Why Airlines Don’t Let You Change Names On Tickets & What You Can Do About It

by SharonKurheg

One of the frustrations one might have with airlines is that you’re not allowed to change the name on a plane ticket. It doesn’t matter if it turns out you can’t travel because of work, illness, family emergency, etc.; once you buy that ticket and it’s in your name, that’s how it stays – in your name. With few exceptions, if you don’t use it, you lose it, even if you know ahead of time that you’re not going to be able to go on the flight; you can’t pass it on to anyone else.

So what’s up with that?

Not surprisingly, it all comes down to money. Thanks to the advent of computerization, the prices for flights change constantly. Airlines are afraid of speculators buying out blocks of flights when they’re cheap and reselling them at a higher price.

It’s the same as scalpers for concerts, sporting events, etc. They buy the tickets at face value and then try to sell them on places like Stub Hub for significantly higher than the original price. This can be especially successful if the event sells out but is still popular – those $250 tickets can go for several hundred dollars more than that. All you have to do is look at ticket prices for popular shows on Broadway, or the World Series to see.

The airlines wanted to ensure that didn’t happen to them, so they each made their own version of a rule that the names on the tickets can’t be changed. That way they can’t be resold by speculators/scalpers.

To clarify, you MAY be able to change the name on your ticket if there’s a misspelling in your name or you’ve personally had a legal name change to due to marriage, divorce, etc. (but then make sure your I.D. has the same name as your ticket!). Each airline has its own rules in terms of being able to do this for free vs. incurring a charge, proof on the need for a name change, etc.

OK, so you can’t change names on a U.S.-based airline ticket so it goes from one person to a different person. What can you do about it?

There’s a small handful of options:


Southwest has one of the most generous policies when it comes to changing or canceling a flight. In fact, Business Select®, Anytime, and Wanna Get Away Plus™ fares actually ARE eligible for a Transferable Flight Credit. Transferable Flight Credit allows you to transfer your flight credit to someone else. Both must be Rapid Rewards Members and only one transfer is permitted. For bookings made through a Southwest® Business channel, there is a limitation to transfer only between employees within the organization.

Wizz Air

Wizz Air has a very interesting program where you can make a reservation for however many people but you don’t have to give their names until later. It’s called their Flexible Travel Partner Service. Wizz Air also allows you to change the name on your ticket! However, each of these changes will cost €47 (currently less than $50). The one disadvantage, at least for us in the U.S.? They don’t fly to/from our country.

There are undoubtedly other airlines, not based in the U.S., that allow you to transfer & do a name change of your plane ticket to someone else. I have yet to find a comprehensive list of the same. But it should be a quick Google if you have a specific airline in mind.

We don’t recommend this. But someone was able to do a sneaky name change

This was from over 5 years ago – I suspect whatever loophole it was has since been closed. But here…read this.

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FranklinM October 29, 2019 - 6:07 pm

When I went to school in Taiwan more than 35 years ago, there would be people who would post on the bulletin board to sell their tickets. Apparently they would buy a RT ticket but decided to stay longer so they had to sell it before it expired. I could not figure out how someone could buy and use the ticket since someone else’s name was on it.

Someone said…when you buy the ticket…the person was obligated to go to the airport with you to check in with that ticket using their own passport. One that was done, they could go back and you could go through and get on the plane. They didn’t really check for names and boarding passes back then….how much things have changed since 2001.

derek November 14, 2022 - 8:22 pm

In the early 80’s in the US, they didn’t check names. Once my father mistakenly booked a ticket for himself but my mother flew, instead.

In Canada, they check ID while boarding and at the security checkpoint.

About 5-7 years ago, there was a news story about an English man being dumped by his girlfriend. He advertised to give away the ticket to anyone with the same name as his girlfriend. Someone took him up on the offer. They traveled together.

highman123 November 15, 2022 - 2:46 pm

1. Can you use a friend or family member’s name when booking a flight if you plan on changing it later?
2. What are the specific steps you need to take in order to change your name on a flight ticket?
3. Are there any airline policies that state you cannot change your name on a flight ticket? If so, which airlines have this policy?


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