Why can’t I change the name on my frequent flier award ticket?

By | October 18th, 2013

Digital Media Pro / Shutterstock.com
Digital Media Pro / Shutterstock.com
Delta won’t make a name change on a mileage ticket, endangering one family’s cruise. Can this trip be saved?

Question: I recently booked four tickets between Milwaukee and New Orleans using my Delta SkyMiles so that my husband, son and my son’s friend could fly to our cruise port. All was well, but then my son’s friend’s parents decided that they would not get him a passport, as they had promised, so we had to make changes to the cruise and the airline to accommodate a new guest.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was great about making the change — just some correspondence from our travel agent did the trick. However — and I think you know what is coming — Delta is refusing to make a name change. Its policy is never to make name changes. Delta offered to allow me to re-deposit the miles for a $150 charge per ticket, and then let me re-purchase the ticket using SkyMiles. But the cost for the ticket has quadrupled, going from 25,000 miles to 100,000 miles.

Since the airplane is otherwise full, the chances of me being able to get a ticket for my son’s friend on this flight is pretty much nonexistent if I release the ticket I have already purchased. I have appealed to the supervisor and Delta’s customer care department via its website to make an exception, since I’m a loyal Delta flier. It has refused to bend any rules for me. Can you help? — Colleen McGuigan, Brown Deer, Wis.


Answer: Wow, you really painted yourself into a proverbial corner on this one. I’m not sure if things would have been much different if you’d paid for your tickets with real money, as opposed to miles. Delta’s rules are uniformly strict, no matter how you settle the bill. It won’t change a name, which, by the way, is an industry-wide policy.

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But you would expect Delta to take a close look at your case, if for no other reason than that you are a loyal customer. The airline is hitting you with two fees for changing your mind — first, the “re-deposit” fee and then the markup for booking tickets so close to your travel date. And finally, there’s a very good chance no seats will be available, meaning that all this was for nothing.

I can’t blame you for feeling like giving up.

The solution an airline might recommend is booking completely refundable, flexible airline tickets. But those can be two to four times more expensive than an advance-purchase fare, and they’re priced for business travelers on an expense account — not passengers who are on their way to a leisure cruise.

My solution? Try sending a brief, polite email, and if that doesn’t work, appeal to a manager. I list names, email addresses and phone numbers on my customer service wiki.

I contacted Delta on your behalf. As it turns out, the new ticket will only cost you 50,000 miles. Changes in redemption levels are not unusual, which is why it’s important to check back often to see if you can get a better deal. As an exception, Delta agreed to waive the $150 re-issue fee and allow you to re-deposit the miles to your account at no additional charge.



  • sdir

    If she had already purchased the ticket with her miles, why couldn’t there simply be a fee to change the name on the ticket, such as a $150 change fee. We’ve seen other customers get dinged by a change fee even when paying cash, yet I don’t recall anyone having to pay a change fee AND repurchase the same ticket they already own at a much higher price.

  • TonyA_says

    Am I missing something here? How can a domestic within 49 States excluding Hawaii in coach cost 100,000 miles? It is only 12.5-30k per direction depending on season. That miscalculation and keying in the wrong name is the OP’s fault. Not sure why we need lots of sympathy as everybody pays for name change fees unless it only involves a letter or two or if the passenger gets married or something like that. Also it is quite interesting why the parents of the friend did not offer to pay for the name change fee. Looks like this is a case where some special people abuse the use of an advocate.

  • Raven_Altosk

    No sympathy for this one, even after the hyperbole of “endangering” the cruise. Nothing was endangered. The OP just was too impatient to book reward tickets, wanted a freebie fix that no one gets, and then whined about it.

    Also “loyal” flier =/= favored customer. If you’re spending $100K a year on plane tickets, then you’re a favored customer. If you’re someone who flies a little here, a little there on cheap tickets, uses the Delta credit card, and stockpiles them for years, you’re loyal.

    Also, “Delta agreed to waive the $150 change fee…” is code for “we felt we had to bend the rules or look like big meanies in this column despite this really being a case of the Stupidity Tax.”

    …yes I’m cranky today.

  • TonyA_says

    Besides if you read this tricky part –
    But then my son’s friend’s parents decided that they would not get him a passport, as they had promised, so we had to make changes to the cruise and the airline to accommodate a new guest –
    It sounds like this was a complete PASSENGER CHANGE.

