Flight bookings 101: Pensioner suffers costly mistake of spelling error on online booking

2017-08-02 09:16 - Kavitha Pillay
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airport anger, airport, tips, travel tips

Cape Town – Have you ever raced to the airport and made it just in time to catch your flight, only to realise you’ve forgotten your ID or passport?

Perhaps you’ve had all documents in place but failed to double-check your personal information or flight details on your ticket, resulting in extra charges or even a missing your flight.

It’s human nature to err, but it can be extremely frustrating when petty mistakes are made when it comes to travelling – especially when extra costs are incurred.

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A Traveller24 reader was furious when she had to pay “R300” to Mango airlines on Monday 31 July, to change the spelling of her aunt’s surname, just so she could board her flight on time.

“My aunt, a pensioner, would have missed her flight and probably had a heart attack if I had not paid the R300 to change her name on her Mango airlines ticket because her surname was spelt incorrectly,” says Saleha Hoosen to Traveller24.

“The person that had booked her flight online spelled her surname which is ‘N. Blouw’ as ‘N. Blaauw’. Everything else was correct,” explains Hoosen, adding that her aunt “was so upset” about the error and additional payment that it caused “her blood pressure” to rise.

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“The supervisor told us that she could be someone else posing as the person that should be on the flight … but shouldn’t her ID number verify who she is, since we all have our own unique ID no?,” adds Hoosen, saying that the assistant at the counter replied saying "That’s not how it works”.

While Hoosen thinks “it’s absolutely ridiculous” to pay R300 to make the name change, Mango airlines states the costs involved to make such an amendment on its website, under the “Change Booking” page.

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Hoosen questioned if the low-cost carrier could not verify the booking with the credit card number with which the ticket was booked, or ask for the contact details as confirmation, however, this is not acceptable as part of the airline's policy.

Mango states on its website that flyers may use the airline’s website or mobi-app “to amend their flight details” and warns that “each booking amendment will incur an administration fee”.

“This fee is in addition to applicable fare changes and takes effect upon clicking the ‘Update Now’ button,” says the airline.

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If changes are made via the Mango website or the mobi-app, it will cost “R210 per name change” and “R280 per date, route or time change”.

If flyers make changes via the call centre or the service counter at the airport, charges are a more expensive and will cost “R290 per name change” and “R370 per date, route or time change”.

“Mango Plus and Mango Flex members will not incur any administration fees for changes to their name, date or flight details,” adds the site.

Other airlines’ policies regarding flight detail amendments:


“Corrections to traveller names are free to make, however, please check that your name details are exactly the same as what appears on your ID before going on to the next step,” says kulula on its website, however, “Name changes are not allowed on any flight bookings”.

Name corrections will be permitted in the following instances:

  • Spelling changes/spelling error corrections
  • Changes to last name due to marriage/divorce (with supplied proof)
  • Changes to titles and academic titles (e.g.: ‘Miss’ to ‘Mrs’; ‘Ms’ to ‘Prof’)
  • Swapping last names and first names around

Example of name changes that can and cannot be made:


Kirby Gordon, Vice President: Sales and Distribution says “At FlySafair we do not require ID numbers, but we do require the name of a passenger on the reservation to be the same as that which is reflected on their government issued ID.”

“When passengers make spelling errors with their names, or other errors, such as a maiden name being used in place of a married name, we gladly make the change free of charge – the principle is that the same person that the ticket was originally booked for is still the person that is flying. This information does need to be corrected before boarding,” he told Traveller24.

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FlySafair also allows ticket holders to make name changes to existing tickets “to effectively pass their ticket onto a new person”. Gordon says that “these full name changes cost R300 per person per flight”.

British Airways

Luane Lavery, Brand Communication Manager British Airways (BA), provided advice to BA flyers that need to make a name change.

If the name of a person travelling is spelt wrong or doesn't match their name on their passport:

Most spelling mistakes in the name of a traveller can be easily corrected over the phone, when all of the flights on their ticket are operated by British Airways.

“We don't charge for this type of change, however if the taxes, fees, carrier imposed charges or fuel surcharges on the ticket have changed since the booking was made, we'll need to take any additional money due for them at this point. Please be prepared to send through copies of documents if our Customer Support team need them to support the name correction,” says British Airways.

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“It's more complicated when other airlines are on a customer's e-ticket - our agents will be able to explain to you what will happen,” says the airline.

According to BA, it's not possible to update/correct a name on a ticket simply by entering the corrected name or spelling in the ‘Advance Passenger Information’, as this information doesn't actually make any changes to the e-ticket.

“If you booked through a travel agent or on a travel website, please contact them directly. We can't change tickets they have issued,” says BA, adding that if you booked through British Airways, either online or on the phone, call the airline to make the name change.

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If you want to completely change one of the people booked to travel:

If you booked with BA directly and find you've made a booking for the wrong person, there’s a 24-hour cooling off period in which you can cancel the booking and receive a full refund.

“If you booked on ba.com you can cancel it there, and if you booked over the phone please call our team,” says the airline.

Types of booking not covered by this guarantee:

  • Bookings made on a flight leaving within 24 hours of the time you book.
  • Bookings where immediate payment isn't required.
  • Package bookings or flights booked with hotels, car hire, transfers or experiences.
  • South African domestic only services, operated by Comair.

“Outside this cooling off period, flight-only tickets are non-transferable and you will need to cancel the original booking and make a new booking for the new traveller, at current ticket prices,” says BA.


Tlali Tlali, spokesperson at South African Airways (SAA), told Traveller24 “We are expected to comply with the conditions of markets and destinations we fly to as set out by the immigration authorities of those countries. Failure to do so attracts financial penalty for the airline and causes unwanted inconvenience to our customers.

“Based on this, we urge our customers to ensure that their bookings and names as they transact are correct before they accept and conclude the bookings.

“If the information which appears on the ticket is not consistent with the names on the acceptable travel document, the customer can be denied travel and will be requested to purchase a new ticket,” says Tlali.

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SAA advises that “The name on the ticket must match the passport or identity document that will be used when traveling. The full (complete) first name and full (complete) surname as per the passport is the requirement.

“When a customer gets married the passport must be changed to reflect the surname change. If this cannot be done the booking must be in the maiden name,” says SAA.

Example of what you will see when making a booking online:

“We make an effort to remind customers what information is required,” adds Tlali.

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