You might want to think twice when using a nickname for travel bookings.
One couple found this out the hard way when they were forced to cough up about $3,000 at the airport due to using a shorter first name instead of a full name on the ticket.
Last summer, Phil and Kate had planned to fly from Brisbane to Melbourne with Virgin Airlines and eventually to London aboard Qatar Airways, they told Australia’s 9 News. The couple said they scored a deal through a third-party website called Student Universe and were thrilled with paying just $1,600 each ($2,400 in Australian dollars) for their getaway.
However, Phil had booked Kate’s ticket using the shortened form of her name Katherine, which was the name on her passport.
“It was an administrative error, I think I married Kate in church and not Katherine,” he said.
When they arrived at the airport, Virgin was unable to help and informed them they would need to contact Student Universe, where they had purchased the ticket, to have her name changed on the booking in order to board the plane.
Rather than paying a fee to alter her ticket, the couple was forced to cancel her ticket and book a new one under the name “Katherine” — which cost $3,147 ($4,700 AU).
“They didn’t have time, that was their reasoning, to issue a name change on the ticket — but they had time to sell us a new ticket,” Phil said.
Kate said she “begged” the agency to help her but was rebuffed. Student Universe told 9 News in a statement that it was just following standard airline regulations.
Quentin Long, an expert from booking site Australian Traveller, told the local news channel that it’s important to book a ticket with a name that matches what’s on a passport.
“It’s not just about security it’s also about visas, it’s about inter-government agencies, it is really, really important,” he said. “You’ve got to be across the details, there’s no shortcuts.”
Long explained that while airlines are generally willing to help rectify issues for travelers who booked using their services, it’s not often the case with third-party websites that lure in customers with low prices.
“If you do seek out the cheapest airfares there is a ramification that you have very little room to move — if there is a mistake you are going to have to pay,” he added.
Phil and Kate are hardly the first to experience this issue, as many others have detailed similar incidents on travel websites regarding booking with a nickname or shorter name. Meanwhile, others have had discrepancies with their passport photos, like one woman who said she was “too hot” in her photo and wasn’t allowed to board.