    Why did Elliott help them break the rules?

  • Alan Gore

    The issue of ticket name changes came up here just last week. So Delta’s policy is to “never allow name changes?” Gee, I thought it was just a matter of a $25 fee (according to some commenters) or at least the standard ripoff change fee. But no – dream up a new way of shaking people down for even larger amounts until the Internet floodlight sends the rulemakers scurrying back under their rock again.

  • MarkKelling

    The name change fee you refer to is on Frontier Airlines. They are the only one of maybe two airlines allowing changes to correct spelling issues with names. In this case, it was not just a name correction, it was a completely new traveler.

  • MarkKelling

    Just because you have enough miles to book 4 reward tickets does not make you a LOYAL customer, it just makes you a mileage accumulator. If the OP was a truly loyal customer, there would have been no redeposit / reissue fee because that is only charged to the lower level members of the frequent flyer program.

    I fail to see the issue here. Delta was willing to bend the rules by reissuing the ticket for only their standard $150 fee and the additional miles. The OP should have been happy with that because it is the rules. Delta could have just kept the miles and told the OP they were out of luck because there were no more reward seats available.

    And no, reward tickets do not have too many restrictions. You know what the restrictions are when you join the program. If you don’t like the rules, don’t play the game. I’m really surprised that the OP was able to get that many reward tickets on the same flight! Usually the airlines have only a couple seats per flight, so they were extremely lucky to start with.

  • jerryatric

    One way or another, this OP paid for the tickets. Domestic flight so charge & change name. Period.
    Another way airlines can gouge. Simple name change, $150 & be done.
    Remember all you smug ones out there, not everyone is an experienced world traveller!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    With all due respect, sir, the implication from the article was that the OP WAS an experienced world traveler, since she had accumulated all those FF miles in the first place. As Raven pointed out a little earlier, an accumulator of FF miles does not necessarily mean that said accumulator got them by actually flying.

    I’d agree with you if this was truly a simple name change, but it wasn’t – a brand new person is/was joining the traveling party.

  • Raven_Altosk

    EXACTLY.
    You haven’t been able to change names on tickets since what…D.B. Cooper’s time in the sky???

  • I hope the first friend’s parents had a good reason to reneg… No cruise for you!

  • jerryatric

    If I change to a different name – still just a name change. Different person.
    I did not get the same impression re the OP. They could have saved up for this “freebie”. In any case a simple charge ($150) for the bother & be done with it. Why the need for the huge rebooking penalties? Because the flight was full?
    Just another greedy airline
    I must be old, remembering when flying was a pleasant experience. Today, it’s gouge, gouge & gouge again. Then add government grab, & there you have it.
    In Feb. will be flying a total of 9 hr flight each way. Looking forward to being charged for every last creature comfort they can squeeze out of me.

  • jim6555

    The number of award seats on each flight varies by the what the airline’s yield management software predicts. A Friday afternoon flight to almost anywhere has a good chance of being full and therefore few, if any, award seats are available. A 6:00 am Sunday departure between most city pairs will have a substantial number of empty seats at takeoff. The airlines will usually have many award seats available on these flights.

  • KarlaKatz

    I’d go after the parents of the initial “friend”; They did promise to secure a Passport for their child. And, why would anyone in this day and age, NOT have a Passport?

  • commentfromme

    I feel ripped off. I have paid the required re-deposit fee a few times in the past few years. Next time I am sending you a letter to help me. I thought this was a hard and fast rule. I feel really dumb now.

  • Hey, anytime. You know how much I LOVE loyalty programs!

  • emanon256

    They typically have to pay the change fee, as well as the fare difference, which is essentially the same.

  • emanon256

    Chris corrected her, it was only 50,000 R/T. My opinion is to make the parent of the other child pay. They are the ones who agreed to send the child, and then changed their mind after the tickets were purchased.

  • emanon256

    And as Bodega pointed out, the fee at F9 is based on the fare classed purchased. Looks like it went up in October. Its free for full fare, and it gradually gets higher the cheaper the fare goes with a $100 fee being the highest.

