How to purchase US domestic airline tix for long distance family member?
September 5, 2022 10:36 PM   Subscribe

That's the question, can you help? This would be for emergencies or perhaps just for travel.

They have no credit or debit card, no bank account. Only the card that Social Security posts their benefits to, which acts as a debit card but to which I can't add funds. They are essentially off the grid.

They have a drivers license, live about 2,000 miles from me.
They have an android phone, and an iPad with no phone connectivity -- but internet on both. I have an iPhone, iPad and Fire tablet, no phone connectivity on the Pad or tablet.
Neither of us have a computer.
I have the cash/credit to arrange this for them.
So how do we shop for, purchase and receive airline tickets?
Before you roll your eyes, yes we are olds -- but more important I think is distance and their lack of access to credit/cash.
I cannot commingle funds, for instance, on a joint credit or bank card For Reasons.
Any ideas?
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff to Travel & Transportation around Wells County, IN (24 answers total)
Best answer: You could buy the ticket for them online and then simply email them the ticket - or am I missing something? Or just print and mail them the info so that when they get to the airport, they have the needed info in order to get their boarding pass.
posted by dngrangl at 10:43 PM on September 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You just find a suitable connection and buy the ticket. You’ll be asked to complete passenger details and instead of your own you add your relative’s details. E-ticket gets emailed to you and/ or them, depending what options you select and you can forward the email if required. That’s it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:45 PM on September 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This may vary by airline, but with the airline I most commonly use, I can book a flight using my regular account but list someone else as the passenger who will be traveling. Then you can email them the confirmation they need for the ticket. To check in at the airport, they will need the booking reference number and the name the ticket is issued in.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:46 PM on September 5, 2022

Best answer: I suppose, unless you yourself travel regularly- all tickets are electronic now. Your respective locations really don’t matter. If relative likes a piece of paper to travel they would have to print or you would have to print and send to them by snail mail.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:49 PM on September 5, 2022

Response by poster: Okay I'm going to let all my stupid hang out here -- but you can just buy a ticket in someone else's name using your credit card? Because IIRC that used to not be possible, and I would think less so after 9/11 but ... I'm all for it if that's possible!
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 10:52 PM on September 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If this is in the US, it's pretty trivial. As long as someone pay for the ticket and it's valid for the flight it's easy-peasy. Just make sure the passenger's name is spelled correctly on the ticket (and matches their Federal ID), make sure they carry their ID on the day of travel and don't carry any contraband onboard the plane, and get to the airport 2 hours before departure in case of long lines at check-in or security. Try to limit oneself to carry-on only, in order to avoid horror stories check-in (saves time) and losing the baggage (which is a real hassle).

I remember using Orbitz and it was pretty easy to list other people as the travellers, so it should be pretty much the same across all travel booking sites.
posted by kschang at 10:53 PM on September 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have never heard of that being an issue, before or after 9/11. The name on the ticket needs to match the name on their driver's license. The name on the credit card needs to like... Match the credit card. The two needn't match each other
posted by brainmouse at 10:54 PM on September 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, you can name passengers other than yourself when buying a ticket. The key really is that you enter their details as they are on the official ID they’ll use to travel because getting that information changed later can be very difficult and expensive.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:55 PM on September 5, 2022

Best answer: I live in Europe but buy airline tickets for my mom in the US all the time. I have bought her domestic and international tickets. She doesn't have email so I usually message her the info and she picks up the ticket at the airport on the day of departure..
posted by vacapinta at 10:56 PM on September 5, 2022

Response by poster: Okay that seems pretty unanimous, and I thank you all for the information and the additional tips. So this is not a problem and I'm relieved.

