Ryanair complaints flood in over name-change 'glitch' which could cost £115 to fix
Ryanair customers have inundated us with complaints that it is unfairly charging them £115 to change their name, insisting it was the airline that messed up their bookings – and we are urging Ryanair to prove it has a heart and show leniency.
We've had reports from at least 44 different passengers who insist they correctly inputted passenger names, but claim Ryanair's system inadvertently changed them.
A clear pattern has emerged from the cases we've seen:
- Passengers were booking for a second person (or more) with different surnames.
- They claim Ryanair's booking system automatically changed their companions' surnames to be the same as the lead passenger's or account holder's surname.
- Those who didn't spot the error within Ryanair's 24-hour grace period for free name changes have been left facing a £115 charge to change it to the correct name – some have already paid it. If passengers don't pay the charge, they'll be unable to travel as their passport and ticket names won't match.
Ryanair insists there is no 'glitch' with its booking system and hasn't given us any further comment despite us contacting it several times to point out there is a consistent pattern. And it's told us it won't waive the fee for those affected.
We first revealed that people claimed their surnames were being automatically changed in early December after two passengers got in touch with us and we saw many more similar complaints online. Since publishing the story, we've received emails from a whopping 42 more users reporting the same issue – and we've spotted several more on social media.
Another eight users also got in touch to tell us about similar name-related issues they claimed they'd experienced when booking through Ryanair, such as passengers' full names being changed to match the lead passenger's, or passengers' surnames being changed to their first name.
It doesn't seem to happen all the time, though – when MoneySavingExpert.com tried to book a flight to replicate the issue, all passengers' names were recorded correctly.
See our 20 Ryanair tips for help mastering the airline's mega-strict rules and charges.
'Ryanair needs to show it has a heart'
MoneySavingExpert.com deputy editor Guy Anker said: "We don't know for a fact whether there is a genuine glitch and can only go by the flurry of complaints we've seen.
"But given the consistent pattern so many different people report, we think there's a decent chance they're all correct, even though we couldn't replicate the problem. We know from experience that the odd complaint here or there doesn't always constitute a major problem, but when you see at least 44, it normally means something has gone wrong.
"So we would urge Ryanair – even if it truly believes it's done nothing wrong – to reconsider issuing the £115 name-change charge. After all, sometimes companies make unintended errors or complex technical systems mean it is difficult to spot errors.
"If nothing else, while it's never been that customer-friendly, we'd expect it to have a heart here given this seems to have affected so many people in the same way – and £115 is a lot of money to expect someone to pay to be able to fly when they insist they got the name right all along."
Who's been affected?
As Ryanair has denied there's any technical 'glitch', it's difficult to tell how widespread the issues could be – but we've seen dozens of reports over the past couple of weeks, both from people contacting us directly and on social media.
Generally, those affected have said they made their flight booking between September and November last year, on either the Ryanair website or app, using details saved to their Ryanair accounts. It's not clear if the issue is continuing to affect new bookings, but we haven't heard of it affecting any bookings made since November.
Here are just a few examples of the stories we've seen:
- Edd Miles, 31, from Cambridge, checked his flight booking to Belfast after reading our article and discovered that his girlfriend's surname had been changed to his. He'd booked using the saved passengers dropdown on 3 November, but has now rebooked the flight entirely after Ryanair customer service refused to waive the £115 fee.
- Keeley Middleditch, 51, from Kidlington in Oxfordshire, booked a flight from Knock, Ireland to Liverpool on 4 October for her friend Annie Murray, selecting her details from her list of saved companions.
She says she noticed the surname had been changed to hers when checking her friend in for her flight two days before departure, and paid the £115 to avoid issues at the airport.
- Nathan Somerset, 28, from Runcorn in Cheshire, booked a flight to Palma for him and his partner on 18 October, and discovered his partner's surname had been changed to his despite her details being saved correctly in his Ryanair account.
He paid the £115 fee after Ryanair refused to waive it, and later received an email from the airline saying "there was no website issues [sic]" and blaming his internet browser's auto-fill.
- Theresa Hodges, 55, from Wolverhampton, booked a flight to Poznan for her and her sister, Helen Lamb, on 6 November. She noticed her sister's surname had been changed to Hodges two days after making the booking, but Ryanair refused to waive the £115 fee and she had to rebook the flight instead, costing an extra £54.
She says that the same error happened when she rebooked – although she managed to spot it before paying – and she was only able to book successfully when she logged out of her Ryanair account.
I'm about to book with Ryanair – what should I do?
If a Ryanair flight is the best deal for you, don't let this issue put you off – but be careful.
As long as you spot any name errors within the first 24 hours after booking, you'll be able to change them for free. So make sure you double-check your booking confirmation and itinerary as soon as its available.
Booked with Ryanair already? Check your booking now
If you've booked a Ryanair flight and you haven't yet checked, look at the booking confirmation now to ensure the passengers' names have been recorded correctly.
If there's a problem, again, you can change names for free within 24 hours of booking. If it's too late to do that, see below for your options.
I've been told I must pay the fee – can I fight back?
Frustratingly, Ryanair's official position is that there is no glitch – meaning if you've got an incorrect name on your booking, you'll be charged the full £115 name-change fee if the 24-hour grace period has passed.
But if you think a name on your booking's been automatically changed and it wasn't your fault, you can try to fight it, though the full steps could require quite a bit of work:
- Gather any evidence. This should include details of your saved Ryanair companions, and any confirmation emails or itineraries. If you're booking a flight now, it's also worth taking screenshots as you go to show you didn't enter any names incorrectly.
- Complain to Ryanair. Passengers have told us they haven't had much luck with Ryanair, but it's still worth a try – and you'll need to contact Ryanair directly before you can escalate any complaints.
You can contact Ryanair via their live chat service or by calling 0330 1007 838 (you'll be charged at local rates), or through the Resolver service. It's also worth complaining publicly via Ryanair's social media channels – one passenger who managed to have her £115 fee waived told us she was eventually helped by a customer service agent on Twitter.
- If this doesn't work, escalate your complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). If you're not happy with Ryanair's response – or you don't hear back from them within eight weeks – you can escalate your complaint.
You should usually escalate any complaint about an airline to an approved alternative dispute resolution service (ADR) – but Ryanair cut ties with its ADR earlier this month.
So if your complaint isn't resolved directly through Ryanair, you can go straight to the aviation regulator, the CAA.
The CAA has confirmed that affected passengers can complain to its Passenger Advice and Complaints Team (PACT) using the online form or by calling 0330 022 1916.
- You can try the small claims court as a last resort – but it may cost you. If you're not satisfied with the CAA's response, the last resort would be to take legal action.
There's full info on claiming through the courts in our Small Claims Court guide – but weigh up carefully whether you want to proceed, as you'll have to pay an upfront court fee of at least £25, and could end up liable for other expenses if you lose your case.
What does Ryanair say?
When we published the original story in early December, a Ryanair spokesperson told us: "We were unable to replicate this apparent issue, but we can confirm there is no 'glitch' with our booking system.
"We offer a 24-hour grace period from the time of original booking to correct any minor errors – ie, spelling of names, incorrect routings/dates. Fees will be applied to changes made outside of the 24-hour grace period. The name-change fee is a preventative measure to discourage and prevent unauthorised online travel agents from 'screenscraping' Ryanair's cheapest fares and reselling them on to unwitting consumers at hugely inflated costs."
We've since contacted Ryanair three times, telling it about the fresh evidence from passengers and asking it to investigate further – but it hasn't given us any response at all.