  • marie3656

    Chris, with everything that went wrong with this trip, why suggest that next the time OP not buy tickets until she has a passport? That seems like throwaway advice at best, and harmful advice at worst. First, must someone always inspect their traveling companion documents to ensure that they’re all in order, or should one have some level of trust. Further, even if it were her own passport, any delay in booking flights and cruise tickets could have resulted in an increase in fare and/or no availability on the desired flights or cruises. So, she would have waited three weeks to actually receive her passport, and then couldn’t get the flight she needed to catch the cruise.
    The “order of operations” when booking a trip can be complicated and introduce an element of risk into the process, but had she waited to book the trip until everyone had a passport, no one would be on the cruise.

  • DavidYoung2

    Two basic rules before booking a cruise:
    1) Plan to arrive at least ONE day before the departure of the ship;
    2) Have your passport IN HAND before booking anything.
    This is totally on the OP – Delta did them a big favor, but didn’t have to and really, I’m not sure this is really a case that deserves ‘special treatment.’

  • bodega3

    Actually it is sage advice for international travel and one we follow. No passport, no booking as names on passports can come back differently than the person expected.

  • Mary Ellen

    Oh Chris, here’s another case where I feel like you’re asking the WRONG QUESTION. To me the issue is, why are name changes prohibited? The seat is reserved, bought, and paid for (whether with award miles or cash is irrelevant, IMHO). The passenger is guaranteeing that *someone* will be in that seat, so why can’t the name be changed? Up until some reasonable deadline? The only reason I see is a money grab on the part of the airlines. “Because they can.” (And of course, it’s a one-way guarantee on the part of the passenger. The airline isn’t guaranteeing that the seat will be there… Delays, maintenance issues, etc… Don’t get me started on that.)

  • Dutchess

    Because when they allowed name changes resellers could scoop up seats at the lowest price and then resell them as they got closer to the departure date at a profit and the airline wants to prevent that. It also undermines the airlines antiquated pricing scheme that charges more to business travelers and less to leisure travelers as well as their yield management systems.

  • Charles

    What rules were broken? They asked for a name change and Delta said no, as you would expect. Then, they tried the other alternative, which is to cancel the ticket and refund the miles. That is a normal procedure. You can cancel a FF award ticket up to 72 hours before booking. You will pay a $150 “redeposit fee”. That was what Delta recommended. However, they could not find the same flight for 25,000 miles, which is not unusual. Miles flights come and go pretty quickly. Those 25,000 mile flights, especially, go very quickly. Delta has the worst percentage of those flights of any airline. When they looked up the ticket, it was going to now cost 100,000 miles, likely more than they had available.

    All Elliott really did in this case was contact them at a different time and a 50,000 mile award ticket either became available or the person at Delta was able to find a way to make one available. It is not unusual for a phone operator to be able to find award tickets that the online system does not show.

    There seems to be a misconception that this case focused on trying to transfer a ticket from one user to another. In reality, that was quickly discarded as impossible and then the focus was on how to refund the ticket that would not be used and purchase (with miles or cash) a ticket for the new passenger. I though it was pretty obvious from the write-up that this is a passenger change.

  • Cam

    Maybe the op should have made sure all the planes were formalized before buying tickets?

  • TonyA_says

    This rule …

    As an exception, Delta agreed to waive the $150 re-issue fee and allow
    you to re-deposit the miles to your account at no additional charge.

  • Chris Johnson

    Frequent flier tickets, if you can ever book one, have ridiculous terms. I also love it how airlines claim that tickets are non-transferable, all in the name of “security” because supposedly either the FAA or HSA does not allow name changes on tickets, when the reality is the airlines just don’t want people buying up cheap tickets and then reselling them at higher prices. They could at least be up front and honest about that.

  • TonyA_says

    Bodega, I have new policy now. Send me a clear pic of passport page before I make PNR. No more exceptions.
    More airlines are now requiring we enter full APIS with passport info. Fines can be up to $5k per infraction.
    So screw that. No Passport, No Reservation. Period.

  • MarkKelling

    You might be surprised at how few US citizens actually have a passport. The latest stats I found shows there are just over 113 million US passports out there. Since there are 314 million people in the US, that is about 2/3 without passports.

  • MarkKelling

    This is mainly because the airline would prefer you to forfeit the payment which adds to their profits.

  • bodega3

    Why state the obvious?

  • bodega3

    It is what we have to do to CYA. It is amazing on how many people don’t know their own legal name!

