Can you change the name on a plane ticket? Most of the time, you cannot change the name on an airline ticket or transfer it to another person. But there are a few ways to work around this restriction — either by changing or canceling within 24 hours of booking or canceling a refundable flight and rebooking a ticket in your name or someone else’s name.

If you need to correct a mistake in your name on a reservation, this can be handled online or by calling the airline’s customer service department. But, if it’s a minor error, do you really need to spend the extra time and hassle fixing it? Maybe not.

In This Article

Changing the Name on an Airline Ticket

When You Spot a Typo in Your Name

Under the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) rules, the name on your ticket must match your government-issued ID. This is to ensure that all passengers have been screened against the government’s watch list and are approved to fly.

Double-check your reservation before you book it. If you see a mistake in your name after you hit the “buy” button, don’t delay. According to the Department of Transportation, most airlines allow free changes or cancellations to your ticket within 24 hours of booking. Even if you’re outside the 24-hour window, most carriers will correct misspellings or obvious mistakes — such as having your last name first and first name last. According to travel booking site Expedia.com, you should contact either your booking agent or the airline’s customer service department to make a name change. If the airline is unable to make changes to your name, it may be able to provide a notation on your reservation that there is an error that both you and the airline are aware of.

If there’s only a small difference between the name on your ID and the name on your ticket — such as the use of a hyphen or a middle initial instead of your middle name — you probably don’t need to bother. A former administrator of the TSA wrote that “small differences in the name on the boarding pass and ID, like middle initials, should not impact your travel.” 

However, be aware that individual TSA agents may have slightly different definitions of what is considered a “small difference.” There’s always a chance you could get stopped at security and sent back to the ticketing counter to sort out an error. That could add delays, stress, and even last-minute change fees to your trip.

When You Legally Change Your Name

If you accidentally booked your ticket under your former name, or if your new ID hasn’t arrived in time for your trip, it’s okay. This is a common situation, and there are several ways to deal with it.

Most airlines will work with you to fix the name on your ticket so that it matches your current ID. The airline may request proof of your name change — such as a marriage certificate or court order. If the airline’s customer service won’t help you without charging a change fee, bring your documents with you to the airport. A ticket counter agent may be able to re-issue your boarding pass so it matches your ID.

Alternately, you may prefer to go directly to security. The Department of Homeland Security states as long as your identity can be confirmed, you may still be allowed to fly. But, if you are flying internationally, the department suggests you check with the countries where you are traveling to make sure you will be allowed to enter and exit.

When Your Travel Plans Change

According to the International Air Transport Association, a trade group, there are several reasons carriers do not allow ticket transfers. Not only does the government require advance passenger information for security and immigration purposes, but “should ticket transferability be permitted, a significant secondary market could develop, with serious scope for fraud and ticket touting.”

If your travel plans have changed and you can’t use your reservation, read the fine print on your ticket and order confirmation carefully. If you bought a refundable fare, you can simply cancel it and use the credit to rebook a new ticket in your name or another person’s name.

If your ticket is marked non-refundable, you can likely cancel or make changes to the reservation within 24 hours of booking, as mentioned above. If that window has expired, contact your booking agent or the airline directly. The customer service department will be able to walk you through your options — which may include offering you airline credit for your canceled flight. Some airlines may waive change fees for frequent-flier club members.

Ticket Change Policies and Fees by Airline

We have the list of general change policies of major U.S. airlines. Specific options may vary depending on your timeframe, fare, class of ticket, and travel route.

Alaska Airlines (includes Virgin America)

American Airlines

Delta Air Lines

Frontier Airlines

JetBlue

Southwest Airlines

United Airlines

In Summary

If there are minor differences — such as a typo — between the name on your airline ticket and the name on your government-issued ID, contact the airline or travel agency. But, if you’re looking to change the name on a flight reservation or transfer a ticket to someone else, you may be out of luck. In most cases, you can make changes or cancel a ticket for free within 24 hours of booking, but airline tickets are generally non-transferable.