Imagine it: You’re just about to start your trip — maybe it’s for business, maybe it’s to see some family, or maybe it’s an adventure abroad. Whatever the reason, you’re feeling that pang of excitement as you get to the airport. Even if it’s a trip you’ve made before, there’s always a little thrill that comes when you get there, bags in hand, right before you take off.
But then as you try to check in, you’re told that you won’t be flying that day. Some minor mistake that you didn’t catch is keeping you from boarding your flight and now you have to figure out what to do…and that usually means shelling out for another flight, especially if you didn’t find out about the mistake until you’re already at the airport.
According to Lauren Volpe, Senior Director of Customer Experience at OneTravel’s parent company Fareportal, while something like that may seem like a fluke occurrence, it’s actually not rare at all. “We get numerous requests for assistance daily,” says Volpe. “Most of the time it’s before the flight and we have some time to try to work with the airline to assist. It’s unfortunate when it’s at the airport because then there is not much we can do except try to rebook which is very costly.”
Here are 4 mistakes you should watch for and be sure you don’t make…or else you won’t be able to board.
Misspelling or Not Using the Name that Matches Your Passport When You Book
It might not seem like a big deal, but passenger names need to be correct. “The ticket and passport must match exactly,” explains Volpe. “Nicknames, inverted letters, maiden name vs. married name are all reasons the airline will deny boarding.” According to Volpe, even customers whose names have been off by just one letter have been prevented from boarding
If you notice an error with the name on your ticket within 24 hours of making the booking it can be fixed pretty easily, but if you catch it later than that you’ll need to call the agency you booked with or the airline as soon as you can. According to Volpe, some airlines can fix the issue easily. “It gets complicated when you have more than one airline on the ticket,” she says. When that happens, Volpe explains, customers may have to book a costlier ticket without a guarantee of a refund.
Volpe recommends triple checking all names on tickets to ensure they are 100% correct.
Trying to Fly on a Passport That Expires Within 6 Months
A common error for a lot of fliers is to believe that they’ll be allowed to fly internationally as long as their passport is valid. Actually, the rule is that passports need to be valid for at least 6 months after your final day of travel. So even if your passport doesn’t expire for another few months, you will still won’t be allowed to get on the plane. “TSA will reject you in security,” says Volpe. “We have had many customers not able to take their trip because they didn’t realize the rule was enforced.”
If you realize your passport won’t be valid and you still have a few weeks until your flight, you should have enough time to get an expedited passport renewal. It’ll cost you about an extra $60 on top of the normal passport fee and you’ll have to make an appointment at a passport agency or center.
Not Checking the Visa Requirements of Your Destination
Every country has its own visa requirements. Many don’t require Americans to have one for stays up to 90 days, but others do. So it can be easy to get confused and think you just need your passport when you should have applied for a visa well before you’ve left.
“This is a very difficult scenario,” says Volpe. “The airline is supposed to stop a customer from flying without the proper visa.” What’s more, Volpe explains that due to the fact that visa requirements vary from country to country and passengers often book connecting flights in other nations to get to their destinations, some people have even been turned around by authorities halfway through their trip for not having the correct visa. So whenever you’re flying internationally, be sure to look up all the countries you’re visiting (even for layovers) on the state department’s website. You’ll be able to find out exactly what visas you need and then check with the consulate of those countries on how to get them.
Checking in at the Airport Too Late to Board
In terms of getting to the airport to check in before your flight, it seems like everyone has an opinion. Some say two hours before your flight, others say three. Your father probably suggests a time that seems way too early for you. But there’s an actual reason you need to ensure you check in early: because even if you get to the check-in desk with enough of time to get through security and to the gate, you still may not be able to check in.
“The government requires the airlines to close the manifest and submit it for review one hour prior to departure,” says Volpe. “So if you arrive late and have not checked in, the airline can’t reopen the manifest to let you on.” Even if it’s just a matter of minutes, Volpe says the airlines have no way to check a passenger in once the manifest has been closed. She recommends (if available) checking in online 24 hours before departure and printing your boarding pass at home or getting it on the booking app.
Have you experienced any of these mistakes that kept you from boarding your flight? Let us know how you dealt with it in the comments section below.