One of the frustrations one might have with airlines is that you’re not allowed to change the name on a plane ticket. It doesn’t matter if it turns out you can’t travel because of work, illness, family emergency, etc.; once you buy that ticket and it’s in your name, that’s how it stays. With few exceptions, if you don’t use it, you lose it, even if you know ahead of time that you’re not going to be able to go on the flight.
So what’s up with that?
Not surprisingly, it all comes down to money. Thanks to the advent of computerization, the prices for flights change constantly. Airlines are afraid of speculators buying out blocks of flights when they’re cheap and reselling them at a higher price.
It’s the same as scalpers for concerts, sporting events, etc. They buy the tickets at face value and then try to sell them on the gray market for significantly higher than the original price. This can be especially successful if the event sells out but is still popular – those $250 tickets can go for several hundred dollars more than that. All you have to do is look at ticket prices for Hamilton on Broadway or the World Series to see.
The airlines wanted to ensure that didn’t happen to them, so they made the rule that the names on the tickets can’t be changed. That way they can’t be resold by speculators/scalpers.
To clarify, you MAY be able to change the name on your ticket if there’s a misspelling in your name or you’ve personally had a legal name change to due to marriage, divorce, etc. (but then make sure your I.D. has the same name as your ticket!). Each airline has its own rules in terms of being able to do this for free vs. incurring a charge, proof on the need for a name change, etc.
OK, so you can’t change names on a U.S.-based airline ticket so it goes from one person to a different person. What can you do about it?
There’s a small handful of options:
Southwest has one of the most generous policies when it comes to changing or canceling a flight. You still can’t transfer your ticket to someone else, but you can get a credit (it’s officially called a Residual Travel Fund but really, it’s a voucher LOL) for the value of your ticket. It’s good for 1 year from the date you made your reservation.
If you can’t/won’t use your Residual Travel Fund in time, you can get a LUV Voucher, which is the value of your original ticket, minus $100. That voucher must be used within 6 months, BUT (and this is a big but), you can give the voucher to anyone.
Wizz Air has a very interesting program where you can make a reservation for however many people but you don’t have to give their names until later. It’s called their Flexible Travel Partner Service. Wizz Air also allows you to change the name on your ticket! However, each of these changes will cost €45 (currently about $50). The one disadvantage, at least for us in the U.S.? They don’t fly to/from our country.
There are undoubtedly other airlines, not based in the U.S., that allow you to transfer & do a name change of your plane ticket to someone else. I have yet to find a comprehensive list of the same. But it should be a quick Google if you have a specific airline in mind.
We don’t recommend this. But someone was able to do a sneaky name change
This was from over 5 years ago – I suspect whatever loophole it was has since been closed. But here…read this.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary