Hefty fees for air ticket mistakes

Airplane taking offSome 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.
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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. But 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."

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Hefty fees for air ticket mistakes

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.

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