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. She takes on a different case each week – so please send your problems to her for consideration at email@example.com. 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.
This week’s question…
I work with a charity in Africa and finally managed to get back there in September. I booked a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Johannesburg through online agent Opodo for £1,738 return. On Sept 23, two days before my departure, I logged on to Virgin’s site but had trouble finding my booking.
It turned out I had mistakenly made the reservation using Chris as my first name instead of my passport name of Christopher. Virgin’s customer services said I would have to ask Opodo to correct my name as it had issued the ticket.
I spoke to two Opodo customer services agents. Both said they could only change up to three letters in a passenger’s name, so my only option was to cancel the ticket and buy a new one. I would only be refunded £250, the tax element of the fare. As Opodo quoted twice what I had originally paid, I bought a cheaper one elsewhere.
At Heathrow I queried the airline’s name correction policy with the check-in agent who said she could have recified the mistake and Opodo had given me wrong advice. I am trying to raise a complaint with Opodo from Zimbabwe but have had no reply. Can you help?
While there is a chance of correcting a name at the airport, Virgin Atlantic says this must be done two hours before travel. And it’s not a simple matter. Check-in staff can’t do it on their terminals but must ask Virgin’s Customer Centre to make the change on the reservations system, which takes time.
The Opodo agents you dealt with showed ignorance of current airline ticketing policies. Due to uncertainty over air travel during the pandemic, most scheduled airlines, including Virgin, let passengers cancel flights for a refund in the form of a voucher. You could have corrected your name when using the voucher to pay for a new reservation. And while it is true that travel agents can only correct three characters in a name using their own ticketing account with the Global Distribution System (GDS), they can apply for approval from Virgin Atlantic’s Sales Support. Once this is given, a note will be added to the booking and the travel agent can amend and reissue the ticket in their GDS. There is no charge for this.
That Opodo’s agents did not tell you about either of these options is unforgivable. I contacted Opodo which has accepted full responsibility for the error. It is refunding £1,759, the cost of your replacement ticket, and sending you a £200 voucher as compensation.
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