How can I have an airline let me use my wife's ticket?
February 13, 2007 6:02 PM   Subscribe

How can I have an airline let me use my wife's ticket?

Tommorrow my wife and 5 year old son are booked on a flight on American Airlines. I would like to take her place, but AA tells me they cannot change names on the ticket.

Surely someone out there has had success doing something like this. I'm sure they feel there good reasons that one person can't use someone else's ticket, but I need to make this happen.

An extra layer of bureaucratic nightmare is that the trip was booked through Travelocity and American Airlines is claiming that because of this they couldn't change the names even if they wanted to. (Which reeks to me of passing the buck). Calls to Travelocity resulted in the same answer.
posted by jeremias to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
I had to do this once, since they mis-wrote my wife's name on the ticket, assuming she had the same last name as me (she doesn't.) The only thing that worked was having the travel agent reissue the ticket under the correct name. (Which, being a government-paid-for ticket from hawaii to the mainland over X dollars, involved waking the actual DoD Travel Honcho up at 2am in DC to get approval.)

The airline can't change the names. And they can't let you use that ticket, because the TSA is just going to kick you out of the screening line. Travelocity has to change it, even if you have to cancel that trip and book a new one for the same flight with e-tickets you can pick up at the counter. Which may cost more. Which could be what Travelocity is holding out for. Bottom line -> it's Travelocity's ball.
posted by ctmf at 6:17 PM on February 13, 2007

It's a security issue. Specifically, a security theater issue. If terrorists can't change their tickets at the last minute, then neither can regular folks.

It's also a revenue thing. If your wife really truly can't go, and you really truly must go, they figure you'll buy the ticket for yourself, and she can (hopefully) use her ticket at a later date, usually within one year of purchasing it. So it doesn't totally screw you out of the cost of her ticket. However, having bought it through Travelocity may make it impossible for her to use the ticket later, she will have to talk to them about it.
posted by bilabial at 6:17 PM on February 13, 2007

You can't change the name on the tickets. You can move the date on the tickets usually for a small fee.
From now on, buy insurance. With insurance you can cancel the ticket for any reason and get your money back. Just think of the insurance as part of the ticket price.
posted by Osmanthus at 6:26 PM on February 13, 2007

You may be able to upgrade the ticket to full price, then book a new ticket under your name and apply the credits from the full fare to the new ticket.

I have done this once or twice with business travel, although it's usually done through the travel agency.

It's generally more expensive, but you won't lose the dough.
posted by iamabot at 6:39 PM on February 13, 2007

If its an e-ticket, I would imagine you could download it, photoshop your name in, and print it. Just don't check your bag, as they will see your wife's name in the computer system. Of course, the ways things are at the airport these days, this may not be a good idea.
posted by Bort at 7:14 PM on February 13, 2007

Still trying to solve this. Travelocity is insisting only AA can do it, AA is saying only Travelocity can do it.

Such insanity, I understand we live in this post 9/11 world, but seriously, how can this be so difficult?
posted by jeremias at 7:18 PM on February 13, 2007

This may be a long shot because you're flying with your toddler, but what about flying without an ID? The first section of this article describes flying with a non-government issued ID, but in the seventh paragraph down, the author is allowed to fly without showing any ID at all. There's also this article that has a couple of other useful links in it.
posted by youngergirl44 at 7:42 PM on February 13, 2007

Conference them in on a call with you and AA and Travelocity. Put them in the same room and make one of them take responsibility.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:44 PM on February 13, 2007

Ah yes, the ping-pong game. This is the only way to solve it. Call Travelocity, and tell them you'll call them back in a few minutes. Go the the AA person, and get them to tell you it's Travelocity's problem. Without walking away, tell them to hang on and speed dial Travelocity back, asking for the previous person by name. Hand phone to AA person. Tell them to work something out.
posted by ctmf at 7:49 PM on February 13, 2007

On non-preview (oops), What JohnnyGunn said.
posted by ctmf at 7:51 PM on February 13, 2007

Travelocity is insisting only AA can do it, AA is saying only Travelocity can do it.

Not in this particular situation, but a few other threads with other agencies doing the same run-around were resolved by three-way calls between the customer and the agencies involved...
posted by whatzit at 7:53 PM on February 13, 2007

This isn't a security theater thing. It is however a revenue thing. The reason it's difficult to transfer the name of tickets is to prevent agencies/"scalpers" from being able to buy inventory in advance and then resell later.
posted by ill3 at 11:48 PM on February 13, 2007

Agree with ill3. Airlines typically do not let you do this except with the most expensive, refundable tickets. There are no security issues, as the ticket could easily be replaced at the last minute with a new one in a new name. However, the ticketing rules forbid it, presumably for the reason ill3 mentions.

