PSA: Check your ANA First Class bookings via Virgin Atlantic for spelling errors


If you listened to this morning’s podcast and read the headline above, you already know what this post is going to be about. However, given a few similar data points from readers, I thought this was worth a quick PSA post of its own: If you booked ANA First Class awards via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club this week, check the spelling of names in your email confirmations. Virgin Atlantic had my middle name spelled incorrectly and while I initially chalked it up to an anomaly with a mistaken phone agent (we’re all human), I have seen a couple of comments from readers indicating mistakes in their bookings as well. Unfortunately, a mistake here gets messy and there is no good solution. Whether or not you try to fix a spelling mistake is going to be a matter of which kind of gamble you want to make, but I thought it worth a post in case you are like me and you don’t usually looking closely at your email confirmations.

Our experience with a Virgin Atlantic spelling mistake of a name

In my experience, Virgin Atlantic phone agents are typically quite good. I generally find that they are familiar with their own program and proficient at partner bookings, which are things that can’t be said about most airline customer service agents at many other airlines. (Though they are far from infallible).

I was therefore a bit surprised first by the fact that the agent with whom Greg spoke to book our ANA first class tickets this week was so insistent that all passengers flying on ANA must include their middle names in their bookings. I rarely ever include my middle name on a booking (even though it is on my passport) and I’ve never had a problem checking in for an international flight. In fact, I flew ANA in 2019 with my wife and son and while I did include my middle name on that booking, I was able to confirm that I did not enter a middle name for my wife nor for my son (despite the fact that they have middle names) and we had no problem checking in and boarding.

If you listened to our most recent podcast episode, you know that the agent’s insistence led us on a scramble to collect middle names of all of the Frequent Miler team members. While I had provided my middle name to Greg correctly and he had provided it to the agent correctly, I noticed on the email confirmation that the agent had misspelled my middle name by one letter. Unfortunately, that letter materially changed my middle name from a masculine to a feminine form of the name. I initially worried that could have been an issue (though, in hindsight, based on the Internet data points we’ve uncovered, it probably wouldn’t have been an issue if I had just shown up at the airport with it like that….probably).

Virgin Atlantic apparently can’t fix a spelling mistake on an ANA award ticket

We have always heard that the general wisdom on name mistakes is that airlines typically will not change the name on a ticket (at least not for free and often times not at all) but they can usually correct an obvious spelling mistake of 1 to 3 incorrect letters. In extreme cases, I’ve even heard of someone completely changing a name one letter at a time, though I wouldn’t advise trying to do that. I therefore expected that getting the Virgin Atlantic agent’s one-letter spelling mistake in my middle name corrected wouldn’t be a big deal.

Greg called Virgin Atlantic to see about getting it fixed and the phone agent said that she didn’t think it could be changed but that she would instead need to cancel the ticket and rebook it. We definitely didn’t want her to attempt that because we had booked 5 seats in ANA first class on the same flight, an unprecedented booking (none of us have ever heard of ANA releasing five first class seats on a single flight). Award seats do not always go back into award inventory when cancelled and we didn’t want to lose the seat if it didn’t go back into inventory. If Virgin Atlantic was adamant that they couldn’t change it, I had planned to just show up at the airport and hope for the best.

However, if you listened to the show, you know how the story goes: despite Greg having been adamant that he did not want the agent to cancel my ticket and try to rebook it, that’s exactly what she did while she had him on hold. Luckily, it worked. The agent split off my ticket on a separate PNR, cancelled it, and immediately rebooked it.  I am still (days later) amazed that it worked and perplexed as to what that agent’s backup plan was if she cancelled the ticket and the seat didn’t go back into inventory. I can’t imagine that Virgin Atlantic would have bought me a $12,000 seat on the ANA flight to make up for their mistake. While I guess all is well that ends well, I imagine I would have been very upset if it hadn’t ended well.

While I’d have thought my problem on this to be a one-off (and maybe even that the agent Greg got could have changed the ticket but simply didn’t know how), it unfortunately turns out that I’m not alone. A reader reports today that Virgin Atlantic even went back and listened to the recording to hear that he had spelled his companion’s name correctly but that Virgin Atlantic had misspelled it anyway when typing it in for the ticket. Virgin Atlantic tells him that the only option is to cancel the ticket as they can not make a change to it.

