“The woman seemed mad that we had made the reservation through Travelocity”

It’s a common problem with an uncommon resolution. Stephen Andrews accidentally typed his name as “Stehen” when he booked a package tour through Travelocity, and he thought a quick call to the airline might fix the problem. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

“The woman seemed mad that we had made the reservation through Travelocity and was adamant that neither she or anyone else at her call center could change the spelling of my name,” he says. “She said that Travelocity had to fix it.”

Whoa. Why would Hawaiian be mad that anyone booked through a travel agency? (There are many possible answers, but I’ll save that for another post entitled “Travel agents versus airlines: The untold story.”)

Until then, let’s just say the Hawaiian employee should have kept her opinion to herself. How the airline feels about online travel agencies is no concern of their customers.

A solution to his his ticket typo? That concerns anyone reading this site.

Andrews picks up the story:

I called Travelocity and spoke to one of their über-helpful Indians, who said that Hawaiian wouldn’t allow any changes. He did offer to transfer me to the department of cancellations so we could cancel the trip and rebook (with no price guarantee).

I declined.

Remembering your advice that one e-mail is worth 1,000 phone calls, I e-mailed Hawaiian. It has been over 24 hours and not a peep from Hawaiian. I just e-mailed Travelocity, but I expect a canned “pack sand, it’s Hawaiian’s problem” from them.

Any suggestions?

In a situation like this, a quick call to the airline should have fixed the problem. Some carriers have an informal policy that they’ll fix a ticket if it’s off by a letter, but if Hawaiian has such a policy, it doesn’t disclose it. Its name requirements match those of TSA’s new Secure Flight initiative.

Hawaiian would have known that this was an obvious slip of the finger, rather than attempt to transfer the ticket to another passenger.

But let’s stick with the slip of the finger. Certainly, Andrews’ problem underscores the importance of typing your name very carefully.

Andrews emailed some of the executives contacts on the new On Your Side wiki, and that worked.

Hawaiian finally called and told me they would issue a new ticket with my correct name on it. They made sure to let me know that they didn’t have to and that they were going out of my way to do so, but they did it.

The trip to Hawaii was great (we got home last week) and I felt much better not having to worry about some overzealous TSA agent denying me boarding because of an obvious typographical error.

I once had a US Customs and Immigration officer chew me out for putting “US” instead of “USA” as my country of residence on my declaration form, so I know those boneheads are out there.

Thanks again for your great column.

And thanks for reading. I’m glad Hawaiian helped “Stehen” get the right ticket. It should have done that the first time — not because it had to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

(Photo: Simon ds/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Jean Christophe Baptiste

    This may be a bit late to reply, but I thought I’d just inform you as to what happens… I work at a call center in LA for an international airline.

    First off, when we receive a call to change a name, the airline can only do so IF the reservation was originally created by us.  If it were created by Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, you will have to go back to them as they have “control” of the ticket, in essence.  Now here’s a particularity in this system – since many airlines do not change names due to safety/security reasons, Travelocity (or whomever you booked with) has to cancel the reservation, even if it’s ticketed, and rebook under the same class of service, and we’ll issue what’s called a “wavier” (to change the name on the reservation without fees).  However, if this class of service is no longer available, and is rebooked and ticketed with the correct name, which is often times done/overlooked, the airline will issue what’s called a “Debit Memo” to the agency, usually the same as a date change penalty per your tickets.  And any agency you talk to hates debit memos.  It’s like receiving an F on your math exam. 

    Now having said that, I understand that passengers don’t care how the process works, and they’re probably already stressed out as it is, but the only way this can happen is if the original creator of the tickets initiates the change, first. 

    At which point Travelocity will call the airline, often times in heavily accented English (Philippines or India) to the point where it’s incomprehensible, and will ask you something but for all you know, they could be asking for a seat assignment or a kosher meal….  which is why I can understand why the Hawaiian Airlines agent may have been upset.  She was probably thinking, “God damn not another Travelocity one…”

    That and airlines always need/want your money.  Many times they’ll take your money but will NEVER refund anything.  Which is totally unfair, in my opinion.  Imagine how I feel everytime I save enough to travel (which is never) and then get slapped with a fee of some nonsensical crap and I work in the industry… 

    Airlines make the majority of profits, NOT from tickets or airfares, but through change fees and penalties.  

    Anyways, if airlines don’t follow the policies and procedures set forth by both the TSA and FAA, we get slapped with fines.  Which is why, anytime you make a reservation, you want to make sure that EVERYTHING is correct before purchasing because, once we’ve got your money, it’s gone.  Unless you purchased trip insurance or a refundable/changeable ticket.  Which are usually hidden because we want your money from change fees :)