Yes, the name on your airline ticket can be changed! (Thanks, Expedia)

For years, we’ve been told that names on airline tickets can’t be changed. Never, ever. Wouldn’t be safe.

Usually, our only option was to buy a completely new ticket, even if the name was a small mismatch, like an obvious typographical error.

Well, it turns out that isn’t our only choice. And it took an aspiring lawyer to figure that out.

Here’s the note I received from Nathan Hasiuk a few days ago:

I will be starting law school at Temple University in August. I had booked a trip on Expedia to Ecuador, Peru, and Miami for two weeks in August prior to the start of classes. The flights alone cost $3,500.

Anyway, my girlfriend dumped me. Now, not only am I heartbroken, but apparently I’m stuck with $1,750 worth of American Airlines flights that Expedia tells me can only be used my girlfriend on the same airlines in the next twelve months. I have a friend that wants to come with me, but all the searching I have done has given me the same result: non-refundable and non-transferable.

I called Expedia and told them my story and that I’d be more than willing to pay whatever fees or penalties they asked, along with the difference in the new tickets.

After being transferred several times I still got the same response. I’m at a loss for what to do. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Like most experienced air travelers, I believe the non-transferrability rule for tickets is bogus. It has absolutely nothing to do with security and everything to do with money. Forcing someone to buy a new ticket means the airline sells another ticket — and that is the primary reason for the rule, in my opinion.

I suggested that Hasiuk send a brief, polite e-mail to a manager at Expedia, explaining his predicament and asking for help.

It worked! American Airlines agreed to rebook the tickets in my friend’s name. It ended up costing me an additional $800 after the differences in fare and fees, but all in all I feel it was a great success. It all happened in less than 24 hours. Thank you so much for the advice!

Ah, another happy customer.

In fact, American’s name policy is surprisingly flexible — if you read it in a certain way. This is from its travel agents-only page, buried deep on the airline’s Web site:

Legitimate changes to a passenger’s name will be accommodated. The agent will need to call AA Sales Support to complete the name change and retain the inventory. Legitimate name changes include spelling changes, changes to last names due to marriage or divorce and changes to prefixes (for example, Mr. to Dr.).

I guess it all hinges on how you define “legitimate,” doesn’t it? I certainly think Hasiuk’s request was valid, and I’m glad Expedia and American Airlines agreed.

If only the rest of the industry were so accommodating.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Bubble

    Hi! Thanks a lot for this post, you saved us hundreds of Euros! I used your information to claim a name change in tickets purchased months ago to travel to USA & Mexico from Europe with UA. UA did not accept the name change but they will give us a refund if we can provide the documentation for the change, in our case our children surnames were incorrect. Your post gave me the courage to fight for the change and I am thankful for your help! =)

  • JCT

    Sorry but your story is completely incorrect. This passenger was just lucky to get someone that would waive the rule however it’s not that easy. Furthermore, Expedia as well as their other sister companies usually eat a large chunk of the fees to do this in order to keep their customers happy. Some rules travelers should follow in order to avoid situations like this is to purchase a refundable ticket. Also, it is extremely important to book your ticket using the name that is on your valid ID that you will be traveling with. This person’s case was different as “supposedly” his girlfriend dumped him. However, you all would not believe the amount of people who actually book their non refundable airline tickets using their nicknames! It’s really ridiculous that in today’s day and age with such high security, people really assume they can use their nick names when purchasing travel.

  • jeff

    It’s not so ridiculous and I tire of such unempathetic fools. You deserve the strictness they give you, but the rest of us should demand more.

  • bodega3

    Who are umempathetic fools? The ones who don’t know their name?

  • Shawna

    It’s really ridiculous that in today’s day and age with such high technology, airlines have such a problem correcting or switching a name. It is theft plane and simple.

  • Hobbit_CZ

    But what if I cannot travel, but someone else is happy to take my place? If he is able to purchase new ticket at that time, there should be no issue whatsoever to change the name on my ticket. I would understand some basic admin fee in levels of 10-20$ although there are no real associated costs for an airline as everything is made online and what happen is that just one field in database is replaced with another one.