Why Airlines Prohibit Name Changes On Tickets & What You Can Do Instead

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 (or thousand – hello, final Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden!) 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.

It’s not available to us mere mortals, but some corporate accounts do allow for name changes, as well. Here’s Delta’s, for example:

a screenshot of a website

OK, so you can’t change names on a U.S.-based airline ticket so it goes from one person to a different person. Are there any other options?

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 people 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.

Here are the step-by-step directions of how to do it:

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 €60 (currently about $64). The one disadvantage, at least for us in the U.S.? They don’t fly to/from our country.

a map of the world with red dots

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 8 years ago – I suspect whatever loophole it was has since been closed. But here…read this.

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