Can You Change the Name on a Plane Ticket? [2023]

Did you make a typo or error when inputting your name in your airline ticket reservation? Or are you trying to completely change the name on the ticket that you purchased to someone else? In either case, you’d likely need to request a name correction or name change.

This can be a slightly confusing process because there are very different restrictions for each but in this article I will break it all down and explain how this can be done, sometimes even for free.

Can you change the name on a plane ticket?

Yes, assuming there is sufficient time before departure you may be able to make a name correction or name change.

Name corrections involve simple changes such as fixing one letter and are generally free.

However, for major name changes many airlines will force you pay a pretty hefty fee. Keep reading below to find out how this process works and for some helpful tips on how to deal with the situation!

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Why can’t you change your name on a plane ticket?

There are two major reasons why you are not allowed to freely change your name on a plane ticket without approval or fees from the airline.

Security reasons

Changing your name on a plane ticket can present major security issues.

When you purchase a plane ticket, you can expect your name to be ran through a database to make sure you are not on a no-fly list.

This could be a no-fly list ran by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) or the individual airline. Either way, airlines need to know that when you board the plane your background has been checked.

If you could change your name at will this could make it much more difficult for the background checks to be done properly, since they would be continually getting updated.

Aftermarket concerns

If passengers could freely change the name on a boarding pass they would essentially become transferrable and you could imagine a secondary market emerging for airline tickets.

People could buy airline tickets far in advance for holidays or peak seasons for routes heading to tourist hotspots like Orlando.

They could then sell those tickets for sky-high prices similar to the way people do it for concerts, sporting events, etc.

This could make it more difficult to find tickets and introduce uncertainty when dealing with shady aftermarket vendors. It also removes a lot of price control power from the airlines.

Airlines don’t let you transfer your boarding pass to just anybody.

How to change the name on a plane ticket

There are basically three different types of name changes that take place and the process for each is different.

Minor name corrections

When a change is being made to fix a spelling mistake or typo and ensure that the name matches a government-issued ID, this is typically considered a “name correction” or “minor name correction” and NOT a name change.

Examples of minor name corrections could include:

  • First names (Jon to Jonathon)
  • Last names (3 letters or fewer)
  • Adding/removing middle name
  • Changing initial to full name
  • Nickname to legal name (“Bob” to “Robert”)
  • Adding an additional last name (hyphenated last name)
  • Inverted first and last name
  • Suffix and prefix changes

If you find yourself needing to correct the name, contact the customer service phone number for your airline as soon as you can and let them know that you need to make a minor correction to the name (not a change).

Some airlines request that you make this known to the airline at least one week prior to your trip.

If you have a travel agent simply let them know and they may be able to make the change for you and without any penalty.

But if you don’t realize the error until you arrive at the airport, some airlines will still allow you to make the change there.

Sometimes a minor name correction may have a limit on the characters that can be changed such as three letters.

This is especially true if you are correcting the last name (shorter last names may be limited to changes of only two characters).

It depends on the airline and perhaps even the discretion of the agent you are dealing with but you can pretty much rest assured that if you need to simply correct one or two letters of a misspelled name, it will be considered a minor name correction.

Most airlines should allow you to make minor name corrections for free.

This is the case even for some budget airlines as Spirit states: “Reservations with slight misspellings or legal name changes are eligible for a free name change.”

Here are a few more things to keep in mind about minor name corrections:

  • If you need to make multiple minor name corrections, airlines will usually consider that a major change and begin charging you to process the change.
  • If you need to make changes to the gender and/or date of birth as well as the name, that will also often be considered a major name change.
  • If your itinerary involves flights on codeshares or partner airlines, making a minor name correction could be more difficult

And finally, sometimes for whatever reason the airline cannot make a change to the error on your boarding pass.

This recently happened to us when flying through Alaska when Brad’s middle initial was displayed as the last letter on his first name. “BradleyK.”

We contacted the airline and they told us that his name was showing up properly in the system that TSA uses so it would not be a problem.

