I'm flying from the UK to the USA for a holiday in a few months with Virgin. My surname has a hyphen in it, but it seems that Virgin's computers cannot handle this, so they have removed it and my surname appears as a single word. I've heard that staff at check-ins can be quite strict about details matching. Is there going to be a problem for me at any stage?

  • 2
    Related (not really a duplicate... ish): travel.stackexchange.com/questions/118130/…
    – Martha
    Jan 29, 2020 at 0:10
  • You should be just fine! I have an apostrophe in my surname — it starts with it — yet I’ve never had any problems despite often not being able to include the apostrophe when booking. Jan 30, 2020 at 1:59

3 Answers 3


You should check your passport's machine readable zone. Most countries seem not to add characters like hyphens there, and may substitute it with a space (encoded as a <) instead.

You should make sure that the name the airline has matches the MRZ. But most likely it will not be a problem.

  • 6
    "Most countries seem not to add characters like hyphens there": Actually, no country adds characters like hyphens there, because such characters are not allowed there. There are only 37 characters allowed, A through Z, 0 through 9, and <.
    – phoog
    Jan 28, 2020 at 13:36

I have had an issue with a hyphen when checking in and validating my green card with United at their self-serve terminals at Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ) when traveling to the United States. Some combination of the hyphenation on my green card, passport, and boarding pass, caused a validation error that didn't allow me, via the terminal, to confirm that I had a valid travel document to visit the United States. I now always have to visit a physical agent who is easily able to override the validation error and confirm that I have a valid travel document. I am not able to check in online or via the self-serve terminal. This is purely anecdotal, of course, but if you do need to check-in at the airport, you should give yourself the full amount of time that the airport and airline suggest, to ensure that you are able to get potential issues like this sorted out with a physical agent, if needed.

  • 1
    It may not be the hyphen but the length of your name. If I understand correctly, the maximum number of characters in the MRZ of the green card is 30, including filler characters (which stand for spaces or hyphens, among others, and of which there are two between the surname(s) and given name(s)). The name on your profile yields 31 characters under those rules, so the first name would, I think, be truncated (is it?) and any additional given names would have to be omitted. Passports allow up to 39 characters for the name (again, including fillers).
    – phoog
    Jan 29, 2020 at 21:30
  • In other words, you might have the same problem if your surname had a space instead of a hyphen.
    – phoog
    Jan 29, 2020 at 21:34
  • @phoog Yes, I have ALSO had the issue with the truncated name in the MRZ on the green card (in that case, it was with CLEAR). However in the case of the check-in terminal, I believe it was displaying all of the characters. I would have to verify next time I'm at YHZ. In terms of HOW it gets truncated, the last name is correct, it is the first name that actually gets truncated (the final line is FITZGERALD<CHAMBERLAIN<<MATTHE) Jan 29, 2020 at 22:00
  • I would expect the terminal to show your full name because it will take it from the passport, or perhaps from the booking record. But then when it reads the green card it probably treats the green card as not matching because of the missing W.
    – phoog
    Jan 30, 2020 at 3:28

My name has a hyphen that I always include in my bookings. Airlines sometimes put it on the boarding pass and sometimes don't, and I've never had any problems.

Edit: worth noting that another answer now reports someone having problems with United, who I've never flown with.

  • 1
    It's probably a huge inconvenience but not a problem. Because the person from the other answer still managed to check-in and get their flight, just not as smoothly as they wished.
    – kiradotee
    Jan 30, 2020 at 1:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .