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Assume you're buying flight tickets online to another country where you have to enter your passport details.

To make things more complicated, with your current nationality you need a visa to that country, but after you buy the tickets and before the journey you acquire another nationality, whose passport allows visa-free travel into that country.

Since I believe changing the passport information on non-refundable tickets is generally a costly operation, can you just carry both passports with you when traveling and get away with it, or will the airline claim that since the entered passport information requires a visa in order to visit that country, you cannot board on the plane without showing that visa?

The border control of the country in question won't care about the flight tickets, so as long as you show them your new passport, they'll be fine with it, but I believe the airline might pose more of discomfort. Any ideas or experiences?

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    The passport information is not on the ticket. – Calchas Jul 27 '15 at 11:07
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    Why is this getting downvoted? This isn't hypothetical, I've literally done this myself: bought ticket as citizen of X, received nationality of Y, used shiny new Y passport to fly there. – jpatokal Jul 27 '15 at 12:40
  • @jpatokal It only received one down vote. It might be because the question contains some misleading and/or false premises that could confuse others. – Calchas Jul 27 '15 at 21:32
  • That is indeed the problem with hypotheticals - important details are left out, like in this case it might be different if the passports are US and Israeli travelling to Saudi Arabia, or UK and French travelling to Germany. – Joe Jul 28 '15 at 14:20
  • Also - I feel like there was another similar question recently that this might be sufficiently close to be a duplicate to. That had to do with having two passports, one of which was not acceptable (or had an unacceptable visa stamp) to one of the countries entering; and the answer was to show the passport to the country that they'd prefer to see, and the airline really is just treating it like identification at the airport (but enter in the info that gets you the visa when buying). – Joe Jul 28 '15 at 14:23
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In my experience as a holder of multiple passports, airlines don't care what passport details you enter when you book. (The primary exception being the US, which is picky and wants to know everything in advance.) As long as your name doesn't change, and they can verify on check-in that you have a visa or don't need one, they're fine.

Out of interest, where did you get "changing the passport information on non-refundable tickets is generally a very costly operation" from? Changing the name on the ticket is indeed costly, but I've never heard of an airline charging for changes to passport details.

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    You don't need to supply your passport details to buy a ticket to the USA. (e.g., buy on KLM.com and you won't even be asked for the API during the transaction.) Of course you will need one when you check in. – Calchas Jul 27 '15 at 11:11
  • I changed that phrase, I thought that was the case, since I had to enter that information when buying tickets online through agencies or the Lufthansa page for example, but never had to modify it online. You are even asked for the passport details when buying intercity bus tickets in Spain, so intercontinental flights requiring that information is hardly surprising. – downhand Jul 27 '15 at 11:32
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    @Calchas Huh, I'm surprised. Most airlines flying to the US do require APIS info, see eg. Qantas: qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/travel-to-the-usa/global/en – jpatokal Jul 27 '15 at 12:37
  • I have been using my EU passport for everything except entering the US for the last year or so, with no problems whatsoever (I live in the US). On my last trip to Europe, I only showed my US passport to the airline when I checked in for the return flight. At that point, I presume, they replaced my EU passport details in the APIS record, if they were even there, with the US passport details. – phoog Jul 27 '15 at 16:45
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    @jpatokal Yes, API is required for all carriers. But not necessarily at the time of booking. (Sorry I did not labour that distinction clearly enough in my previous comment.) Indeed the QF guide to which you link specifically says "1. Book flights, 2. Provide API" as distinct steps – Calchas Jul 27 '15 at 17:38
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I'm a dual citizen, and I've had enough headaches with the whole situation... but when it comes to booking, I've never had any issues. However, I've been told by airport staff that once you check in, you can't simply switch passports - you might be able to do it if you go ask a member of the airport staff to change it, but I've never needed to try it. Another important thing is that when you're at customs you only show one passport - if you show both, it can actually result in a passport getting confiscated (again, these are the words of airport staff). And my apologies if this is obvious, but if you are travelling into a country where you are a citizen, you need to show the passport from that country, provided you have a passport from that country - if not, you need to have some other way of showing that you are a citizen of that country.

