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Entries during 2017-11

Name Changes Not Allowed

Q. I booked a flight to Berlin with my friends for January, It’s nearly December and I've just found out I can’t go. I want to change the name on my ticket and gift it to a friend. Why won’t my airline allow this?

A. Very few airlines allow name changes. Among the ones that do, even less are willing to do it for free. Sometimes it depends on the fare you paid.

If name changes were universally allowed, some enterprising person would buy up dozens or perhaps hundreds of seats at the lowest fares and then resell them (with a name change) to other passengers when the fares are higher, such as for last minute travel. This would make for chaos in the airlines’ booking procedures and result in a loss of revenue.

It would essentially create a “ticket tout” marketplace similar to what concert or sports event attendees experience.

Proof of Credit Card Used to Purchase Ticket

Q. We bought an airline ticket for our teenage son using a credit card and sent him off to the airport. Even though he had a boarding pass printed at home and checked in online, when he got to the airport the airline asked him to show the credit card used to purchase the ticket. Luckily, my husband was available to rush to the airport to provide the card. Otherwise, he would have had to buy a new ticket or not fly. Why did the airline do this, and do all airlines require a credit card to be shown?

A. The only reason I can think of is to prevent fraud, but as you say, your son checked in online and had a boarding pass. I asked my twitter followers if they had ever had this happen to them, and quite a few said yes. It’s fairly rare, but the worst that usually happens is the passenger must buy a new fare and get reimbursed when the original credit card is produced. Anyone who buys a ticket for a third party should be prepared to show the credit card used to purchase it.

Are Pet Fees Too High?

Q. I recently flew to Florida and brought along my 7lb dog. I spent more on my pet's ticket than I paid for mine. He had to stay under the seat in his carrier, and the airline counted him against my carry-on allowance. How is it that a baby can fly for free, sit on your lap, and the parents are allowed to bring several huge baby bags? They even get to board first!

A. It does seem unfair, doesn’t it? But a handful of incidents over the last few years may help to explain why airlines charge such fees. A service animal pooped twice in the aisle, causing an emergency landing, which is very costly for an airline. In another incident, a pet escaped its cage and bit a flight attendant and another passenger. As you can imagine this probably led to a law suit and a hefty financial settlement. So although I’m sure your pet is the best behaved animal in the world, there are costs associated with having pets on planes. Some passengers are allergic and if an allergy results in an emergency landing or a claim against the airline, there are costs involved.

Extra Insurance for Checked Baggage

Q. How does “excess valuation” work when checking a bag on an airline and is it worthwhile to buy it?

A. Excess valuation is basically extra insurance that you can buy when you check in your luggage. It’s over and above any liability that the airline is required to pay if your bag and its contents are lost or damaged. On domestic U.S. flights, the airline’s standard liability is no more than $3,500. By paying a relatively small fee, you can up the coverage to $5,000 on most airlines. Delta, for example charges $40 to boost coverage from $3,500 to $4000 and an additional $50 for coverage from $4000 to $5000. For most people, it’s not worth buying on domestic flights. But where it’s very useful is for international flights, because airline liability is much less when traveling outside the U.S. Delta, for example, charges $10 for each $1000 of coverage up to $5000. Beware though: you’re still not covered for cash, camera equipment, commercial effects, electronics, jewelry, works of art or other valuables, and the coverage only extends to a Delta destination, the first Delta stopover, or your point of transfer to another airline. You need to buy the coverage each time you check a bag.

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