Another reader reported yesterday in our Facebook group that Virgin Atlantic made a spelling mistake in her name, her son’s name, and a third passenger’s name on the same itinerary. She confirmed tonight that she was able to get all three passengers fixed, but it required splitting the PNRs and cancelling and rebooking the tickets. Just as in my case, they were indeed able to cancel and rebook successfully.

Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic appears to be unable to fix their own spelling mistakes on ANA tickets by changing the existing ticket. It’s pretty surprising / disappointing that Virgin Atlantic would be careless with the spelling of names and even more surprising that they don’t have a mechanism for fixing their mistake apart from cancelling and rebooking. That said, I’m encouraged by the fact that we now have at least my data point and one of a reader (with multiple misspelled passengers) that cancelling and immediately rebooking can work.

I think the issue here is that ANA’s official policy regarding name changes is really complicated. Greg was told that Virgin Atlantic’s agreement with ANA specifies no name corrections even though this is something typically possible with other airlines.

Still, I am surprised that Virgin Atlantic wouldn’t offer some sort of resolution. On the podcast today, I wondered aloud what the agent’s backup plan would have been if she cancelled my ticket and my seat did not go back into inventory. Would she have just apologized and shrugged her shoulders and said sorry despite the fact that Greg had explicitly told her not to cancel my ticket? At that point, Virgin Atlantic would have made a spelling error in my name and compounded it by cancelling a ticket we told them not to cancel. I’m glad we avoided that situation.

Greg speculated that maybe Virgin Atlantic would have a way to reach out to ANA in that situation and ask if they could make the seat available again (if it hadn’t gone back into inventory automatically). I have no idea whether they could, but we have covered on the podcast in the fact that some airlines have ticketing teams behind the scenes that are able to communicate in situations like this.

The entire situation certainly made me more appreciative of the Turkish Miles & Smiles method of booking award tickets where they make you spell everyone’s name with the phonetic alphabet, send you an email with the itinerary on hold and ask you to confirm it, and then they spell it back to you phonetically again when you call to ticket it. That process is slow and annoying with multiple passengers, but it sure does avoid these spelling errors…..

What can you do if your name is misspelled?

The bottom line is that I don’t have a clear answer about what to do if you’ve booked an ANA first class ticket via Virgin Atlantic and your name is misspelled.

As I see it, you’re going to have to choose which way to gamble.

You could try calling and seeing if the agent can change it, let them tell you they can not, and then see if they can try to cancel the ticket and rebook it. I wouldn’t put 100% faith in being able to rebook, but I can offer up my data point and that of the one additional reader and say that we have been able to cancel and immediately rebook successfully. So it could work. It certainly might not work and I don’t think Virgin Atlantic is going to do anything to make it right if it doesn’t.

The other option is that if the spelling mistake is very minor, you may be able to show up at the airport and hope for the best. We read a number of various Internet data points / comments noting that small spelling errors that are clearly a mistake and could not be mistaken for someone else’s name can be corrected and/or may not cause an issue at the airport. Some names from foreign alphabets get translated to the Roman alphabet and could apparently have some variance, so apparently it may be possible to get through with a letter or two off.

Of course, Japan is known to have a very rulesy culture in that there is usually less room to bend from formal rules. I think you can’t be sure that it’s going to be OK if you just show up at the airport — and if you do, you risk being denied boarding and perhaps not having enough time to call Virgin Atlantic and get your ticket cancelled and miles deposited before departure. If you don’t reach them before departure, I don’t know whether you’ll get miles back at all. Being denied boarding and losing your miles would probably be pretty unpleasant. Then of course there is the problem of needing to find a new way home….

As someone with healthy mileage balances, I might actually have chanced it and just gone to the airport with my single-letter-spelling-error in my middle name. If a few letters were missing or multiple passengers on my itinerary had mistakes, I may be less inclined to chance that. I can’t tell you what to do, but be prepared with a backup plan no matter what happens.