Thanks for the quick and kind responses and for laughing off screen (snort).
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 11:01 PM on September 5, 2022

Best answer: Okay, ONE THING, make sure the person's STATE ID is Federally acceptable (in California, it's called RealID) i.e. can be used to fly. Take care of that BEFORE you buy the ticket. Or get the passport ready, even if you're not leaving the country.
posted by kschang at 11:21 PM on September 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The strict version of the RealID requirement starts May 2023. Until then, these forms of ID are accepted.
posted by dum spiro spero at 12:50 AM on September 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You folks are great, as always!
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 2:03 AM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, i would venture that perhaps even a majority of flyers book tickets with a credit card not in their name. Business travel - it’s common to either book using a company card, or for one person to handle the booking for everyone.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:22 AM on September 6, 2022

Best answer: (There was a period of time post 9/11 where you still checked in at the airport at a counter or the kiosk and they would pull up the reservation with the credit card used to book the flight. I remember this came up as an issue back when I was in high school (2000’s) and my brother in law was flying back early and then my sister and I were flying a few days later. He had to leave his credit card behind with us so that we’d be able to get our tickets- though maybe it was actually something with the rental car reservation? Anyway, now people check in with their phones and confirmation numbers and the credit card really doesn’t come into play. You will need the passenger’s full name and date of birth and usually their gender or sex as well.)
posted by raccoon409 at 4:27 AM on September 6, 2022

Best answer: One more item: I did this (just pre-Covid). At that time, there were airlines asking at check-in to see or verify the credit card used to buy the ticket. The way around this was to buy the ticket through a third party (such as Expedia).

(Regarding company cards--I have a company card. My name is on the card alongside my employer's. From the POV of the seller, it's "my card", I'm the cardholder, I sign receipts, enter a PIN, etc.)
posted by gimonca at 4:29 AM on September 6, 2022

Best answer: Some airlines do gift cards, and this company claims to be a gift card for multiple airlines.

If you just want to get funds for a plane ticket to them, instead of directly booking, you can open a reloadable prepaid card for them. Or wire the money (Western Union is still a thing.) There are also still check-cashing services widely available, so you could mail a paper check and they could cash it. However, since they cannot load funds onto the Direct Express card (the card for social security) they would still need a prepaid card to load the cash from the check or wire, then buy the ticket.

AAA still has a lot of offices and I think can still book plane tickets. You might be able to do a conference call with the travel agent there to pay for the ticket.
posted by haptic_avenger at 6:48 AM on September 6, 2022

Best answer: I travel a lot and can't remember the last time I've been asked to show the credit card used to book travel. In fact I can't remember the last time I had to interact with anyone at the airport aside from TSA and once a gate agent to deal with a change of airport situation.

If the traveler has the airline app, they can check in and display their boarding pass electronically as a QR code to scan at security and at the gate. This is also how to select seats.
posted by basalganglia at 7:06 AM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: but you can just buy a ticket in someone else's name using your credit card? Because IIRC that used to not be possible, and I would think less so after 9/11 but ... I'm all for it if that's possible!

Just for reassurance, this absolutely used to be a thing. That's why I got my first debit card back in 1999, so I could buy my own plane tickets and not have static over it.
posted by joycehealy at 8:02 AM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’ve purchased tickets for my partner to travel several times with my personal credit card. It’s completely fine, as others have said, as long as their name is accurate/matches their ID on the ticket.
posted by Cyber666 at 8:23 AM on September 6, 2022

Best answer: More on the credit card issue. It's not every person, it's not every flight, but it does happen. It also seems to vary from airline to airline. It appears to be connected to a security flag, possibly being tripped by an algorithm. The linked article talks a bit on how profiling could be part of the issue.

