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I purhcased tickets for my brother to come live with me. He is homeless, I have extra room, but not a lot of extra money. On one flight I accidentally used my own name instead of his. Flights are American Airlines, booking was done on Orbitz.

Long story short, Orbitz tells me it is a $200 fee to cancel and re-issue the ticket. Is there absolutely no recourse? It is going to put me in a bind either way. He will get as far as LA OR I can pay out what little money I have left.

Finally, are Airlines actually unable to change the name or are they unwilling to change the name? They give you a day or two to cancel with no penalty (and I wish that I had caught it in time), I still have 2 weeks before the flight, what is the big deal, is this just a means of generating revenue, taking advantage of someones mistakes?

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    @JonathanReez In editing, you removed what I feel was an important part of my question. Why can carriers or travel agencies not change names. Is it an industry restriction? Is it just company policy? – CodeWarrior Dec 4 '17 at 20:38
  • Because it read as a rant and we generally try to avoid them on this site. – JonathanReez Dec 4 '17 at 20:39
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    I feel it is a legitimate question, and the answer would dictate how I would continue working on the problem. If the airlines and booking agencies are actually unable to change names through regulation, then I would have no recourse. If it is a policy, I might appeal to them somehow to change it for me. – CodeWarrior Dec 4 '17 at 20:41
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    By purchasing the ticket, you agreed to the airline's terms, known commonly as the Contract of Carriage or Conditions of Carriage. For almost all airlines, tickets are non-transferable, and it is very difficult to prove that you want to change the name to correct an error as opposed to changing it to game the system. You could argue that this is unfair, but if price discrimination were banned, the airlines would simply raise fares or cut flights to adjust to the loss of revenue, leaving you in the same bind. – choster Dec 4 '17 at 21:43
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There's essentially nothing Orbitz can do, as it is up to the airline's policy. You can always plead your case as a hardship, but airlines don't allow name changes, because they want to protect their revenue management models and prevent people from reselling tickets. Otherwise, people would buy up cheaper tickets in advance and resell them later when fares rise. It is something they theoretically can allow, but they have policies against it.

You could also make sure it is cheaper to cancel and re-issue the ticket than to buy an entirely new one.

Some US cities do have "homeward bound" programs that provide public funds for homeless individuals to travel (usually by bus) to live with a relative. If funds are tight, you could see whether such a program is available where your brother lives, though you'd still be left with the airline ticket in your name.

  • I looked into the homeward thing. His city does not, and unfortunately, the only way to get here is my flight. Or boat I suppose. I'll see if I can get in touch with the airline somehow. – CodeWarrior Dec 4 '17 at 20:43
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    Ah, I see now you're in Hawaii, which makes things more difficult. Sadly, there's not a lot you can do, though impressing upon the airline the compassionate nature of your case is at least worth a shot. It's rather unlikely they will budge, as they are quite strict about these policies, but how much you pursue it is up to you. You could try contacting higher ups at the airline directly with a brief well-written email pleading your case. – Zach Lipton Dec 4 '17 at 20:51
  • I'll try sending an email to one of the emails in that contact list for the airline. It sucks that in order to thwart people gaming the system, they have to have policies that hurt their customers too. – CodeWarrior Dec 4 '17 at 21:20
  • OK, so the short answer is (at least in Orbitz case) "No". Despite their customer support previously telling me that they could "cancel and re-issue" the ticket, they now say that due to American Airlines policy they can't change the name (I also spoke with American and they said that it is totally doable, but Orbitz has to do it). I ended up just buying a new ticket and NOT cancelling the old one. – CodeWarrior Dec 15 '17 at 19:15

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