Why changing a plane ticket can cost more than the original flight

Amid all the hassle involved in getting the family out of the door for the summer holidays, it may not be forgetting a bag, vital medication or leaving the kitchen window open that causes the greatest headache – but instead the simple mistakes made when booking tickets.

Having to change your name on a ticket can cost from nothing to £160, depending on the airline – and may even mean getting a new ticket.

If your travel plans change, it can cost £150 to change the dates, giving an unnecessary added bill on top of what can be one of the most expensive times of year for families.

Having to call a Ryanair call centre and change a name can cost £160 – or £115 if you do it online, the most expensive charge in a survey by the comparison site Travelsupermarket.com. The budget carrier does allow “minor errors”, such as the incorrect spelling of a name, to be corrected for free within 48 hours of the booking.

EasyJet comes in at £30 if you want to change a name more than 60 days before travel and £55 after that if you contact them via a call centre. At Jet2 it costs £35 while Wizz Air charges £40 for each leg. Flybe comes in at £50 each way and Aer Lingus £80. The charges are so high for budget airlines that the site says it can be cheaper to simply book a new flight rather than shell out the extra money.

The costs have attracted the attention of the Civil Aviation Authority. It’s chief executive, Richard Moriarty, has said in May that airlines need to make the rules more transparent.

Travelsupermarket says many airlines will forgive genuine typos and amend bookings free of charge, as they would in cases where there has been a name change because of marriage or divorce. Passing a flight on to someone else will result in significant cost, however, and British Airways refuses to transfer tickets at all.

In the past, airlines and travel agents have been notoriously unforgiving of typos. In 2015 a student changed his name by deed poll because it cost less than half the £220 Ryanair demanded to amend the surname his girlfriend’s stepfather had mistakenly used in a booking.

In 2016 an Observer reader complained that they had been told they would have to pay £230 to cancel and buy a new ticket after an extra letter was added to a name on a Hainan Airlines flight booked through BudgetAir to Shanghai. BudgetAir eventually changed the name without charge to the consumer.

Having to change a flight time or cancel can also run up a tidy bill. Ryanair charges between £35 and £65 each way if altered online and between £65 and £95 if done through a call centre or at the airport.

EasyJet loads on £25 or £30 and the fare difference if the change is made more than 60 days before travel, while it costs £55 to change by ringing a call centre if there are less than 60 days to go, and you have to pay the difference in price.

Most airlines charge similar fees according to the Travelsupermarket research. Some airlines charge to cancel so, again, it may be easier to skip the flight and start again, depending on the prices involved.

“Excessive charges from airlines for items such as name changes, check-in and for air passenger duty (APD) refunds understandably cause a lot of anger,” said Emma Coulthurst of Travelsupermarket. “Some of these fees are utterly eye-watering and take advantage of people’s misfortune if they can no longer travel and want to pass the ticket – which they have paid for – on to someone else.”

“Also, passengers are legally entitled to air passenger duty refunds if they do not travel, and I think it is outrageous that the admin fee which some airlines charge is more than the amount being claimed. This needs to be stopped. If people can’t fly they should be able to get back the APD –which they paid in full – and not face charges which exceed the amount being claimed to do so.”

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