However, his boarding pass still had the typo “BradleyK” when printed.

So in some cases you may not be able to fix the error on your boarding pass but it apparently doesn’t matter because as long as it is correct in the airline’s system, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Indeed, we got through TSA just fine.

Major name change

Now let’s say that you need to change the name on your boarding pass from John Doe to Sarah Sally.

This is referred to as a “major name change” and is often possible but it can be a very expensive endeavor. The reason?

This type of change will involve fees which could include:

  • Name change fee
  • Difference in fare from the time you booked to the current date
  • Possible change fee

In some cases the fees can total up to several hundred dollars pretty easily.

So your best bet is to try to avoid this approach as much as possible or be prepared to shell out a lot of cash.

Tip: If you realize your mistake within 24 hours of booking your ticket you should be able to cancel the ticket without any penalty.

If you are not allowed to make a major name change then your only real option is to purchase a new airline ticket (assuming that you can find availability).

Assuming your ticket was nonrefundable, you may be able to get a flight credit for your original ticket.

Make sure you take note of the expiration time for it because these flight credits/travel funds usually expire within one year.

Sometimes you can change the name on the flight credit but other times you cannot.

If you need to change your name because your legal name changed due to things like marriage, divorce, adoption, etc. every airline should be willing to work with you so long as there is enough time before takeoff.

Airlines may allow you to make a name change based on a legal name change for free provided that you submit the necessary documentation.

Possible documentation needed could include:

  • Marriage License
  • Court Order
  • Divorce Decree
  • Or Legal Name Change Document

Some airlines will have a dedicated webpage for you to submit this information and attach copies of your documents and in other cases you may just need to email them at a specific email address.

As you can imagine this process will take a little bit of time so it is best to make your submission as soon as possible.

However, based on the DOT Fly Rights it seems you could show up at the airport with your documentation and be fine as is states:

If your name has recently changed and the name on your ticket and your I.D. are different (or will be different by the time of your trip), bring documentation of the change (e.g., a marriage certificate or court order).

Just be sure to give yourself extra time for the verification process.

Name matching issues

Middle names

Sometimes (as shown above) middle names can be a problem.

In some cases, due to glitches your middle name might appear as part of your first name or simply an initial in front of your first name.

If an airline is familiar with this glitch they should be able to recognize it and allow you to proceed with a minor name correction.

In other cases there are issues were a middle initial is used in one case but the full middle name is used in another.

This should be okay in a lot of instances but my advice is to always be consistent with the use of your middle name. This is especially true for international travel.

Non-ascii characters

If your name has non-ascii characters, and you are trying to make sure that it matches with your passport you can check the name on the bottom of the main passport page and go with that.

This will be located in the red rectangle found in this image here.


Sometimes you might encounter routes where name changes are not permitted.

For example, as of the summer of 2021 Delta does not allow changes on international flights between the US and China.

Other times, there may be special policies in place to deal with name changes on certain routes.

In these cases you may have to call a special phone number and speak with an agent and the name change process may not be as smooth, even for minor name corrections.


If you run into an issue where your name is not accepted and you need to modify or change the name there’s a good chance you will not be issued a refund.

Why can’t you get your money back?

Typically, a refund is only granted by the airline if they were at fault. For example, if they have staff shortages that lead to a significant delay in your flight, it’s possible that you could receive a refund.

In the case of needing a name correction or name change, you are the party who filled out the identification information and therefore you are the party at fault.

When you proceed through the booking process, airlines usually make it very clear that your name you fill out needs to match exactly what your government issued ID shows.

For example, here is the warning from United Airlines.

This is key because it means that if you input a name during the booking process that does not match your ID, the mistake is on you and not the airline.

That doesn’t mean that you will never get a refund but it is just going to be more of the exception and not the norm.

This is one reason why it helps to fill out your frequent flyer profile and save your account information.

This will prevent you from needing to input your name each time you book a flight with that airline and thus decrease the odds of an error happening.

