Travel

Frequent flyer: Amending a passenger’s name on a plane ticket

Amending a passenger’s name on an air ticket can, if Ryanair’s recent example is anything go to go by, cost several times more than the ticket itself. Are there industry standards? Monday, 8 April 2019

By Gary Noakes
Photographs By Getty

What’s all this fuss about?
Passengers are up in arms over ‘extortionate’ penalties for correcting spelling mistakes or passenger names on Ryanair flight bookings. And these costs vary wildly. Assume brace position: outside a 48-hour grace period, it’s £140/€160 to make changes at the airport or £100/€115 before then, which can make that £5.99 fare less of a bargain.

What?! Is this standard throughout the industry?
No, Ryanair reigns supreme here. The airline says it does it to stop travel agents buying loads of cheap fares and selling them on ‘at hugely inflated costs’.

What about others?
EasyJet allows free changes to spelling mistakes and if you want to transfer your booking to a different passenger, fees range from £20 to £52, depending on the departure date. TUI Airways charges a £50 flat fee to change a name right up to departure.

So, there’s no standard procedure for all airlines?
No, but most reputable airlines will correct a spelling mistake free of charge. If you want to completely change the name on the ticket, most carriers — including British Airways — have a 24-hour cooling-off period for you to cancel and rebook without incurring any penalties. There are some exceptions to this, however, such as last-minute purchases, flights that are part of a package holiday or bookings where payment isn’t taken immediately.

Can’t I just change the Advanced Passenger Information (API) details?
You can’t change names online in the API as this doesn’t change your e-ticket. You have to call the airline. If you booked your flight through a travel agent or website, they have to make the changes. There’s an added complication if the booking involves a number of carriers, so the advice is: get it right first time and check the small print.

AIRLINE SEAT ALLOCATION: SIT TOGETHER & PAY FOR IT

Families that pay together, stay together: An increasing number of airlines tell families they must pay to guarantee sitting together. Ryanair requires adults travelling with children under 12 to pay £3.50/€4 to reserve a seat. Up to four children per adult will then get free seat reservations so the family isn’t split up.

Taking your chances: According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), if you don’t reserve, there’s a 73% chance you’ll be allocated seating together anyway. It found only 12% of respondents flying with TUI and Flybe weren’t automatically seated together. Ryanair had the highest proportion — 35% were separated from their group.

Long-haul loophole: Most long-haul carriers let you reserve seats free 24 hours before departure. However, by then only the dregs may be left.

Preferred seats are a price worth paying: People are getting used to buying their preferred seats, but different economy fare categories means there are fewer to choose from. Higher economy categories, like Virgin’s Economy Classic and Economy Delight, mean you can reserve seats from the moment of booking, while the ‘basic’ economy fares offered by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic mean your seat is given to you at check in unless you pay extra.

Paying is here to stay: Paid-for seat selection was introduced 20 years ago and has grown steadily since. The CAA estimates the market is worth between £160m and £390m a year, so it’s here to stay. But heed the CAA’s advice: usually, it’s worth chancing it.

Published in the April 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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