Although I've never been in this exact situation, it's sometimes possible to convince an airline employee to take pity and bend the ticketing rules. This generally requires a convincing story as well as finding an employee who both is sympathetic and has the power and knowledge to work around the rules. The average call center agent generally falls short in all these qualities, although by repeatedly calling back you might stumble on one who is willing to help. You might have better luck at with the employees at the airport, although the odds are still against you.

If you still have time, you might try pinging the AA forum at Flyertalk to see if the frequent flyers there have any AA-specific advice.
posted by blue mustard at 4:04 AM on February 14, 2007

This is a long shot, but... ask both parties if they can void the ticket and re-issue.
posted by FergieBelle at 5:32 AM on February 14, 2007

If you were flying on NWA, you could just print an extra boarding pass in your name using this. It would be matched to your ID at the entrance to the security screening, and would enable you to get to the gate. At the gate, you'd just use the real boarding pass with the other name on it. They don't check ID at the gate, and they probably wouldn't even notice there was a female name on the pass, unless there was a problem w/ the barcode and they had to manually look it up or something.

I've never seen a fake boarding pass generator for AA, though.

Plus, use of a fake boarding pass to enter the secure area is apparently illegal.

And ill3 is correct...since it's so easy to fake your way through security, the whole ID Check thing is purely for revenue.
posted by Bradley at 5:44 AM on February 14, 2007

I'm pretty sure that any advice resulting in the possibility of having a dad arrested in front of his five year old son represent flights of fancy on behalf of the advice-giving community, and should be taken with a grain of salt-- to the extent that they should be taken, which is rather not at all.
posted by hermitosis at 7:09 AM on February 14, 2007

I bet that the photoshopped boarding pass, printed at home, would work in 99.999% of cases (5 nines!). It's up to you if you feel like you're luckier than 100,000 other people. Besides, you'll have an infant so they may take pity on you. However, this is a willful (even if not badly intended) breach of TSA security. So, while I think the odds of being caught are low, if you were to be caught, you could be in for a world of hurt. Ever fancied a one-way trip to Cuba? (etc. etc.)

But you won't solve this legally. Except for showing up to the airport with her ticket and boarding info and praying that somebody will break the rules. Which might work if you have a cute baby!

Good luck!

Post here again if you work it out. If we don't hear from you, we'll asume the worst.
posted by zpousman at 10:24 AM on February 14, 2007

American can issue your boarding pass with "SSSS" printed on it, which allows you to go through TSA without ID via secondary screening. To do this, you just want the check-in agent to let you "fly selectee".

However, the airline can still have a policy of checking ID for revenue purposes, not sure if AA does or how much they'll bend this.
posted by trevyn at 2:53 PM on February 14, 2007

There really is no "best answer" here because trying to get a name change on a ticket is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, since I was not able to manage it. However, in the interest of adding to the communal hive mind, here are some of my thoughts.

I wouldn't bother putting much effort into talking to the booking agent like Travelocity both they and the airline customer service (at least AA's) were unhelpful, even deceptive. It's possible that somewhere in the depths of customer service there might be an individual able to create a name change but I wasn't able to get to them, and believe me it was tried.

On site, at the airport, I thought the chances might be better, but name changes on the ticket must be way high on the list of things that won't be done. However, this is probably where I would focus my efforts in the future.

The checkin agent at American Airlines made it clear that a name change was simply not possible. Apparently even if it is your name and it was misspelled or a nickname was used, there seems to be a universal policy that changing the name on a ticket is something that cannot be performed without consequence. There is likely a computer based barrier or "security flag" that prevents entry-level agents from doing this.

Still, I'm sure that there is probably another layer of authority in AA that could make it happen. However, I didn't have the energy to pursue this. My advice to anyone who is trying to get a name change on an existing airline ticket would be to bring any "evidence" you might have such as medical reasons, etc. and find the highest authority figure in the airport as you can.

As far as the whole TSA boarding pass forgery, in other time and place I might have tried that. But the security folks in Logan Airport at Boston definitely were thorough at the initial gate, and I'm sure there are some serious penalities for getting caught. Plus, you would have to pull off the deception at least once more for the return flight, possibly more if there were connecting flights. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone except the most desperate traveler.
posted by jeremias at 11:02 AM on February 15, 2007

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