An airline has backed down and allowed a child to travel on a ticket with a slightly misspelt name after initially charging the family £684 to issue a new one.
Agent Britt-Marie Monks had highlighted the charge on Travel Gossip Facebook group, which appalled industry colleagues.
The airline had refused to change just two letters in the spelling of the child’s name on the original ticket, instead insisting the family bought another ticket for their three-year-old.
“My clients gave me the name Charlie instead or Charles, a very small error as they always call him Charlie,” said homeworker Britt-Marie.
She said the mistake was made even though she’d specifically asked her client for the passengers’ names as they appeared on their passports.
The father had bought the ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday, but the error was spotted by his wife after the tickets were issued.
Britt-Marie had made the booking through Gold Medal, who asked for the spelling to be correct but were told by Air Mauritius that a new ticket had to be issued, at a cost of £684.
“When we went back [to Air Mauritius] to ask a favour, we didn’t hear anything back,” said Britt-Marie, owner of the franchise The Holiday and Honeymoon Fixer.
Travel Gossip members rallied round
Saying she was ‘devastated’ by the error, Britt-Marie wrote on Travel Gossip that, if necessary, she would pay for the new flight herself, but appealed on the Facebook group for a contact ‘with a heart’ at Air Mauritius who she could reach out to.
Other agents said the airline’s stance was ‘disgusting’, ‘appalling’ and ‘shameful’. British Airways charges a £100 fee for a name change, while Virgin Atlantic doesn’t charge a penny to correct spelling errors,
One agent suggested it would be cheaper for the family to change their child’s name to ‘Charlie’ by deed poll.
Many generous agents offered to ‘chip in’ to help cover the cost of the fee, with some offering to contribute as much as £50 each.
However, shortly after Britt-Marie’s post, Air Mauritius UK Sales Manager Allan Owen informed her that Charlie would be allowed to travel on his original ticket.
Allan explained to Travel Gossip that he had told the Air Mauritius airport manager to waive the family through, despite the misspelling.
In fact, he said that even if he hadn’t authorised it, the family would ‘most likely’ have been allowed to travel with the misspelt ticket.
“It’s obvious that it’s the same person travelling as the person on the ticket, it’s not a new person, the surname is correct,” he said, adding that he would ‘apply the common-sense approach, whenever possible’.
Britt-Marie, whose franchise is part of Midcounties Travel, updated her Facebook post, saying: “Well done Air Mauritius for coming through. And a huge thank you to every single person on this thread that were so generous and kind.
“I am now going to send the clients a bunch of flowers and have arranged for mum and dad to have a private dinner on the beach to make up for this stressful experience.”
Why did Air Mauritius charge £684 to change the ticket?
When asked why Air Mauritius had initially refused to change the spelling of Charlie’s name for free, Allan said it was an IT issue.
“As soon as you change the name field on the ticket, the system automatically cancels the booking, so we have to rebook the flight and if the original booking class is no longer available it gives them the next lowest fare.”
Allan said this explained why the family had been charged an extra £684. “They were rightly told they would have to rebook, but to me that is stupid.
“It’s not just a problem with Air Mauritius, a lot of airlines are in the same boat,” he said, adding that he has been trying for three months to persuade his head office to change the IT to allow spellings to be amended.
“The GDSs don’t recognise the difference between changing a name and changing a spelling so we need the GDSs to make this change.”
Allan said he was in the process of sorting out the booking error before Britt-Marie’s post, but he said it was important agents and clients always double checked the spelling of names when booking flights.
“We get about three [name] errors a day, that’s a lot for a small airline,” he said. “We all make mistakes, but this is why I put out bulletins to the trade to say make sure the booking is in the same name as the passport.”