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I've recently booked some flights using my 'nickname' instead of my full birth name that appears on my passport (Rob verse Robert). I've since contacted two airlines (RyanAir and Aer Lingus) and both told me I needed to correct the booking mistake. The Aer Lingus rep mentioned that the specific destination was particularly strict and that I would need to sort this out. Both airlines were happy to fix this for me, free of charge, but I'm left wondering 'Why does it matter?'

I was told 'security'. But I don't understand how this increases security. I've also been told airlines do it simply to find another reason to tack on a 'name change fee' but, in my experience, airlines make it quick, easy and free to update the name.

So, is there any real reason for this? I can't imagine any scenario where it serves any purpose.

  • @pnuts - But what difference does it make? If they'll let someone call up and change it...or even simply book it under a different name in the first place. – Rob P. Feb 6 '15 at 22:54
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I don't have any evidence for it but I suspect it might be necessary to satisfy APIS requirements. If you can provide a nickname, you could conceivably evade automatic checks against no-fly lists and similar databases.

Also, many people (e.g. from places like Indonesia) go by names that are completely different from what's on their passport. As @pnuts remarked in a comment, making sure hundreds of airlines and thousands of gate handling personnel all over the world share the same understanding of what's a nickname and what's not seems extremely difficult so it makes sense to enact a rigid rule that does not leave any discretion to airline reps.

So this is really about security (or “security theater”).

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    But the APIS requires the travel document number (expiry date and country of issue for passport). Imagine if one John Smith was put on the no-fly list....a system that keys off name would mean all John Smiths are prevented from flying. – Rob P. Feb 6 '15 at 22:56
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    I personally know a few people who share names with people on certain no-fly lists. This is a problem for which those that create these no-fly lists do not provide a solution. In practice, the non-terrorist John Smith somehow has to prove he's not the terrorist John Smith. Typically, this gets resolved, but might involve having to show up at an airport six hours in advance or being put on a later flight. – MastaBaba Feb 7 '15 at 3:16
  • @RobP. My guess is that those details might be crossed against databases of stolen documents. I don't know more than what's occasionally transpiring through the press but I don't think the US no-fly list is based solely on passport numbers. – Relaxed Feb 7 '15 at 10:06
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    The American no-fly list appears to be based on names. People who share names with people on the no-fly list must get a "Redress number" that they include with their flight details: dhs.gov/redress-control-numbers – RoboKaren Feb 8 '15 at 4:52
  • But aren't Rob and Robert EXACTLY the same name? – Rg7x gW6a cQ3g Jul 10 '18 at 9:08

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