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I signed up with United Mileage Plus like 20 years ago and I used "Phil" as my first name, but my actual legal name is "Philip" and that's what is on my passport.

I'm American and I just used my long-earned award miles to book a trip to Italy but it never gave me the opportunity to use my real name, it just assumed Phil. I've never traveled abroad with United before.

Now I'm worried this mismatch will cause problems either for boarding or when arriving in Italy. I tried to change it online but it won't let me. There's the option to upload documents or an affidavit proving the change so I did that, but then after submitting it said that the name on tickets purchased before won't change either way! (and it will take two weeks to get back to me.)

I went to the airport to speak to a United rep and they said they couldn't change it but that there shouldn't be a problem but show up early just in case.

Am I right to be worried about this? What can I do? Thank you

UPDATE: I decided to go to where the rubber meets the road and ask someone at the United check-in at the airport I'll be flying out of, and they were anything but reassuring, hem and haw, not sure what TSA would say. So I just cancelled my ticket and bought a new one on another airline where I was able to use the full name. I was prepared to lose the money (ugh) but to my surprise I got a refund! I wouldn't have been able to live with this anxiety for four weeks. In the meantime I put in a request for name change with customer service but that will take a while and even so they wouldn't be able to change existing tickets, it'd only take effect for future ones.

I'm 90% sure it wouldn't have been a problem anyway but that uncertainty was killing me.

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  • Perhaps talking to a Mileage Plus rep would be useful, as the rep will be able see how long you've been a member, and might be willing to go to bat for you with the booking dept. Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 22:04
  • Related (and reassuring): travel.stackexchange.com/questions/129763/… Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 22:18
  • My name is wrong on Iberia's program (kinda same situation as you) and I can still buy flights and upgrades with miles no problem
    – user129128
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 13:53
  • Full-service airlines are normally somewhat reasonable about small name discrepancies if you check in at the desk and speak to a human being. But there's the risk of automated systems failing if there are any issues around visas or entrance documents. I'd be happy with a domestic flight but would definitely worry a bit about international.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 15:38
  • I'm trying to find a duplicate to flag this to, but there are so many questions about passport names that there isn't an obvious candidate for a canonical.
    – shoover
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 19:17

1 Answer 1

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Short version is that you would have been fine with Phil on the ticket, although your full name would have been needed to be provided during check-in in order to pass to the various government agencies both all countries you are going from/through/to (generally referred to as "APIS" data, although technically the name varies between countries).

This thread on FlyerTalk contains the text taken directly from the United Airlines staff systems on this topic :

NAME CHANGE GUIDELINES: **NOTE: IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO CHANGE A NAME ON A TICKET THAT INVOLVES A SIMPLE ERROR ON THE NAME, SUCH AS NICKNAME, MISSPELLING, OBVIOUS TYPO, NAME REVERSAL CHANGES WITH DOCUMENTATION OF MARRIAGE/DIVORCE. FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL, UA MUST ENSURE ACCURATE APIS DATA IS COLLECTED AND IT MATCHES THE PASSPORT. FOR EXAMPLE, THE NAME ON THE TICKET CAN BE JON SMITH WHILE THE PASSPORT REFLECTS JONATHAN SMITH. APIS DATA MUST REFLECT JONATHAN SMITH - EXACTLY AS SHOWN IN THE PASSPORT, BUT NAME CHANGE TO THE TICKET IS UNNECESSARY.

Your case is obviously exactly the same as the "Jon/Jonathan" example given, so would have been completely acceptable and there would have been no need to update the ticket, just to provide the full name during check-in.

If you did really want to make sure the name was correct, there's 2 options. One is to wait for the name change process that you've started to complete and then rebook the ticket. I went through that very process with United a few weeks ago (to add a middle name to my account, but basically the same as you - a minor change backed by documentation). My request was submitted on a Thursday, and completed late the following Monday. I don't know if that's the usual response time or not (I do hold high status with United so may have been given priority, but I doubt it for a request like that).

The second option is that United allows you to spend your miles to make a booking for "someone else". You could use that process and instead of making a booking for yourself, you could make a booking for a different person with your exact same name - except obviously with the first name "Philip". The only downside to this is that your frequently flyer number would not be attached to the booking (because the ticket isn't for "you"), and you likely couldn't add it due to the name mis-match - but for an award flights that's likely not a problem, and even if it is you'll be able to add the Mileage Plus number once your name change has been processed.

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