Getting through TSA security checkpoint

Whenever you head through the TSA security checkpoint a TSA agent will be screening your ID to make sure that it matches your boarding pass.

This is why you need to handle your name change request as soon as you can.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, TSA agents usually do not scan your ID which is one reason why people with outstanding warrants are often allowed to get through security.

On one occasion I was actually allowed to get through security with a boarding pass that did not match my name!

I made it through the TSA Pre-Check line and realized that I had a boarding pass with Brad’s name on it. I told the agent that my husband had my boarding pass and the agent allowed me to get through security.

It turns out that actually Brad somehow had a duplicate of his own boarding pass so I actually made it through TSA security without having any boarding pass with my name on it.

But you don’t want to rely on blind luck like that and instead you should just take care of your name change needs.

Related: Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID?

Final word

Changing your name for a plane reservation can be a simple process if you are only fixing a typo, have the necessary documentation needed, and you give yourself plenty of time before departure.

Things get pricey when you need to make a major name change and everything can get a lot more complicated if you are trying to sort this out just before departure. So do your best to take care of everything in advance.

How Early Should You Get to the Airport? [2022]

One of the most commonly asked questions is, “How early should I get to the airport?” While there are general guidelines, the most accurate answer to this question relies on a multitude of factors.

In this article, I will take a deep dive into all of the factors you need to think about when trying to decide how early to get to the airport.

I’ll also provide you with those important cut-off times that many major airlines abide by when it comes to things like checking in your bags and arriving at the boarding area.

How early should I get to the airport?

The standard recommendation is to arrive at the airport two hours prior to your domestic flight and three hours prior to your international flight.

These blanket recommendations are not super helpful because they don’t factor in things like if you are: returning a rental car, checking luggage, flying business class, familiar with the airport, enrolled in TSA Pre-Check, etc.

I’ll talk about how all of those things affect the timing of when you should arrive at the airport below.

But first, here are some general cut-off times to keep in mind. The exact cut off times will vary based on your airline, aircraft, and route.


These are the latest times you should check in for your flight:

  • Domestic: 30 to 60 min before departure
  • International: 1 to 1.5 hours before departure

Checking bags

These are the latest times you should check bags for your flight:

  • Domestic: 30 to 45 min before departure
  • International: 60 min+ before departure

Arrive for boarding

These are the latest times you should arrive at the gate for boarding:

  • Domestic: 15 to 30 min before departure
  • International: 45 min+ before departure

So at a minimum you need to do whatever it takes in order to comply with the above cut-off times.

For your reference, I’ve included the check-in time pages for major US airlines:

Note: airlines often have a small grace period of a few minutes so if you missed the cut off time by just a couple of minutes you may still be okay.

Below, I’ll give you a number of factors that could impact how long it takes you to get through the airport.

Related: Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Check in Online for Flights

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Are you flying domestic or international?

As mentioned, the standard advice is to arrive at the airport two hours prior to your domestic flight and three hours prior to your international flight.

Some international airports have recommendations for getting to the airport extra early such as at least four hours prior to departure, even if you are not checking baggage.

Why so early for international flights?

One reason is that international flights often have larger aircraft which means more people need to board. Consider that an A380 holds over 850 passengers while a 737 holds about 160 passengers. That’s a massive difference.

Also, because these are international trips people are more likely to bring lots of checked baggage which takes more time to handle.

And finally, some airports process immigration/services upon exiting the country which causes a further delay.

Related: What Time Does the Airport Open? What 24 Hours Really Means

Are you parking a vehicle?

Knowing where to park is not always the easiest task at an airport.

Sometimes when navigating a busy airport corridor with dozens of signs overhead, it’s difficult to find the entrance to the right parking lot. One missed exit could mean an extra 10 to 20 minutes for your journey.

Also, knowing where you are going to be spit out from the garage is also challenging to predict at times.