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic made a spelling mistake on my ticket. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one: we’ve had a couple of reports from readers whose names were also misspelled. Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic is saying that they have no capacity to fix their own spelling mistakes on ANA tickets. In my case, they cancelled and rebooked my ticket (even though we asked them not to risk that) and it ended up OK. You can’t count on that working out, but your other alternatives might not be much more appealing. Still, it’s worth double checking your email confirmation. I know that I usually skip past that email, but if you’ve booked an ANA first class award with Virgin Atlantic, you should probably check and make sure the agent typed everything correctly so you know what you’re working with if there is an error.

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Now I am in the same boat. Has one middle name misspelled by one letter, called VS to fix, and was told that the agent will split the PNR, cancel and rebook. After 15 minutes, the agent told me she cannot rebook. She tried to purchase a cash ticket for me but the system does not give a quote, though I can see cash tickets are available on ANA/UA/Expedia website.

I really got stuck. Agent said she will try again and call me tomorrow, but I just don’t know what would be the solution. I used Expertflyer to track the flight, no alert for my flight so far, nor did the available cash ticket seat increased. Also never receive VS email saying one passage ticket is canceled, no miles returned to my account, but the PNR does not show the passanger now….

I need your advice!! Thanks! I am so desperate now.


I am a junior and I just realized when I went to choose my seats that the JR that is on my passport and my ANA account is not on my virgin atlantic account therefore not on my ticket. Should I call and try to add it?


I am really curious, why virgin atlantic charges vey high fees when I try to book business class using miles. Is it worth it using miles through virgin atlantic?


There were no issues with misspellings on our confirmation email, although I did notice neither passenger had a middle name included even though it was provided during booking to the agent. I’m not sure it is worth the hassle of calling and asking for them to be included, or if we should risk showing up since middle names are almost never part of a reservation anyways.


Personally, I have not had an international flight problem not including the middle name. This seems to be the case from FM, as well (correct me if I am wrong)?
I think the danger comes in when you include the middle name and it is misspelled. They will catch it when they check your passport. If you ask agent to add the middle name, you run the chance the agent may misspell the middle name and then you open a can of worms.
Actually, I need to input my daughter’s passport info into the ANA website bc it is asking for it. Since I didn’t include my daughter’s middle name, I doubt it if the system will catch this.


Happened to me, but once cancelled the was was not rebookable. It’s gone. Had to book a JAL redemption.


it just happened now? i am on the same boat and waiting VS to update the name


Booked ANA via Virgin miles last summer and had a misspelling as well. They left the last letter off our last name after being very insistent during the booking process that they had to get the names exactly right because of ANA’s rules. Called in after looking at our emailed itinerary and was told they would have to cancel and hope the award was available to them. Like your case, it worked out just fine… so another data point that this shouldn’t be a problem.


I don’t see what the problem is. All five of you are travelling, just show up with “Alexandra” on the ticket and, if there’s a problem, borrow a dress from Carrie.


Any conspiracy theory they’re trying to hope for slippage and cancellations to avoid the cost of these awards? I guess the simplest explanation is incompetence by agents suddenly slammed?


I’ll also add… it’s only SFO. It was ORD or JFK I’d think more conspiracy theory.


I listened to your awesome podcast on ANA. Since I booked through my Avianca account, I had all of the names in place. I don’t have a middle name but my daughter does. I don’t have my daughter’s middle name included in my account bc Avianca ask for first, last, and other. I have no idea what ‘other’ is? Therefore, only her first and last name are on the e-ticket from ANA. Like you said, I have never run into a middle name problem when not included in an international reservation.

Since we are on a Japan tour, I had to reserve our flights around it with no flexibility. Thanks to you, the three of us are on the Suite (HND=>SFO)!!! Like you have said, this is truly a miracle and unheard of opportunity.

I just now have to get a flight from SFO=>SAN.

Thank you again, to say the least!!!

Dick Bupkiss

> What can you do if your name is misspelled?
I have a better solution.

Legally change your name so it matches the way it appears on the booking.

You’re never going to replicate this award booking for the rest of your life, might as well be sure you get to fly it. When you get home, you can always change your name back if you want to.