South African Airways - Beware!!

ben

Registered
So a couple months ago I issued a ticket for a family of four, traveling from here to Cape Town with South African Airways (hereinafter SAA).

Because SAA doesn't have direct flights from here, they fly on a feeder flight with TAM LATAM (Aerolineas also works), connecting to SAA to Johannesburg.

So they check in at Aeroparque, and get boarding passes through to Cape Town. So far so good.

They come to the gate in Sao Paulo at boarding time, and learn that they will be denied boarding. Why? Because, they are told, the wife's name on her passport does not match the name on the ticket.

The name on her ticket is Paulina. Her passport gives 2 given names: Paulina and a second name of Biblical origin, let's say Hanna. They are told the names do not match and she cannot fly with this ticket.

There are not words to explain what kind of BS this is. The first name on the passport and on the ticket, match exactly. No airline on earth (to the best of my knowledge) makes an issue of a middle name not being on the ticket. Nor does SAA - here's their policy in writing, which makes plain that middle names are optional.

They call me their agent - me - in a panic. The flight is closing in 20 minutes and they are being excluded from the flight. They are told the only way they can fly is if I issue them a new ticket. Not to mention I can't even touch the ticket because they have already begun to travel.

I try to get on the phone through both normal agency channels and the customer-facing line. Nobody picks up - SAA outsources their customer operations here to a local outfit that handles ticketing and service for a bunch of airlines. It's close to closing time, so nobody bothers.

I call SAA in Johannesburg and get rerouted to a US call center. Middle names are not a problem, but nobody there is going to tell airport staff what to do. "There must be some other reason".

I am told that they denied boarding for the same reason for another 7 people, they're all standing together and nobody knows what to do. I check, and there is no room on the flight whatsoever. My informed guess is that the flight was overbooked, and this was their way of getting rid of people without offering compensation.

They managed to get it sorted out, stay in a hotel at the airline's expense and travel the next day (which reinforces my hunch that it was all about the overbooked flight). Thankfully, they had some margin for error - had they been flying a day later, for a whole bunch of reasons their trip would have been completely pointless.

I'm not yet sure whether to blame SAA as a company, or a renegade employee. (That will depend in large part on SAA's response). As such, I'm not even sure what the moral is, aside from: if the airline wants to screw you, they will. And that at any rate, it's a good idea for the ticket to reflect the exact name on the travel document.
 

chris

Registered
I've heard that the ticket name must be exactly the same as the passport.
I flew SAA in the 1970s and 1980s and they were excellent but that may have changed.
 

Mitch

Registered
So a couple months ago I issued a ticket for a family of four, traveling from here to Cape Town with South African Airways (hereinafter SAA).

Because SAA doesn't have direct flights from here, they fly on a feeder flight with TAM LATAM (Aerolineas also works), connecting to SAA to Johannesburg.

So they check in at Aeroparque, and get boarding passes through to Cape Town. So far so good.

They come to the gate in Sao Paulo at boarding time, and learn that they will be denied boarding. Why? Because, they are told, the wife's name on her passport does not match the name on the ticket.

The name on her ticket is Paulina. Her passport gives 2 given names: Paulina and a second name of Biblical origin, let's say Hanna. They are told the names do not match and she cannot fly with this ticket.

There are not words to explain what kind of BS this is. The first name on the passport and on the ticket, match exactly. No airline on earth (to the best of my knowledge) makes an issue of a middle name not being on the ticket. Nor does SAA - here's their policy in writing, which makes plain that middle names are optional.

They call me their agent - me - in a panic. The flight is closing in 20 minutes and they are being excluded from the flight. They are told the only way they can fly is if I issue them a new ticket. Not to mention I can't even touch the ticket because they have already begun to travel.

I try to get on the phone through both normal agency channels and the customer-facing line. Nobody picks up - SAA outsources their customer operations here to a local outfit that handles ticketing and service for a bunch of airlines. It's close to closing time, so nobody bothers.

I call SAA in Johannesburg and get rerouted to a US call center. Middle names are not a problem, but nobody there is going to tell airport staff what to do. "There must be some other reason".

I am told that they denied boarding for the same reason for another 7 people, they're all standing together and nobody knows what to do. I check, and there is no room on the flight whatsoever. My informed guess is that the flight was overbooked, and this was their way of getting rid of people without offering compensation.

They managed to get it sorted out, stay in a hotel at the airline's expense and travel the next day (which reinforces my hunch that it was all about the overbooked flight). Thankfully, they had some margin for error - had they been flying a day later, for a whole bunch of reasons their trip would have been completely pointless.

I'm not yet sure whether to blame SAA as a company, or a renegade employee. (That will depend in large part on SAA's response). As such, I'm not even sure what the moral is, aside from: if the airline wants to screw you, they will. And that at any rate, it's a good idea for the ticket to reflect the exact name on the travel document.
The renegade employee is the airline. If the pilot has a bad day and decides to crash an airplane into a mountain, is the airline's defense: Sorry our pilot was having a bad day?
 

John Doe

Registered
I have flown to Cape Town 2/14 on SAA and in 2/15 on Tturkish
South African Air is one of the worst airlines. I had pre assigned seats that they wouldn't let me occupy. On the way back toBrazil' at Johannesburg, all of the airport counter agents stopped working and went on strike for about 15 minutes. wierd.
I'd gladly pay more to fly Turkish. Definitely, one of the best
. .
 

John Doe

Registered
If this had happened on American Airlines, they'd probably say the same as SAA. But, they might say that they could make an exception if she paid US$1,000.00 more. IMO American Airlines is the worse.
 

ben

Registered
Is South African airways flying from EZE?
They do not fly from Buenos Aires. They have codeshare agreements with LATAM, Aerolineas Argentinas (and possibly Gol, not sure) to get you from here to Sao Paulo and with them from there on.

The renegade employee is the airline. If the pilot has a bad day and decides to crash an airplane into a mountain, is the airline's defense: Sorry our pilot was having a bad day?
Absolutely true, but there is be a big difference (at least with an eye to my future willingness to recommend them) whether they take full responsibility and make it up to the passengers (we're talking about a family with 2 young children and a pregnant mother), or this turns out to be stuff they do all the time.

This client is a fairly seasoned flyer, and is not going to take this lying down. Depending on their response, he is perfectly willing to commence legal action against them. This was inexcusable, and but for a couple of lucky breaks (including that they started travel a day early), could have been absolutely disastrous on several levels. And over nothing.

If this had happened on American Airlines, they'd probably say the same as SAA. But, they might say that they could make an exception if she paid US$1,000.00 more. IMO American Airlines is the worse.
I can tell you about the problems at American as much as anyone and probably more. But, for the record, this never happened on American Airlines. A first name wrong - sure, they can be difficult about. A mixup with last names - yeah, I know an agent that lost lots of money on that. But problems over a middle name? Never. Ever. Not so much as a word.
 
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