‘A typo in my wife’s surname could cost us £4,000’

boarding pass
Changing a passenger name on a flight booking is a manual process that can be more difficult than expected - Digital Vision/Getty

Gill Charlton has been fighting for Telegraph readers and solving their travel problems for more than 30 years, winning refunds, righting wrongs and suggesting solutions.

Here is this week’s question:

Dear Gill,

I am travelling from London to ­Brisbane with my wife and our baby son for a wedding, stopping in Los ­Angeles to break the journey. We booked the flights through online agent MyTrip as it came up with a much cheaper ­itinerary involving fewer ­airlines. The ticket was issued by ­Austrian Airlines but we will be flying with United ­Airlines and Qantas.

A few days ago I was collating all the documents and noticed that my wife’s surname was spelled Smth instead of Smith.

I immediately contacted MyTrip to try to correct the mistake. Initially an agent said the airline would charge a £20 administration fee, which I paid. The next day another agent phoned to say it would cost £600 to reissue the ticket in the correct name. It was ­suggested that I telephone the ­airlines direct.

Both airlines have now told me that they’re unable to amend the booking as it is a travel agency-issued ticket ­involving other airlines.

Today, just a week before we are due to leave, MyTrip has told me the ticket can’t be reissued. I will need to buy a new one for £4,000, twice what we ­initially paid. Should we just turn up to fly and hope a ­one-letter mistake will be waived through?

– Nick Clarke

Dear Nick,

You should not take the risk. ­Passenger manifests are checked against global watchlists, so passport details must match exactly (misspelling a name is a way to evade these checks). Technically, airlines can make the ­correction at the airport, but most will refuse to do it.

MyTrip is a trading name of the Swedish-based Etraveli Group, one of Europe’s largest online agencies. I got in touch to see if anything more could be done to rescue the situation.

In response, a MyTrip agent ­telephoned Mr Clarke to say he would give the airlines full control of the ­booking, which might help. But there was no guarantee.

Luckily, Mr Clarke spoke to a very helpful Austrian Airlines agent who, though doubtful at first, took the ­initiative to refer the matter up to his superiors. They approved the reissue of the ticket free of charge.

I asked Etraveli why it’s so hard to correct these small spelling mistakes. It explained that name changes are the most manual process left in the ­industry and it often comes down to who you speak to.

An experienced airline employee might fix the problem even if it’s against policy, but a new recruit – which most are – won’t know the process or will stick rigidly to the rules. It is always ­easier when only one airline is involved, otherwise it can take a long time to sort, so it’s easier for agents to say it can’t be done.

Your travel problems solved

Gill takes on a different case each week – so please send your problems to her for consideration at asktheexperts@telegraph.co.uk. Please give your full name and, if your dispute is with a travel company, your address, telephone number and any booking reference. Gill can’t answer every question, but she will help where she can and all emails are acknowledged.