UK

Air Passengers Facing 'Hefty' Fees for Ticket Errors

26/06/2013 07:11 BST | Updated 26/06/2013 07:20 BST

Some airlines are continuing to charge hefty fees to change names - or even to correct minor spelling mistakes - on tickets, a consumer group has warned.

Which? Travel investigated the costs following "recurrent" complaints from members who had been charged for minor name changes, with some having to buy another ticket.

airline charges

The European Commission believes customers should not be charged for booking errors up to 48 hours before departure

It found that asking an airline to change the name on a ticket could cost more than £100, as they reserve the right to impose such a charge in their terms and conditions.

However, it also found that many airlines would correct minor errors free of charge providing customers contacted them in advance of flying.

One Which? member, Frederick Hubbard, was charged an administration fee of £45 and £540 for a new, refundable, return ticket to Detroit when he missed an 'e' out of his name when booking on Lastminute.com, the magazine reported.

He received his money back within a week after complaining to the agency, but Which? noted that the terms and conditions stated that refunds could take up to 16 weeks.

The European Commission plans to reform consumers' flight rights and is calling for an end to "punitive" administration fees for spelling errors.

It says airlines should provide reasonable corrections of booking errors free of charge up to 48 hours before departure.

According to the Which? report, British Airways does not charge for spelling mistakes but will ask customers to pay any increase in taxes, fees and charges since the original booking.

EasyJet charged £35 for an online name change but corrected spelling errors free of charge, while Monarch charged £100 for online name changes or £120 via the call centre but did not charge for simple spelling errors.

Ryanair charged £110 for a name change online or £160 via the call centre or at the airport, while minor errors may be charged at £10 through the reservations centre.

Virgin Atlantic charged £30 to correct a spelling error, Which? said.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It's outrageous that getting an airline to correct a mistake could cost you more than £100 but the good news is that some will amend minor errors free of charge if you contact them.

"People should be aware that conditions may be different if you book through a tour operator or travel agent. Travellers should double check bookings to ensure that all their details are correct to avoid hefty charges."

Ryanair head of communications Robin Kiely said: "Passengers are asked to ensure that the details they enter at the time of booking are correct before completing their booking, thus avoiding the need to make any amendments. Small spelling errors can be amended, subject to a £10 administration fee, by calling Ryanair's reservation centre.

"However, Ryanair must charge a name change fee where there is a substantial name change to discourage 'screenscraping' whereby travel websites purchase Ryanair's cheapest fares and later sell them on to unwitting consumers at hugely inflated costs. Ryanair hopes to reduce the cost of this service when the EU bans the practice of screenscraping and the unauthorised sale of Ryanair tickets by third party websites is banned."