If you are arriving during a busy time you might have to circle up many floors to find an open parking spot which can take some time — not to mention the slow elevator you might be working with.

If it’s a large, flat parking lot, you might have to park far away from the entrance of the airport which means dragging all your luggage to the terminal.

If you choose to do a park and ride or some type of economy parking then you will need to factor in the time it will take you to take a shuttle or tram to get to the airport.

I usually allocate about 15 to 20 minutes from my arrival time at the airport to find parking and get back to the terminal.

Are you returning a rental car?

If you are returning a rental car then you need to factor in the time it will take you to locate the rental car facility, drop off your vehicle for the post-rental inspection, head over to the shuttle terminal, and then take the shuttle to your terminal (if needed).

This usually will add around 20 to 30 minutes but if there is a long line or there are any issues with your rental car check-out it could go even longer.

Also, sometimes the shuttles are running extra slow and there could be multiple stops between the rental car station and your airport terminal.

Are you checked-in w/a boarding pass?

For domestic flights, you usually have to be checked in at least 30 minutes to 60 minutes prior to your flight in order to board.

For international flights, you usually have to be checked in one hour prior to your flight although some airlines and airports may require you to check-in even earlier than that.

Some people still like to print out a hard copy of their boarding pass via the kiosks or the check-in desks. If you want a physical copy, the quickest route will usually be the kiosks since there is barely a line for those.

If you’re comfortable just showing your boarding pass on your phone then you don’t have to deal with those at all.

Sometimes you may want to make a change to your boarding pass or upgrade it such as when flying Southwest Airlines and upgrading to Business Select. In that instance, you may need to head to the full service desk which can add time to your check-in experience.

Are you checking your baggage?

Another major consideration is are you checking your baggage? Sometimes the line for checking luggage can get out of hand especially if an airline is short-staffed.

If you are bringing a gun, a pet, or shipping off an unaccompanied minor you want to give yourself more time at the check-in area.

The earliest you can usually check your luggage is three hours prior to your domestic flight and four hours prior to your international flight but it does vary based on the airport and airline.

You also need to consider that airlines have a cut-off time for checking baggage.

For domestic flights, you usually have to check your baggage 45 minutes to one hour prior to departure and for international flights it is usually at least one hour prior to departure.

Do you have elite status or a premium ticket?

If you have elite status with an airline or are flying first class or business class then your check-in time to obtain your boarding pass/check your luggage can be dramatically cut down.

You will typically be able to head over to the elite desks which are often organized based on the type of elite level that you have or cabin you are flying.

These premium desks are usually less crowded than the desks open to non-elite/economy passengers. On a number of occasions my wait time for checking a bag when flying United first class has been zero.

But that is not always the case.

Sometimes the elite desks only have one or two staff members attending to a line that builds up quickly while the non-elite sections have multiple staff members.

Indeed, this happened to me the last time I flew Delta first class.

You also might have access to a special security line although I choose to go with TSA Pre-Check/CLEAR instead of those lines.

Do you have TSA Pre-Check?

The time to get through airport security will fluctuate but generally you are looking at about 15 to 20 minutes.

TSA Pre-Check can get you through security within five minutes at a lot of airports. In fact, in April 2021, 98% of passengers in TSA PreCheck lanes waited less than five minutes.

I’ve been using Pre-Check for several years and it feels like I consistently save myself about 10 minutes. On some occasions, when the security lines get hopelessly long, I know I save myself even longer than that.

You need to remember that just because you are enrolled in TSA Pre-Check, you are not guaranteed to get it every time on your boarding pass. You’ll probably have it 95%+ of the time but there is always a rare chance that you won’t get it which could potentially hurt you if you are cutting it close.

Even if you have TSA Pre-Check, you also want to prepare yourself in the event that you get hit with SSSS on your boarding pass.

This can be issued at random and it will require you to undergo an additional security screening. Sometimes the security screening lasts only a couple of minutes but other times it can be dragged out to 20 minutes plus.

