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My name is Amr Eladawy. Whenever I get a ticket through an agent and they put my first name as Amr, it lands as A only in the Airlines system. That happened with many airlines and different agents. That is pretty much annoying, specially during the online check-in.

When I make a direct booking from the airlines website, the ticket is issued as ELADAWY/AMRMR.

It seems that there is a smart rule that considers the suffix MR as Mister and drops it.

Is this the correct behavior? What should I do to have my name printed correctly on my bookings.

  1. In one of my bookings, the first and last name were swapped by mistake. However, AMR in the last name was not a problem at all.It seems that this rule is applied only on the first name.
  2. The airlines will swear that they received the name as A and the agent will swear that the name was sent as Amr.
  3. The problem maybe in the GDS used to integrate the agent's system with the airlines's.
  4. I sent an email to the GDS about this issue and they simply ignored me.

Now, moving forward. Amr is a very popular Arabic name. It's also a very old one and has been used for thousands of years. How to properly report this to the GDS providers and get this issue fixed?

I have tried contacting one GDS responsible for the latest booking I had, but they ignored me.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Nov 6 at 16:12
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    @WGroleau I go with Amro, which is an alternative way of writing the name and matches the Arabic script, but this is not my name in the passport and I think humans should not change their name to suite the machines. – Amr ElAdawy Nov 6 at 16:54
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    When the comments have been moved, post your additional comments in the chat room. We can only move them once and most of the time there are duplicates as people do not check the chatroom. All comments posted from now on are likely to be deleted. – Willeke Nov 7 at 20:24
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    My friend's last name is Test: he says airline tickets are silently deleted about 25% of the time. Awful! – Cameron Brick Nov 8 at 10:12
  • The root word for Amr is Amar = immortal. – Nocturnal Keyboard Warrior Nov 11 at 3:34

12 Answers 12

240

Airlines were early pioneers in communication technologies, and have been very slow to modernize. For example, today, airline IT systems still communicate extensively using TTY: Type-A for synchronous communication, and Type-B for asynchronous communications.

There is a standard for TTY, which nobody follows, a de-facto standard by SITA, which is mostly followed, and many parties have quirks in their implementation, either not being able to parse some fields/special indicators, or emitting incorrect ones; everything you'd expect from a 100 years old format which grew organically as new needs and ideas arose.

This is a pervasive theme in Airline IT, with multiple epochs of technology being used side by side as companies migrate very slowly.


The airlines will swear that they received the name as A and the agent will swear that the name was sent as Amr.

They are both right, quite likely, and the issue lies between the Travel Agency and the GDS.

GDS -- such as Amadeus and Sabre -- generally offer multiple interfaces into their systems, from old ones kept for compatibility reasons to more modern ones. More modern interfaces will accept structured messages which leave no room for ambiguity; the old ones however... are full of quirks.

In general, Travel Agencies are loathe to modernize their IT: it requires re-training the agents, and buying new software, which costs quite a bit of money with little to no benefits to them.

In the case of a Travel Agency connected to Amadeus, for example, this means that they are likely using ATE: the Amadeus Terminal Emulator, which as the name implies emulates the terminals of old.

Check the Quick Reference Guide, p. 33 on how to create a PNR:

NM1SMITH/JOHN MR
  • NM: "Name" command.
  • 1: 1 passenger with the following surname.
  • SMITH: surname.
  • JOHN: first name.
  • MR: title.

Using a space, the parsing is unambiguous, however not all agents put a space, thus if instead the agent types:

NM1ELADAWY/AMR

Then the command will be parsed as (NM, 1, ELADAWY, A, MR) to be "helpful".


The Good

As mentioned, internally a GDS will use structured records. If you solve the data entry issue, and your first name is properly recorded into the system, then you should not have to worry about further issues.

The Bad

You'll need to double-check the agents' work. Just because they type AMR does not mean that the system will interpret it as AMR, as we've seen.

They can fix the issue by explicitly specifying the title: NM1ELADAWY/AMR MR.

The Ugly

Agents may not be entering your name in the system immediately, for a variety of reasons. If they do not, you cannot double-check that they did it properly. You may have to insist that they do it immediately.

Online Travel Agencies

OTAs generally have more modern, automatized, systems. As such they are more likely to rely on the more modern interfaces of a GDS.

Using an OTA may be a simpler way for you to ensure your name is properly entered in the system.