  • Charles

    “And, why would anyone in this day and age, NOT have a Passport?” Why not ask two thirds of the population of America? Only about 1/3 have passports and that’s a record (was only about 1/6th in 2000). In general, nobody gets a passport unless they plan to travel internationally.

    What I don’t understand is why they didn’t just pay for the friends passport. Even expedited service would be cheaper than that redeposit fee (for a minor).

  • Charles

    What are the ridiculous terms for award tickets? The only extra term I know of for these tickets is that you don’t get the miles for them. I’ve heard that award tickets may be the first bumped, but I’ve flown on them quite a few times and never had that happen. They always find plenty of volunteers when oversold. Then, there are the better terms. I can refund an award ticket up to 72 hours before the flight with a $150 redeposit fee, getting all of the miles back. If you are an elite level, even the redeposit fee may be waived. I certainly can’t cancel a regular ticket up to 72 hours before the flight and get my money back, even with a fee. Maybe I’ll get credit and those credits can be hard to use. So, what are these ridiculous terms?

  • emanon256

    UAs old CoC stated that for over sold bumping purposes, award tickets (Including saver) were the same priority as full fare tickets. They said they started sorting based on frequent flyer status, and then fare class. I could find anything in the new CoC one way or the other. But at least pre-merger, UA award tickets were better than paid tickets.

  • TonyA_says

    Good point. In fact especially for BC/FC cabin, it is cheaper to buy miles on some Star Alliance airliners Frequent Flyer Plans and get award tickets on partner airline flights instead of paying cash for those same tickets.

  • Mark Cuban

    It’s a person change, not a typo correction. Delta was perfectly within their rights to charge them. Why help these whiny people???

  • Charles

    2/3’s of American’s don’t have passports. They are only going to get one when they are going to travel internationally. Booking a trip and, as part of the process, getting a passport, is very normal. So long as you are diligent about getting the application in on time and know that you have plenty more time before the trip than the processing time, it’s not a problem.

    We have booked a trip before while my wife’s passport was being renewed. It took 2 months, but we had booked 5 months in advance, so there was plenty of time. Had I waited the 2 months for the passport to arrive I would have paid a lot more for the trip. One of our children had to get a passport when the band decided to go to Canada. There was plenty to time before the trip, but they required we book the trip in the fall. It was not an option to wait until a passport arrived to book the trip.

    I don’t blame any travel agency that will not book without a passport in hand. Many people are not diligent and will mess up and they will get blamed. But, I’ll bet most travel agents when you come in and say “I want to go to France” will book the trip. They may make it very clear that they have to get a passport, but I’ll bet very few will say “come back in two months when you have gotten your passport” if the trip is 6 months away.

  • Mark Cuban

    Luddites. It did say Milwaukee after all.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, in this case, you were correct. Has no bearing on the fact it was a mileage ticket – NO TICKETS allow for a name change. Nice of Delta to bend the rules here.

  • Charles

    Wow, name calling. What did they ask? They were confronted with a problem created by the parents of the friend. They learned immediately that a name change was not possible. So, they tried to figure out a way to purchase a ticket for a different friend. The prices at the point in time were then too high for them to afford and maybe they also did not understand the number of miles required (100,000 does not sound right). And, they were concerned that if they refunded the ticket, they would not be able to buy another seat (again, they sound confused, since if the flight was full, an award ticket should not have been available). They asked for help. I think had they gotten the ticket for 50,000 and the redeposit fee, they would probably have been happy. It was nice of Delta to waive the redeposit fee as well, but they were concerned about even being able to accomplish getting the kid on the flight at all.

    So, why is this so “whiney”?

  • Lindabator

    They are putting the miles back on “MARTY” ticket. THEN they are starting from scratch to purchase a “BOB” ticket. Had it been a ticket purchased with cash, NO change to the name, so loss of all old ticket, and then pay for new ticket for new guest.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Just a remind. When you redeposit the miles, it doesn’t guarantee you will get the same award seats on the original flights because other people can capture those liberated awards stocks, Specially when there is more than 1 person on the PNR. Award reservations are much harder when many travelling together.

  • Lindabator

    Never HAS been a name change fee – it has to do with previous problems with ticketing fraud. And that pre-dates 9/11 by ages.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    She’s not changing the name, she’s changing the person. Changing a name is fixing a typo or updating a nickname with a legal name, but the ticket is still for the same person. Not the case here.

