Reader Dan asks,
So I just got married (yay!) and we’ll be traveling on our honeymoon in September to the Seychelles (Etihad mistake fare, double yay). My wife is changing her name, but while I have read that getting through TSA with a certified marriage certificate will work, when it comes to dealing with customs in Abu Dhabi and the Seychelles, I can’t really find much info.
Since she needs a new passport now, would you suggest she get a new passport under her maiden name and travel on her maiden name (as it is booked on the tickets) since none of the name change paperwork has started and once we get back start the name change process, or move forward with name change process, then get a new passport under her married name and try with the marriage certificate at customs.
The simple answer is that you’re unlikely to be able to get Etihad to change the name on a mistake fare ticket. And you’re going to want to travel on a ticket that matches the passport. So in this case, get a new passport under the current name and then get a new passport with changed name later if so desired. That would mean more fees to the US government, but will likely be worth it under the circumstance.
Now more generally, an airline can change the name on their own tickets. Each airline’s policy may be a little bit different (a dozen years ago name changes on JetBlue tickets from one person to another were just $25; Scandinavian allowed name changes for $25 with an affidavit certifying the tickets were for personal and not for business travel). Things are generally tougher than they used to be, however!
It’s a very straightforward process usually when there are limited changes being made, and with some escalation major name changes can be made to a ticket. But it’s almost always the case that it can only be done when the airline issuing the ticket is the same one you’re flying on.
- In other words, if you have an American Airlines ticket for travel on American Airlines it’s not hard to change a name.
- But if you have, say, an American AAdvantage award ticket for travel on a partner you’re not likely going to be able to change the name.
So with partner awards for international travel you always want to make sure that the name on the passport matches the name on the ticket. (For domestic travel things can be more flexible since you can check in online and then clear security without ID by answer identifying questions at the TSA checkpoint in a worst case scenario.)
Here’s American’s basic rule:
For American tickets, and travel on American, it’s no problem to make:
- Corrections to last name of 3 characters or less
- Legal name changes, including changes in the event of marriage or divorce
- Adding a second last name to a ticket
- Changing first name
- Changing first name from nickname to full name
- Changing middle name or middle initial
- Switching first and last names on a ticket
Some changes may require approval and a $25 processing fee, such as if you’re changing the name on the same ticket a second time.
- I get questions all the time about middle names. I’ve never seen someone denied boarding because their middle name wasn’t on a ticket or there was a misspelling of a middle name.
- Infant names can be usually be changed at any time even if there are partner segments on an award. (There’s generally just a special service request trasmitted to partner airlines about the infant, and changing this won’t cause problems with the rest of the reservation.)
It’s exceedingly common for people to book honeymoon travel, get married, and then change a last name. That only really gets complicated when there’s more than one airline on a ticket, or when the issuing airline is different than the one you’ll be traveling on.
Far far better to have tickets and names on relevant identification match.