This is one of the major reasons why I think cutting it close is risky because getting secondary screening could definitely cause you to miss a flight if things are very tight.

Do you have CLEAR?

CLEAR is a way to further expedite your airport security screening. If you have a CLEAR membership you get escorted to the front of the security line VIP style (whether you have TSA Pre-Check or not).

This one could be hit or miss.

There’s been a recent influx of new members which has slowed down the line at some airports. If the CLEAR line is understaffed it can build up pretty quickly and actually be a frustrating experience.

But overall it’s helped me shave off a few extra minutes by jumping ahead to the front of the TSA Pre-Check line.

The drawback with CLEAR is that sometimes it’s just not open and it’s still not available at a lot of airport security checkpoints (although the network is growing pretty quick).

Do you know the airport layout?

Some airports will require you to jump on a tram or train to hop over to another terminal in order to get to your boarding area.

Airport trams are usually pretty efficient and can get you from one terminal to the other very quickly but if there are several stops and a lot of walking involved, that journey can take longer than you might expect.

Plus, if you end up getting on the wrong tram that can add a lot of time to your journey as well.

So if you are not familiar with the airport layout and have no idea if you will need to take a tram to get to your terminal then you need to factor in about 15 to 30 minutes that might be needed to get to your boarding area after you get through security.

Also remember that your gate and even your terminal can change at the last minute.

Lounge access or not?

One of the biggest considerations for when I arrive at the airport is whether or not I have lounge access.

If I have access to a quality lounge like a Centurion Lounge, United Club, Delta Sky Club, or some Priority Pass lounges, I will be much more open to arriving to the airport a couple of hours before my flight.

The reason is I can enjoy a free meal/drinks and relax in peace away from the madness that often is happening in the airport terminal or gate areas.

The drawback is that sometimes the lounges can be quite crowded and on some occasions you can’t even get in without waiting for quite a while.

Some lounges will limit you to entry no sooner than three hours prior to your departure time so keep that in mind.

Are you going to need the overhead storage bin?

Overhead storage bins can be tricky for people who push things to the last minute.

Some flights have a lot of passengers with carry-on items and others have less — you really never know what your flight is going to be like.

If your flight is full of passengers with multiple carry-on items and you arrive toward the end of the boarding process you may find that there is no overhead storage bin space available to you. This may force you to check your carry-on bag which can be a frustrating experience.

Of course, if you are already among the last to board then this may not matter as much because you likely would not have overhead storage bin space anyway.

Are you utilizing pre-boarding?

Boarding usually begins 30 minutes to 50 minutes prior to the scheduled to takeoff time for a domestic flight and 45 to 60 minutes prior to an international flight.

If you are someone who wants to utilize pre-boarding then you want to make sure you are at the gate no longer than one hour prior to takeoff.

Pre-boarding is usually reserved for those with some sort of disability or special passengers like unaccompanied minors, both of which should allocate more time for things like check-in.

However, if you are a military member or have some type of top-tier status you might also want to get there early to take advantage of your early boarding opportunities.

Are you comfortable cutting things close?

At the end of the day, your ideal arrival time at the airport depends on how comfortable you are with cutting things close.

As mentioned for domestic flights, the cut off times for boarding the plane are usually about 15 to 30 minutes prior to departure.

If you have TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR, know your way around the airport, and have no checked baggage, then you could arrive at the airport about 50 minutes prior to your domestic flight and probably be just fine in a lot of cases.

Some people are okay with cutting things a little close like that but I personally would dread making that gamble each time I am headed to the airport.

I much prefer a less stressed experience getting through security, finding a lounge, etc.

Therefore, I try to always make sure that I am through security at least 30 minutes before boarding starts if there is no lounge. If I do have access to a lounge then that number is probably closer to 1.5 hours prior to boarding.

Final word

The general advice of arriving to the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours prior to international flight is usually good. But if you want to make better use of your time, you should consider all of the factors above and you will be be able to settle on a more accurate timeline for arriving at the airport.