  • Annie M

    Unless you buy a refundable ticket, no airlines will do a name change on a ticket that was purchased either. The exact same scenario would apply – a cancellation fee would be charged, and the traveler would have to repurchase the ticket at whatever the current price is for tickets.

    I always warn parents who are taking their kids friends on a trip with them to buy cancel for any reason travel insurance – this is not an odd occurrence, it happens frequently. Maybe the kids have a fight and aren’t talking anymore by the time the trip arrives, or they can’t get a passport as this case – you never know what is going to happen and the other kids parents are not invested in this trip the way you are.

  • Lindabator

    Right, and I remember all the warnings we got when I worked for UAL years ago – no name changes because of MULTIPLE problems with fraud. There is a reason there are rules in place – and this was no simple name change – it was a total new passenger. Frankly, I wouldn’t have bothered with this – it really was the OPs fault – if she really wanted money back, she should have gone to the 1st kid’s parents.

  • bodega3

    While fees are helping the carrier stay afloat, they weren’t started for that reason. They started them due to past passengers abuse of the system. I started selling airline tickets back when you could easily make changes to tickets and you could use someone else’s ticket to fly domestically.

  • bodega3

    I agree that the kid’s parents should have paid for the fee.

  • Lindabator

    And funny enough, if this was a closed loop cruise, originating and ending in the same US city (New Orleans), then he actulayy only needs his original birth certificate with raised seal and picture ID, as well as notarized letter from parents regarding medical waiver. So why the mess?

  • bodega3

    So all Delta frequent flyer members should print this article out to use when they want to make a change, right?

  • Lindabator

    AMEN! And argue till they are blue in the face – then you get the passport copy and OOPS!

  • omgstfualready

    “Delta’s rules are uniformly strict, no matter how you settle the bill. It won’t change a name, which, by the way, is an industry-wide policy. But you would expect Delta to take a close look at your case, if for no other reason than that you are a loyal customer.”
    UGH – I’m soooo tired of this. Why should a loyal customer (which has no definition or standardized way of determining who belongs in this category) be treated differently? A person flying twice a year solely on Delta thinks they are loyal. A person flying a dozen times a year, just twice on Delta, isn’t loyal. They should now not be considered similarly from Delta’s point of view?
    The parents of the kid owe the person the money. Not Delta.

  • Lindabator

    Maybe – but we DO ask how is the name as it appears on your passport. Great way to find out they do not have one! (I always ask for expiration date as well – they DO have to have enough valid time, after all!)

  • Lindabator

    It is due to multiple fraudulent issues in the past. SO they made it a hard-and- fast rule (which is NOT in all cases). :)

  • omgstfualready

    This person is whining because Delta who has nothing to do with the scenario they are in won’t help them to get out of it. If a guest of mine breaks a dish I don’t yell at the dish manufacturer to send me a new one at no cost.

  • bodega3

    All the TA’s I know won’t book an international trip to a new client who doesn’t have a current, valid US passport. The mess involved should a problem come up isn’t worth the frustration and the cost to the passenger.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Of course, we don’t know why the parents changed their mind about getting a passport for the kid.

  • TonyA_says

    Linda, how did they get away with the cruise lines?
    Can you simply change passengers at any time?
    Or is there a period you can do this without a penalty?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We really would need to know why the parents refused to get the kid a passport.

  • bodega3

    But that doesn’t matter IMHO. See why the carriers went to charging for people changing their minds? It is a PITA!

  • bodega3

    It doesn’t matter. A commitment was made and then broken.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If you don’t leave the country and have no plans to do so, why bother?

  • bodega3

    A lot cruise lines allow for name changes. I haven’t had to do it recently, but have done it in the past.

  • bodega3

    I know how much I love them. Just got home from an 11 1/2 hour international flight in first class that was free with my miles. Can’t wait to do it again!

  • Free? Come on. You’re smarter than that.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Then, there are the better terms. I can refund an award ticket up to 72 hours before the flight with a $150 redeposit fee, getting all of the miles back.

    Don’t most tickets allow you to cancel prior to flight and get a credit less the change fee. And regardless of status you can buy a ticket without a change fee if need be. How is award ticket better?

  • bodega3

    No the ticket was free Chris and thanks for the compliment!

