It’s something out of every mother’s worst nightmare: Your child is stranded at the airport and won’t be able to fly home unless he forks over thousands of dollars for a new ticket.
That nightmare came true for Gloria Castillo-Ibrahim and her 16-year-old son, Kareem Amir Gharib, recently. They’re inexperienced air travelers, but in a way, nothing could have prepared them for the trouble they experienced.
Castillo-Ibrahim wants me to help her fix this problem, but I’m not really sure if I can, or if I should. Your thoughts on this case would be helpful.
The problem began when Castillo-Ibrahim’s husband decided to surprise her son for Christmas by booking two roundtrip tickets from Cairo to Detroit on Lufthansa’s website.
“But he was unaware that our son’s last name was entered wrong on the reservation,” she said. “And I did not notice the error until the day of departure while at the boarding gate.”
OK, for those of you saying, “Hey, you should have looked at your reservation,” consider your point made. No doubt, Castillo-Ibrahim would have saved herself a giant headache by reviewing her itinerary. I think she knows that now.
So here’s what she ended up with: Her son’s name is Kareem Amir Gharib on his U.S. passport. But the name erroneously entered on the airline website reservation read Kareem Ibrahim. A friendly ticket agent might have fixed that at the ticket counter. I’ve seen it happen.
It didn’t happen to her, though. Even though she mentioned the name problem and tried to get it fixed, a Lufthansa agent told her it was “not a problem,” and that they could board.
“The problem surfaced on Jan. 7, the day of our departure out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport,” she says. “While passing through the TSA security checkpoint, I was informed by the TSA agent that my son’s name on the boarding pass must match his passport.”
Castillo-Ibrahim explained what had happened in Cairo. It didn’t matter.
“I was informed by the Detroit ticket counter that my son could not use his return ticket because of the name error, and that his reservation would be canceled and we would be charged $3,001 for a new one-way ticket,” she says.
The agents in Detroit seemed to have nothing better to do than argue with Castillo-Ibrahim and her son.
“The final insult came when the duty manager stated that she had no way of knowing if Kareem was really my son or if he was the person who commenced travel out of Cairo,” she says.
She paid Lufthansa for a new ticket, which came with the added benefit of being a business-class seat. So at least they got something out of it. But efforts to secure a refund were fruitless.
Here’s the response from Lufthansa:
On the ticket which you booked online and purchased for Kareem’s round trip journey commencing in Cairo, the name entered for the passenger, Ibrahim, Kareem, differed vastly from the child’s name on the passport, Gharib, Kareem Amir.