Travel nightmares – the Emirates name change policy

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I am a huge fan of the Emirates air travel experience. They are also genuinely great with kids, or at least always have been with my family. So, it was with some excitement that I booked my family on a long-haul trip with them to Dubai later this year.

emirates name change policy

This was a pure cash splurge – I don’t have any real miles balance with Emirates Skywards, so I obviously shopped around for the best price, which was ultimately available via an online travel agent. I found a reasonable price and booked. All very good so far.

The dream

Many people understandably argue that it’s a touch superficial, but there’s a lot of positives to a family trip to Dubai. Waterparks, theme parks, Legoland, beaches, pools, kids clubs. It’s certainly not a holiday where you’re scrabbling for things to distract the children.

But hang on…

The nightmare

Daddy can’t go.

That’s right. His ticket was booked wrongly, Emirates can’t change it and it’s non-refundable.

emirates name change policy

It transpires that, for whatever reason, my ticket had been booked using my first and middle name, rather than my first and last name. While I maintain that this was a travel agent error, short of having CCTV footage of me adding my details, it was my word against theirs. Plus I remember the booking screen refreshing a couple of times so maybe, maybe that caused it.

Anyway, with TWO MONTHS to go before the flight, I attempted to simply add on my surname via the online travel agent. Sadly, the online travel agent response was exactly as per the above: Emirates can’t change it and it’s non-refundable. A ticket that cost several hundred pounds, therefore just has to be written off, it seems.

So… what does Emirates say their name change policy is?

According to the online travel agent I booked with, my “ticket name change request was denied by Emirates Airlines. Name changes may seem like a relatively simple admin task but whether they are possible or not is always subject to the approval of each individual airline“.

This does seem to be backed up by Emirates’ statement on their website:

emirates name change policy

What in fact is Emirates’ name change policy?

It’s important to distinguish here between name change, and name correction.

In fact, it does appear in practice that Emirates have a more equitable policy than the blanket approach in the statement above. I understand that, in fact, their Name Correction Policy (note “name correction“, not “name change“) means that names can be corrected within 72 hours for free, and after 72 hours on payment of US $50.

To be clear, this is not a provision that enables you to change the flight name to that of your neighbour. It is a correction policy, such that if your name is slightly incorrect, it can be corrected. As opposed to a wholesale “name change”.

At this point I do want to give a large and very public thank you to the amazing Serkan at Emirates, who not only pointed out the above to me, but cleared the issue completely at the Emirates end. Fantastic customer service, and way above and beyond the call of duty: teşekkür ederim, Serkan. 

So, extremely well handled by Emirates in the end, and I’d ultimately argue their name correction policy is fairly reasonable in the circumstances.

The lessons

There’s a pretty obvious lesson here, and given the billions of flights I’ve booked (some via incredibly elaborate points redemption methods), I should not have been in any doubt as to whether I got my side of the booking correct.

So –

Don’t be an idiot when you book. Double check what you’ve filled in… then check again. Then again. Take a screenshot if you want to be really confident. I maintain that I got it right, but I had absolutely no evidence of this.

Don’t assume that premium airlines won’t be Ryanair-esque in their policies. Gone are the days of ultra-flexibility in tickets, when the name didn’t really matter and missed flights simply resulted in you being put on the next one home without further charge. It seems whomever you are travelling with, you need to be absolutely sure you get things absolutely right.

Take note of the Emirates Name Correction Policy. Emirates came very good for me here, and I am loathe to aim any criticism at them whatsoever. However, I would gently submit that they could make their Name Correction Policy a touch clearer.

Comments

  1. Craig Sowerby says

    Glad it worked out.

    However I don’t understand why anybody EVER uses a middle name. It doesn’t matter if it’s listed in your passport, it doesn’t matter if you come from a country with double surnames. You can always get on the plane if your ticket says FIRST NAME, LAST NAME and those two names are listed somewhere on your passport. Don’t give the airline or OTA anything to mix up…

    It also is much much easier on the frequent flyer programmes to just cross-reference against a first and last name.

  2. David S says

    Not always true Craig. My friend was denied to be checked in since his middle name was not on his booking but it was in his passport. This was with Garuda a few years ago when he was travelling. So he had to buy a new ticket on the spot. Fortunately it was a short hop in Indonesia but still caused a lot of havoc and obviously lost a couple of hundred pounds. So I generally add my middle name to my bookings, particularly long haul.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Interesting. I’ve flown hundreds of times on every continent without ever using my middle name. I’ve also travelled with other people – especially Spanish – who have any number of combinations of multiple Christian and surnames… never an issue with first and last name only.

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