  • You earned the ticket from flying and collecting miles through various other means. If it were “free” then anyone could ask for, and receive, a first-class ticket. And you’re welcome!

  • bodega3

    There are many ways of getting something for ‘free’. That is your interpretation not mine. I didn’t pay extra to ‘earn’ the miles, just collected them if what I purchased allowed it. From my collected miles, I cashed in on them. No fees what so ever, no added costs. Saved $12 off a tank of gas getting to the airport, too, with our Safeway card for no extra cost. Loved our free hotel stay in London, too with points from past driving trips staying at partner hotels that we like. Potato, potatoe, call it what you like, but free international first class is the only way to go!

  • That’s a very business-friendly definition of “free.” I guess bags also fly “free” on Southwest, right? But try this next time you’re at the airport. Go to the Southwest counter and tell them you’d like to send your bags to Dallas for “free” even though you don’t have a ticket. When they stop laughing at you, please tell me what they say. I’ll wait.

  • MarkKelling

    Maybe some issue with the birth certificate or other required documentation.

  • omgstfualready

    The person that voted down intrigues me. If you were told your situation was similar to the person next to you, but they were a ‘loyal’ customer so the rule was broken for them but you still had to pay the fee would you be okay with that? Or would you email Chris to say that isn’t fair?

  • MarkKelling

    Legally, that is true and is easily verifiable on various US Government web sites.

    However, many cruise lines have adopted a stricter interpretation of the rules and any cruise that stops in a foreign port will require a passport for every passenger. Not knowing where the cruise in question was going we can’t guess about the requirements of the ports of call.

  • MarkKelling

    Southwest’s own small print says “Up to two bags fly free with any customer holding a valid ticket for that segment. Certain weight and size restrictions apply.” So, no, you can’t send your bags on a vacation without you going too. :-)

  • Lindabator

    As long as you do NOT change the primary name, you can make name changes up until final payment. Since it was her kid and his friend, not a problem with the cruise line.

  • omgstfualready

    Good to ask that and know the rules for the countries being visited. Just because when you are leaving is before it expires doesn’t mean the country you are visiting is okay with that. Some require it to be up to 3 or even 6 months past your departure date. So you may think you are okay just based on your plans but then you land and are denied admission into the country! Also some countries supposedly require a certain amount of empty pages too (though I never saw that enforced).

  • Lindabator

    NO – it has nothing to do with Caribbean/Mexican ports of call (New Orlenas port only sails to these stops) – he really DIDN’T need it – and the companies which sail from these ports (Carnival, Royal, NCL) allow these all the time. Have groups out of there ALL the time with no issues. GRANTED – if you need to fly home, then you may encounter an issue without a passport, but no island will block you as long as you embark and disembark from the same US port of call.

  • MarkKelling

    Sure, and also back in the day they didn’t check your ID when you checked in for the flight. As long as you were holding a valid ticket for that flight you flew. (International flights were different because they did have to verify you had a valid passport.) I think airlines should be more flexible in many ways. It isn’t hurting F9, WN, and the others that still allow flexibility in re-ticketing.

  • Lindabator

    Just like visa restrictions – you MAY not have enough pages in some cases! (Yes, I specialize in international travel, so know those pitfalls!)

  • omgstfualready

    Odd you say you don’t like them but think that Delta should treat this person differently because of the ‘loyalty’ which you assumed is accurate but is not a measurable or objective way to do business. I enjoy differing opinions, it can be fun to discuss, but I also enjoy consistency in applying ones beliefs.

  • MarkKelling

    Two reasons why award tickets are better:
    1. Your miles never expire (with any activity) while the credit is only good for a year.

    2. If you are a high enough level member in the airline’s program, you may not even have to pay the change fee on the mileage redeposit but you always have to pay the change fee on cash tickets.

  • MarkKelling

    Do you yell at the guest to buy you a new one? ;-)

  • bodega3

    WN doesn’t allow the transfer of funds anymore in case you didn’t know. Your name on your ID has to match your boarding pass, too, so not a flexible as you state.
    Back in the day, early days, people didn’t abuse what they had. Then it started getting abused, with the sale of used coupons. The airlines decided to protect their product. I might not agree with all that they had put into place over the years, but I get why many policies came to be.

  • bodega3

    Chris also gives out ‘free’ help, but he is getting paid by someone. He writes in one of his books about getting ‘free amenities’ at hotels, but according to his belief, those really aren’t free, are they?