Good luck

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    This is a fantastic answer as it explains how this problem could occur. Has the OP tried booking with online travel agencies or directly with the airline? If the problem doesn't occur there, it could backup this explanation. – Ankur Banerjee Nov 6 at 17:20
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    Insisting on specifying the title would probably be another trick to obtain: NM1ELADAWY/AMR MR – trognanders Nov 7 at 21:26
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    @AnkurBanerjee I tried from airlines portal and it worked because it seems their portal adds MR to my name. I received the booking confirmation as ELADAWY/AMRMR – Amr ElAdawy Nov 8 at 3:54
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    ah yes, the good old days of trying to parse EDI messages received over serial lines. Remember them well, and the resistance to XML and later JSON that still exists in many quarters because of the added volume of data being transmitted to support the formating. – jwenting Nov 12 at 5:16
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    @jwenting: At least EDI is structured and generally unambiguous, with good tooling it works well, and Amadeus has good tooling for it. TTY and terminal command line have hand-written ad-hoc parsers, often extended organically as bugs are reported, they're much worse to maintain :( – Matthieu M. Nov 12 at 7:44
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It sounds as if the 'issue' you are having is that your name is not printed correctly on the ticket. You should however expect few if any practical problems. Airline booking systems arose in the childhood of computer technology and are still subject to many restrictions, which now seem odd or obsolete. Since it is always a risk involved in changing or extending a running system and the name related restrictions in the booking system impose no problems for regular operations, airlines are hesitant to implement only 'optical' improvements with no or few real and relevant benefits.

That means of course that many passengers will not have their name printed correctly on the ticket, not only those with their name ending in 'mr' or 'mrs'. I have the impression that most booking systems only allow the letters a to z (without case distinction) in their name fields and this means that all passengers will double names, hyphens, case relevant distinctions, letters outside the basic a-z in their name or behold, names written in a non-latin script, will have their names incorrect on the ticket. Since fixing the problem may risk introducing a new bug, which actually interrupts flight operations, the airlines are likely not very willing to recognize these limitations as a relevant and need-to-be-fixed issue.

I assume that the convention of appending 'MR' or 'MRS' at the end of the name arose around the time that governments introduced advanced passenger information requirements. At least the US APIS interface requires the airlines to also report the passenger's gender and since the gender previously was of no interest for the airlines, it was usually not recorded and the different booking systems didn't likely even have a field in their reservation records for the passengers gender. Since it was easier for the airlines to squeeze the gender information into the already existing name field instead of extending the reservation record with a new gender field, they obviously started to do so.

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    I am ok with these restriction. but if the airline system accepted my booking to be saves with my name as one character, then the airline should allow me to do online check-in. They just introduced a new rule on the mobile app to prevent passengers with short first name to check-in. – Amr ElAdawy Nov 5 at 14:20
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    @AmrElAdawy From a technical standpoint, that is a different problem. I don't know why the airline requires a name to be longer than one character. Even without the mr/mrs issue, I would not rule out that there is someone out there, who actually has a one character name. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 5 at 16:45
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    I don’t think the gender speculation is well-founded when they will quite happily also list passengers as “MICHAELDR” and I assume other neutral titles as well. – Michael Homer Nov 5 at 18:52
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    I seem to recall my first name always having been JANMR on airline tickets even in the decade before 2001 where advance passanger information was definitely not a thing but given that it’s a long time ago I could be off. – Jan Nov 6 at 5:19
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    Obligatory Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names; probably also extends to the regulators who make the rules. – asgallant Nov 6 at 17:27
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Regarding your question if it is normal behavior for system to drop MR, system does recognize MR after any letter as title and in your case leaving just letter A. Space between name and title is actually ignored. You should always insist to see how your name is written before issuing the ticket (regarding airline agent).

When agent enters command for the name in the system they should type like this (in GDS Amadeus)
NM1ELADAWY/AMR MR or NM1ELADAWY/AMRMR, then there is no chance that it would be mistaken.

I am not sure about airlines web platforms. Usually when you enter your data you have drop down list with titles and you choose MR. Then continue with entering other information normally in field for name, last name etc. It is usually very easy to use. Always check the name when ticket is issued. If something is still wrong, call the airline immediately, don't wait for online check-in.

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    Thanks for the tip, I will use it with future agents. I am aware of this issue for 6 years now. I am frustrated because the airlines is refusing to admit the issue or fix the name or even disable their own new rule about the minimum number of characters in the first name for online check-in – Amr ElAdawy Nov 6 at 3:35
  • @AmrElAdawy if the reservation has "A" but you try to check in with "Amr" is it also refused? – phoog Nov 6 at 16:56
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    It was accepted before, but the airlines introduced a new rule for online check-in to prevent people with first name less than 2 characters. – Amr ElAdawy Nov 6 at 17:01
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Maybe try with 'Amrmr'? I'd expect that the system will take the last 'mr' and leave the name as 'Amr', as wanted. I'd ask the airlines to try it.