When I looked into this (in 2019), the info then was that if you book through a third party, this credit card check doesn't or can't happen, because the airline doesn't have the CC info from Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline or whoever the original purchase was made with. So, the last time I purchased a flight for a family member, I purchased through a third party. There was no problem, there might not have been a problem anyway, but at least I had that extra peace of mind.
posted by gimonca at 9:54 AM on September 6, 2022

Best answer: ^ Yes, I've seen a checkbox when buying a ticket online--can't remember which airline--to the effect that "Is the passenger and the card holder the same person", I assume to prevent fraud. Funny, I used to buy tickets online for a co-worker because I could get them cheaper; he was outside the US, we traveled on different dates and I never gave it a second thought but the time that he bought our tickets, I asked him to email an authorization letter in case I was queried at the airport (but it was fine). Could be that if the check box isn't on the form then it's not an issue.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:24 AM on September 6, 2022

Best answer: you can just buy a ticket in someone else's name using your credit card? Because IIRC that used to not be possible

I've never had any issue with this. I sometimes purchase tickets for myself on a different person's card for reasons. I put my name down EXACTLY as on my driver's license for the person the ticket is being purchased for, an d my phone number and email for the passenger contact and receipt (I email them the receipt after), and I put their name down on the payment info with their credit card number and their billing address.

For checking in at the airport, many airlines offer as an option that you can hand over the credit card the ticket was booked on, and of course I don't have that -- but it has never been an issue to just give the confirmation number and other passenger info. There's also online check in as an option, but your relative will probably find it easiest to check in at a counter. If they have a printout of their itinerary with their name, the confirmation number, flights and flight numbers and dates, the airline ticket agent will get what they need and give back the printout along with a boarding pass. The only issue I ever had was when I came across a flight cancellation and wanted to cancel my flight and take ground transit -- there was something about a refund, but the original purchaser was going to have to send something in or something like that, fortunately I had my own funds on hand to cover ground transport -- but from the perspective of not commingling funds, that would probably be a good thing.

Some cautions: DO NOT buy a ticket on a discount carrier (like Alligent), they have many hidden fees and will want extra money for printing things at the airport, as well as other things you would have never ever imagined would cost extra, and might not take cash. Stick with major airlines, major airlines are also much better if there are any delays and the traveler needs to be rebooked. Be careful of the newer types of discounted economy tickets (identifiable by not having assigned seats and not including a carry on), these often have less-good protections if there are any issues that arise. Also, be aware that there are commonly fees for checked bags these days, however you can prepay these if your relative wants to check a bag.

Be aware that many airlines charge for food on board, and these days often cash is not accepted for this. I think there might be some that require food be paid in advance too but I'm not sure about that. Food in airports CAN be purchased with cash, purchase after entering the secure area if you want to bring it onto the plane with you. Food on board or in the airport will be much more expensive than you might anticipate.

Be aware that often for travel delays the airlines (major airlines, not discount carriers) can have hotel and meal vouchers available, but might need to be asked for. If there are delays due to weather the airlines DO NOT generally cover hotel and meals, but if an elderly person without money to cover these things found themselves in that situation it couldn't hurt to ask.

If you have an iphone with internet access that will present no issues for buying a ticket. Websites selling air tickets are typically designed to work well on a phone with internet access, because it is expected that people could be traveling and not have a computer available. It is possible to have a ticket that is stored on the iphone only and no paper ticket, and the airline will scan the phone screen when boarding the plane, but for someone who hasn't traveled much I would not recommend this.

I've had some older folks near me be very distressed by this -- Your relative might like to know that is an ordinary thing these days for travelers to get pat down searches from the TSA, and this does NOT mean they are in any trouble or suspected of committing a crime... it's just, oh this is hard to explain to someone who might not flown since it was considered a glamorous thing to dress up for... it's just a thing people are expected to put up with to be able to fly these days. NO ONE is going to view them in any negative light or be judgmental about seeing them get a pat down, everyone who flies these days has had to go through this many times. Just stand where told to and it will be over with quickly, passengers don't like it, the TSA agent doesn't like it either, it's best just to get it done efficiently and quickly and move on with one's day. Sometimes there's also a bit of extra looking through your bag or something, same deal, just a thing that people have to put up with these days -- packing cubes are very popular because it makes it easy to put things back after the TSA rustles through them.
posted by yohko at 6:02 PM on September 6, 2022

Response by poster: Wow these answers are great with helpful tips that would have taken me hours to find, and links that will be useful as well.

Thank you all so much!
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 7:17 PM on September 6, 2022

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