  • omgstfualready

    First, I rarely yell, not my style. Assuming it was an accident no. If they did it on purpose, well clearly there are bigger issues at hand. ;-)

  • MarkKelling

    My statement about just having a ticket and not checking names was for how things were way back when (early 1970’s), not any point in recent history.

    And a lot of people are upset with the recent changes to WN and their new restrictions for reuse of travel funds. F9 and WN are still the most flexible today of any domestic US airlines I am aware of.

  • marie3656

    I completely agree. I booked a trip to Paris with my kids for a full month. We rented an apartment for the month, so I had to reserve it many months before the trip or there would have been no inventory left. My kids had passports, but they needed to be renewed before the trip. I think it’s fairly easy to trust that with 5 months lead time that you can successfully secure a passport. So I went ahead and booked the apartment before I had the renewed passports, and I didn’t think anything of it. It didn’t even occur to me that there would be an issue. In the OP’s case, the issue was not that she didn’t have a passport for all of the parties, but that one of the guests’ parents backed out at the last minute. That’s a very different problem. Incidentally, I assume that the cruise was a Caribbean cruise, so they could have used a birth certificate. Not ideal, of course, but the passport was not the issue. It was the friend’s parents changing her mind.

  • TonyA_says

    #3. They can be a lot cheaper than paid tickets (even if you have to buy the miles).

  • bodega3

    WN’s policies were being abused, just like the other carriers policies of past. Thank fellow passengers for screwing it up for everyone else.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The reasons why a commitment is broken is fundamentally at issue. If, for example, it becomes inappropriate for the kid to travel with the OP’s family then canceling is absolutely fine regardless of the financial impact to the OP.
    I won’t give examples, because that would be unfair to the OP.

    But upon closer examination, the parents really have no liability even if they cancelled for no good reason. Whether the kid goes on the trip or the seat flies empty, the OP is out the same money. So there are no damages. Its the legal equivalent of buying a gift and the recipient throwing it away. What the OP does afterward is her business.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That really depends on your buying habits

    1. I buy mostly fully refundable tickets for business so never expiring miles vs not paying $150 each time I change my ticket, I’ll take the not paying $150 each time I make a change. I remember recently changing my return ticket four times.

    2. Depends on the program. My current carrier is Virgin which I believe always charges the redeposit fee. My previous carrier American only waived it for the Exec Plat, a truly rarified and super ultra elite place. I fondly remember those days. *sigh*

  • bodega3

    As a parent, if my child was invited to join another family and there was a cost involved by the family that invited my child if I canceled, there might be no obligation to do so, but I would cover those costs. It is the right thing to do. Now if the parents don’t know that a fee was being incurred, that is a whole other issue, but they should at least ask.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree. Its the “go after the parents” line that many have suggested, imply that the parents have a legal obligation, which is not true.

  • Helio

    Chris, we know that! You even have a Safeway membership card… ;-)

  • Cybrsk8r

    I never fly Delta anymore

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Come on. That’s spltting hairs.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’d be fine with it. I understand that rules apply differently depending on how much money was spent. As Mark pointed out, redeposit fees are often waived for people who have achieved sufficiently high status within the airline.

  • omgstfualready

    I don’t understand that as much, not on something like the use of frequent flyer miles. But I’ve never asked for special treatment, though perhaps I received it without knowing it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Travel seems to be geared towards preferential treatment of preferred customers, everything from special check-in lines, boarding priority, checked luggage at no additional cost, premium cabin upgrades, etc. I submit that FF miles follows the same rules, from greater and earlier availability to waived deposit fees for uber-elites.

  • Bill___A

    So how is this Delta’s problem? How about “Your son’s friend’s parents didn’t keep their word, Christopher Elliott please get the money from them”. Time to go after the people whose fault this is..

  • omgstfualready

    If disclosed I’m fine with it too.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I guess the perks are generally disclosed in the FF literature. Of course, there are the unwritten and undisclosed rules.

    I don’t really care what perks the higher tiered folks get. I don’t see how that impacts me one way or the other in a meaningful way.

  • Stanley Wester

    You ALWAYS have to pay change fees and any additional fare and taxes when re-booking tickets. That is on the premise that changes are allowed. There are tickets out there that do not ALLOW date changes as well. Name changes are not allowed industry wide. He was lucky it was an award ticket, but he should have known the risks involved.

