the nature of the change and when you attempt it. The usual 24-hour cancellation policies apply to eligible flights, so if you input the wrong name and recognize your error in time, you can refund the ticket and buy it again under the correct name. This opportunity to correct errors with minimal penalty is a compelling reason to double check personal information before and after you buy, as Kelly suggests. If you’re booking for someone else, have them confirm the details too.
Beyond the free cancellation window, the outlook is less favorable. You may still be able to avoid paying a fee if you’re just correcting a typo (like a single errant or omitted character), or if you’re updating your itinerary to reflect a change in your legal name. More complicated changes (like transposed first and middle names or flagrant misspellings) are likely to incur a fee even if the person traveling is the same. If you’re trying to change a name completely like Kelly did, plan on having to either pay a change fee or cancel your flight and rebook.
It seems unlikely that Autofill was the origin of Kelly’s mistake, since the middle initial and date of birth were correct. Regardless, Autofill is a persistent source of errors for travelers (and web users in general). It sometimes enters incoherent information (like a postal code where a frequent flyer number should be), and according to Popular Mechanics, it may also present security issues. I recommend entering each field manually when booking travel, but if you prefer to use Autofill, scrutinize your personal information before you submit it.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Kelly a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to email@example.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!
Featured photo by Anton Petrus/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.