3

From the outside, this appears to be a classic programming mistake/shortcut.

The old booking systems like to stick honourifics (e.g. "MR", "MRS", "MS", "DR") at the end of the given name (most of us have witnessed this on our plane tickets).

But, instead of using a separate logical field for it, they literally did just stick it at the end of the first name.

As a consequence of that hack, when they want to get the first name back they have to take the "MR"/"MRS"/"MS"/"DR" off again.

In your case, the system is doing that as a blanket rule, without actually checking whether the input had a title appended.

I don't think you're going to be able to work around this, but I also don't think it should cause you a problem. Oddities like this are going to be well-expected by staff.

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    They also do it to honorifics, like “Dr”: my name’s official transliteration is “Aleksandr”, which, as you can, see ends in a “dr”, so I routinely see it printed as “Dr Aleksan Revo” on my tickets. Never had it cause any problems, though. – Alexander Revo Nov 6 at 12:02
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    @AlexanderRevo Heh, nice. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 6 at 12:17
  • @AlexanderRevo "Mr" is also an honorific. LightnessRaceswithMonica, regarding "without actually checking whether the input had a title appended": how could it check? All it can determine is that the end of the name is or isn't identical to one of the honorifics on its list. – phoog Nov 6 at 17:00
  • @phoog By storing a flag or code somewhere to indicate that. That they don't/can't, means they have to do as you say, which is exactly the problem – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 6 at 17:00
  • @LightnessRaceswithMonica if you're going to go to the trouble of implementing a flag, you might as well implement a separate field for the title. – phoog Nov 6 at 17:07
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Another strategy might be to pretend you misunderstood the form and swap the fields. Then when the ticket says “last first” and your passport says “first last,” some agents won’t notice and only the most obnoxious will give you trouble.

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    The problem with this approach might lie in the fact that the reservation will deviate more from the passport rather than less. – phoog Nov 6 at 17:00
2

Arriving in some countries the name on your ticket must agree with the name on your passport. I had terrible trouble in Dubai because there was a spelling error in my first name.

1

This is slightly off-topic and might get voted down, but this is due the booking system being a Western-oriented system. In my situation I travel a lot between China and Europe, and when booking tickets in China, I have to pay more attention to the order in which my name is specified. Mostly it is not a big deal, but I have been in situations that they weren't able to immediately find my information based on the name.

This is likely also why they never assumed MR could be part of the first name as they might have used a suffix as indicating Mr (as also mentioned above). There are likely a lot more situations that cause edge cases, like limited input length, having to use romanization, no special characters, etc.

Best would be to get an online booking in which you can verify your own information, or confirm on the website for the boarding pass as this usually allows you to alter much of the PII (or notice this in-time).

Safe travels

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At first I found your situation amusing - but I do sympathise with you. I think that the issue is more to do with erosion of quality of software engineers and developers. It seems they are 'ALL' gurus and do latest javascript framework and everything else what 'They' don't do must be irrelevant, including competent validation. I worked for mail distribution company (formatting addresses and salutations for postal system). Data validation and formatting can be done effectively in the UI for data entry at the point of capture! Data cleansing and reformatting tools as a backup can also be implemented (though it shouldn't get to that). This is not hard but its not glorious - more laborious, it can be time consuming to get correct so its done in way they can say its been done (but is just a poor representation of their own weak proficiency).

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In fact it is taken as Mr. I work for one of those companies and can assure, depending on the system the travel agency or online service is using, the mr at the end will be taken as "mister."

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I'm a software engineer and I worked for a big firm and its international e-commerce website.

Formatting rules for international addresses and people "salutation" are very specific by country.

In Japan, the salutation Mr or Mrs goes after the name: Paul Mr.

Maybe some stripping text code is going to be confused due to this. Try to suggest this to the company.

0

No kidding - I get it. My U.S. style name includes a middle name and a Junior (Jr.). I have a birth cert., passport, drivers license, credit cards and various airline accounts. Most of them do NOT jive with my birth certificate, although when I entered them (or corrected them) online, they STILL remain incorrectly formatted. For example, several merge my Jr onto my first name OR my last, but that's still wrong. I have lost numerous airline reservations, so I do that manually now. And I guard those confirmation numbers - my only monetary recourse! Computers may be accurate but they are not smart (or blame the programmer). [my rant - thanks]

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