  • Stanley Wester

    When a rule states NO NAME changes, it is what it means. A rip off fee is a fee that the consumer is unaware of. The fees listed are fees listed. The same way the IRS puts a a late fee if you file your taxes late. And the same way you will pay a fee if you do not get health insurance in 2014 Maybe that is more of a ripoff fee. ( the type that penalizes you for NOT getting the product or service)

  • Stanley Wester

    Rather than pay the US $ 150 and pay extra 75 K miles….. it would been cheaper or less stressful for the OP to pay for the passport!

  • Stanley Wester

    By the way Chris. Wouldn’t it have been simpler for the OP to pay for the original guests passport. Less stress. No need to mediate and now in hindsight would have saved that extra 25 K miles! Some solutions are more simple. This is on the presumption that the OP’s story about the first guest’s parents refusing to get a passport true.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I was wondering about that. Why not just offer to pay for the passport. I may be reading too much into this but the wording was off. Not that the parents refused to PAY for the passport, but rather they refused to GET him a passport.

    I’m wondering (without any facts) whether the parents just decided that they didn’t want the kid going on the trip without them being there to supervise.

    When I was a high school senior I had a friend with truly amazingly fearful parents, who were very afraid to let the kids (age 19 and 17) out of their sights. The parents even accompanied the older son on the senior cruise and wouldn’t let him go off with the rest of us.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I assume you mean topping off an account. On American, for example, purchasing enough miles for a domestic ticket costs $700 plus taxes

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No, that’s just the back story for our interest.

  • TonyA_says

    No Carver, it is a lot better than that. Without having flown a single mile on at least two (2) Star Alliance airlines, you can buy some for yourself and/ or get shared miles (with 100% bonus) at incredibly low cpms.
    Then you use these miles to get BC award tickets on other Star Alliance partners INTERNATIONAL trips where you get the most bang for the buck.

    So savvy folks can game this system. They don’t need to be losers. The losers are those who don’t know they are the ones being gamed.

  • Well said.

  • BMG4ME

    As Chris says, it wasn’t the fact it was a FF ticket that was the problem, it’s the fact it was an airline ticket that was the problem. It is well known among frequent travelers that airlines don’t change names on tickets once issued. As for the poll question, FF tickets are (at least with a lot of US airlines) much more favorable in terms of restrictions. Whereas you can’t change the routing, you can change the dates free of charge. Try doing that with a much more expensive non refundable ticket.

  • BMG4ME

    That’s very interesting. I have been a long term fan of another airline. Then I decided to try Delta’s status match and discovered Delta to be much better for me for many reasons:

    (1) I don’t have to pay for upgrades yet I don’t get the upgrades any less frequently than I do on other airline

    (2) You can upgrade (for free) on an award ticket which you can’t do on other airline.
    (3) You can order special meals on Delta anywhere where a meal is served. With other airlines you can only do so on coast to coast or international flights or in some cases only on international flights.

  • BMG4ME

    It’s common practice to treat more frequent (or at least more valuable) customers better than others. To me that makes perfect sense, if you want to keep them. That doesn’t mean you should not treat all customers well. If you treat everyone well but go out of your way to treat more loyal customers even better, then you will maintain new customers, encourage them to become more loyal, and you will keep the most loyal customers.

  • ARCNurse

    No it is not industry wide policy to not allow name changes to an airline ticket. For the larger carriers it might be a “standard” but some of the smaller carriers will still allow it for a fee. SunCountry Airlines would be an example. Although it would be preferable to not ever make a change to a ticket life happens and things sometimes need to be changed, including names of those traveling. Airlines need to remember we are customers and that they should attempt to make customers feel like their patronage is appreciated. Airlines could do so easily by allowing such changes for a fee if done at least 2 weeks prior to a flight. Otherwise, when it comes to redeeming miles for tickets, the airlines have you by the sack so they can make up all sorts of rules and change them whenever they want. That is your reward for being a loyal or good customer.

  • bodega3

    Sun County is a charter carrier and they often have different policies. Regular scheduled carriers use to be more friendly but you have past passengers to thank for abusing what they offered.

  • Mel65

    Heck, I don’t want to take my OWN kids on vacation with me, let alone bring along someone else’s!