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    Generlaly that would only happen if you were a national of a country which prohibits dual citizenship, and you were entering or leaving that country. – Michael Hampton Jul 27 '15 at 16:18
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    Which airport's staff have told you this? They are unlikely to be correct in saying that. Certainly, that is not true in the US, or Canada, or the European Union. – phoog Jul 27 '15 at 16:39
  • I'm a Canadian and an American citizen - the American part usually being the critical part. I was on a flight connection that went from Montreal over Boston to Frankfurt (the odd route is because of the prices). Neither Canada nor the US prohibit a dual citizenship, so I'm figuring that's not it. Of course, there's nothing saying that the airport staff couldn't just be clueless - but I prefer to be safe rather than sorry, especially when I look at how much I've spent on the flight... – trainman261 Jul 27 '15 at 16:45
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    @trainman261 in my experience, airport staff are indeed clueless. Some border guards are also apparently clueless, in fact. One US CBP officer once told my sister that it is "unconstitutional" for US citizens to hold dual nationality, when in fact it was a statutory provision against dual nationality that was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. – phoog Jul 27 '15 at 16:49
  • @trainman261 I also have a couple of stories from the days of paper I-94 forms in which airport staff have said and done things with these forms that the border guards have said were completely wrong, for example removing the form from someone's passport when she was going to Canada for a week. – phoog Jul 27 '15 at 16:54
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Summary:

Yes. You'll need to show your new passport to the airline. They will not care that you had already told them about a different passport. You may be able to update the passport associated with your booking online, before you check in.

Discussion:

I think the assumption that it is costly to change passport details on your record is false. When you check in, just say, "I have a new passport, here it is." In fact, you can just say "here's my passport"; Nobody cares that it is new. I do this all the time, checking in with a passport other than the one the airline already knows about; nobody even blinks.

Some "nickel-and-dime" (that is, budget) airlines charge, apparently, if the clerk has to enter passport details during check in. Or, more precisely, if the clerk has to swipe your passport through the scanner. To avoid this charge, you should visit the company's web site after you get your new passport, and look up your reservation. You ought to be able to update your passport information online, avoiding the charge.

Anyway, if you are using the new nationality to travel somewhere without a visa, you will have to show that passport to the airline or they won't let you on the plane. You need to prove to them that you have the documents you need to enter the country, because if you don't have those documents, the airline will be fined heavily for bringing you there. Therefore, if you do not show the new passport, you'll need to show a visa, which you do not have.

There are plenty of posts here and elsewhere on the internet explaining how this works. The basic rules are this:

  1. When you check in, show the documents that you will use to enter your destination country. In the case of a transit, you might need to show more than one passport, if, for example, one requires a visa at the transit airport and the other requires a visa at the destination.

  2. When you enter any country, show the documents that give you the best advantage.

  3. When you leave any country, if there is passport control on exit, show the documents that you used to enter. One exception: if you are a national of the country you are leaving, you should usually show those documents, even if you entered with different documents.

There may be some exceptions to these rules, especially if one of your nationalities is of a country with restrictions against dual nationality. I have traveled around the EU and between the US and Canada filtering these principles, without any trouble whatsoever.

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    "Nobody cares that it is new." Really? I got fined £10 by a low-budget airline for failing to pre-enter my passport details into my booking online, because now they had to do it themselves at the "check-in" desk (which was by this point less of a "check-in" desk and more of a "see whether you've completed online check-in yourself and if not take more money from you" desk). How would this not apply if you'd put in what essentially turned out to be the wrong details? – Lightness Races with Monica Jul 28 '15 at 14:30
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I suppose it would indeed apply. I have never done this on a budget airline. £10 is not, however, exceedingly costly, and, if an airline charges for "manual" entry of the passport, they probably have a provision to update the details online after booking but before check in. Thank you, though, for a valuable bit of information; I will add it. – phoog Jul 28 '15 at 14:38
  • "they probably have a provision to update the details online after booking but before check in" Hmm fair point! – Lightness Races with Monica Jul 28 '15 at 14:50
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You will likely be asked to show your passport when checking in for the flight. Flights to countries that require advance travel notice (e.g., UK, USA, Canada) will require a manual check of documents by airline staff, even if you entered the information online.

Just present the new passport when at the airport, and that's the information that will be passed to the destination immigration authorities.

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    You can either delete "likely" or replace it with "certainly." – phoog Jul 27 '15 at 17:17
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I once had a similar issue: the passport was reissued and thus the passport data has changed. Moreover, I had two flights from two different airlines booked separately (with a day stopover). Not finding a possibility to change the booking data online, I just emailed both airlines via an email from their website (or via some contact form, I do not remember exactly), and both replied that they have changed the passport details in my booking. No fee was charged. Later, on registration, I was prepared to show both passports and the email thread printed, but no one asked anything.

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I am no travel expert. But I wish to present a hypothetical to you because everybody else here seems to think you can just forget about it for the most part.

A few years ago, I was fined £10 by a low-budget airline in the UK for failing to pre-enter my passport details into my booking online, because now they had to do it themselves at the "check-in" desk (which was by this point less of a "check-in" desk and more of a "see whether you've completed online check-in yourself and if not take more money from you" desk).

I can't imagine that this wouldn't apply if you'd put in what essentially turned out to be the wrong details. So, yes, sometimes airlines do care. Still, £10 is not a lot and, in those cases, you can probably update the passport details online before check-in anyway.

Ultimately, it's going to depend on where you are and who you're flying with. It's a shame you didn't name the airline.

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