Could a few pesky letters mess me up at airport security?
July 11, 2008 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Will I be able to board a plane if the name on my boarding pass is slightly different from my legal name?

I'm visiting some friends in another state next month, and one of them very kindly offered to buy me a plane ticket. Yay! Unfortunately, he misspelled my legal name when he booked my flight... my name is something like "Arianna Hamon", and he bought a ticket for "Ariane Hamon" (I never go by my full name... my family and friends all call me Ari, so few bother to learn the long version of my first name). Those aren't the "real" names, but they're extremely similar.

Is there any way that this could pose a problem for me when I'm going through airport security? I know that tons of newlyweds go through this sort of thing on their honeymoons, but they usually have a new husband there to vouch for them, whereas I'm a Middle Eastern female, traveling alone.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
While you can't change names on most reservations without a fee, it's likely that a spelling mistake can be corrected by calling the airline.
posted by JakeWalker at 8:14 AM on July 11, 2008

If it's literally one letter off you should be okay I would think. My name is ARNALDO but sometimes I get tickets with the name AMALDO. I've gotten through just fine.

Now if it were another name entirely...big issue at security. But 1 letter, if they say anything just say "Yeah, it's a typo".
posted by arniec at 8:17 AM on July 11, 2008

My experience, doing this one time, is that there was no problem at all and the two names I was dealing with were more different than the two you have described (started with a different first letter).
posted by jessamyn at 8:18 AM on July 11, 2008

The name on your ticket will be compared to the name on your ID by a human being (not a computer) with a very tedious job, who has already looked at 10,000 IDs and tickets that day. You'll probably be fine.
posted by Dec One at 8:25 AM on July 11, 2008

you should call the airline and see if you can simply correct the mistake. I've done so before, esaily.
posted by milestogo at 8:25 AM on July 11, 2008

My proper given name is Katie but I have never gone by it -- I am always called Kate. The name on my airline tickets are Kate about half the time and Katie about half the time and I've never had a problem.

On the other hand, an old boyfriend and his father once tried to "share" a ticket by having the tickets made out to B. Smith (one was named Barry, the other was Ben) and they had to pay a large fee to fix it -- the airline was totally on to them.
posted by kate blank at 8:26 AM on July 11, 2008

My boss purchased a plane ticket for me and used a nickname instead of my legal name. The only problem I had was when I tried to print my ticket at the kiosk since the name on my credit card didn't match the ticket.
Fortunately, I had my confirmation number and just used that instead. Everything else went just fine.
posted by idiotfactory at 8:27 AM on July 11, 2008

A friend who's name is Müller always has his name spelt wrong going one way or another. The German way is to spell it Mueller when the umlaut is unavailable - but when he does that the English check in people say "You're not on the list", he explains the problem, they let him through. If he spells it Muller (the English way to deal with the problem) he has the "You're not on the list" problem at the German end. It involves a conversation either way but he gets through fine.
posted by handee at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2008

This has also happened to me with no problems. The people at Flyertalk seem to feel the same way.
posted by vacapinta at 8:29 AM on July 11, 2008

I've had experience with both phoning an airline to correct a spelling error and travelling with a ticket with a misspelled name on it, and neither was a problem.
posted by fire&wings at 8:30 AM on July 11, 2008

My first name has two accepted spellings. Half the time when I go through the airport there's a discrepancy between my ID and the ticket, and I've never had any significant problem.
posted by scody at 8:34 AM on July 11, 2008

I use a different spelling of my first and last name from what appears on my passport--it's transliterated from Russian, and I like my transliteration better. It's never been a problem for me, and it's almost never even remarked upon.
posted by nasreddin at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2008

I once called Delta to fix the spelling on my ticket but they said don't worry about it as long as I had additional ID. I had no problems at the airport.
posted by spec80 at 8:54 AM on July 11, 2008

Whenever I book through Expedia, my name always ends up as "RobMIDDLENAME" on my boarding pass (my actual middle name, not those two words.)

Never had a problem.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:24 AM on July 11, 2008

I have an unusually-spelled name. Most of my boarding passes have had it wrong over the years, and often by more than a couple of letters. Definitely more different than your examples. I have often had questions about this at check-in, but it's never been a real problem.

The boarding pass is not a legal document. They're supposed to be issuing you the boarding pass after verifying your identity, after all. The final check at the gate is just to make sure the person getting onboard hasn't changed since check-in. At least, that's the theory.
posted by rokusan at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2008

Same deal with me as idiotfactory -- work booked me a ticket using the name I go by for all things except government and banking (see "posted by" below), which is not even remotely similar to my actual legal name. I had a very hard time with security. It was eventually accepts, as far as I remember, but at massive hassle at the airport, and I think only because I happened to have a credit card in the name of Rusty along with my legal IDs in my real name.

On the other hand, I've had tickets with a very close misspelling of my legal first name that haven't even gotten a second glance. For the OP, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by rusty at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2008

"Shepherd" (the correct, good, right spelling, used by the beautiful and true) often gets mixed up with "Shepard" (the incorrect, debased, corrupt spelling, used by the twisted and malign) but has never posed a problem with boarding passes/check-in etc.
posted by Shepherd at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

not that this should reassure anyone but I had a flight canceled out of LAX last year and had to go through secondary screening (since the rebooking was for a flight within 24 hours) -- got out the other end and found I had someone else's boarding pass altogether. To top it off the guy at customer service says it happens all the time. So, I have to agree with everyone above me-- when it's so close to your real name you shouldn't have a problem.
posted by melogranato at 10:28 AM on July 11, 2008

My name is on a watch list. I also work for a Federal agency that is involved in putting said lists together, so I have been advised by colleagues that when booking travel, to avoid "issues," to put my name as HomerJ Simpson rather than Homer Simpson or Homer J Simpson. So with that in mind, I'd say you are fine.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:11 AM on July 11, 2008

Delays at LAX should never be considered typical. That place is hell plus escalators.
posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on July 11, 2008

You should be fine travelling domestically. If you are going overseas, this will be a no no.
posted by dy at 11:18 AM on July 11, 2008

If you are going overseas, this will be a no no.

No, that's wrong. I've flown to and from various overseas destinations about 40-50 times and I've never had a problem.
posted by nasreddin at 12:39 PM on July 11, 2008

I've long been used to my last name being mangled, since it has an unfamiliar vowel and consonant cluster. I've always had more hassle changing it on the tickets than I have had at the airport just riding it through. The last time that we were booked by someone else, my girlfriend had four different mistakes in her last name (coming across something like Champfeet) and no one blinked an eye.
posted by klangklangston at 4:35 PM on July 11, 2008

nthing the answer "call the airline now." My first name has about 18 different spellings, and mine is one of the more unusual ones. I've had everything from birth certificates to mortgages to passports to airline tickets spelled wrong, and it's always easily cleared up--IF anyone but me even notices.

Just call the airline now. Chances are really good they'll re-issue the ticket, or they'll tell you not to worry about it. Desk agents and TSA agents in the security line don't notice these things. On the off chance they do, "typo" will get you through. If you have backup government-issued ID that matches what you say, more the better.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:59 PM on July 11, 2008

You technically don't need a photo ID to board a plane.

I actually do it a couple of times a year (not by choice). I normally have to get past the level 1 airline representative . But after talking with them for a few minutes, they will eventually mark my ticket with a symbol that notifies the security staff to send me through the "high risk" line.
posted by brandnew at 7:41 PM on July 11, 2008

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