The Basics

Airlines, Names, and Problems

same names and airlines
Written by Charlie

Even in this modern age, there are still problems with airlines and same names. Here is what happened and some things to look for.

My family and I have traveled quite a bit together and we all handle it pretty well. We have been traveling with them since the first one was born and now we have 4 so we have our little systems down and everything seems to go ok (most of the time!).

Problems with Airlines and Same Names

same names and airlines

Not smiling when airline systems cannot process tickets correctly!

Same Names

But, a few times, we have had an issue with certain airlines when my son and I are on the same reservation. The problem stems from him being the IV and me being the III as far as suffixes go. I understand that other countries do not have that sort of thing and the suffixes are not my problem with this situation.

Birthdates Do Not Solve the Problem

What is the problem is that even when we have our birthdates in the system (obviously very different) and different frequent flyer numbers, the system cannot fathom that we are still two different people. How efficient is this when our secure flight data does not process in the system that we are different people?

The Recent Problem

It has been a couple of years since this happened (last time was with Turkish) but now it has happened again – and it is a bit of a pain. I was making a quick trip and thought it would be fun to have my oldest son come along with me. So, I booked our tickets and we were good to go! Except, no, we weren’t. When I went to check in online, the Air Berlin website told me that there was an error and it would have to be handled at the airport. It also said NOVALIDTICKETS. Not the sort of thing you want to see!

Phone Calls, Airport Visits, More Phone Calls

I called the booking carrier (I used my AA miles for the trip) and they were great as they made some calls and tried to get it sorted out. However, in the end, no solution. The only solution available was to split our record but the system would not let them do that because my son is a minor.

So, that left us with the only remaining option – to check-in at the airport. Being that it only takes us 2 minutes to get through the security and to our gate, I was really enjoying the fact that we could stay at home for as long as possible since we had a busy day. Instead, we had to be at the airport when check-in opened to get it sorted out (2 hours before the flight) – on the outbound and the return.

Some of the possible solutions given have been:

  • Add the suffix to the last name (it would be a problem when using our Global Entry and is sometimes a problem with TSA) – except if we use frequent flyer numbers, it does not let us change
  • Book separate reservations (I would have to pay a fee for the traveling minor and/or the airline would not allow it)
  • Add a middle initial to one and not the other (I have done this and it does not work)
  • Just keep getting to the airport early! Not really a solution but what has to be done!

Both times I was at the airport to deal with, it involved about 30 minutes or so at the counter while the agent was on the phone. Not ideal for sure! At least I know that it is an involved situation and I need to allow time. Since it is something that gets fixed on the phone, I just wish that same fix would apply initially!


This appears to mostly be a problem with international airlines. It is not common to have the same names with Sr. Jr. and so on in many countries so the problem will mostly will mostly be with the international airlines (though I did have to make a change on a name with Delta to book an international ticket with them).

So far, I have had this problem with Turkish, Aegean, Air Berlin, and Delta (for international travel). Flying on United, American, Southwest, JetBlue, Delta (dometic), and Lufthansa has not presented a problem.

Dealing with the Problem

If you have the same names in your family and will be flying, just make sure you check your reservation. The problem pops up when you go to check-in so you will have enough notice in advance so that you get to the airport early. If you are booking an international trip, it may be helpful to make sure you select a departing flight that leaves you with plenty of time to get to the airport earlier than normal.

It appears that they cannot do anything about these issues over the phone, only in person at the airport. Both times, the agents were not able to do anything initially and had to send me to customer service. Just realize that it will take some time and they will need to make some calls and it should be ok.

Have you had this happen because of the same names? What airlines did this happen with?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Haven’t had this happen to me, but when I was a BA employee I helped customers who had this issue, so have some insight. I’ll try answering under some of the solutions you listed… but in a different order…

    ***Book separate reservations (I would have to pay a fee for the traveling minor and/or the airline would not allow it)
    —Won’t work – I’ve seen this, with two pax who were unrelated and happened to have the same name on the same flight

    ***Add a middle initial to one and not the other (I have done this and it does not work)
    —Not sufficiently distinctive. Not sure why, but usually not enough

    ***Add the suffix to the last name (it would be a problem when using our Global Entry and is sometimes a problem with TSA) – except if we use frequent flyer numbers, it does not let us change
    —Possibly. This would be awkward, and would require your GE and/or frequent flyer profiles to be updated. This would work though, as your last names would be RUNNINGIII and RUNNINGIV.

    My suggestion would be to use middle names in the name field (assuming you have different those?) and do RUNNING/CHARLIEMILES and RUNNING/CHARLIEBILLYBOB which shouldn’t upset GE/TSA. FQTVs might still need updating, depending on the airline. If your middle names are the same then consider a legal name change! Or maybe RUNNING/CHARLIETHIRD and RUNNING/CHARLIEFOURTH – slightly odd but understandable, and still shouldn’t hurt GE/TSA.

    The issue you’re running into is one very big reason why I don’t want my future children named after me, not even sharing my first initial – I’m considering the future travel difficulties! I can’t tell my wife that of course, and she really likes my name, and lots of names withe same letter! It’s mine I tell you, mine!

    Also see for a recent thread about name formats on BA.

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t represent any airline as I currently don’t work for one 🙁

    • Thanks so much! Great comment and very helpful, really appreciate it. I had a choice but not much really, being a 3rd, I had to keep the line going! 🙂

  • I have same problem with my son. Whenever we travel together even with different record locator I have some sort of issue. Back in 2003 I as traveling with both of my daughters. Their name both start with A. For some reason airlines and security had an issue and my 3 year old daughter had to be subjected to pat down by airport security. Crazy

  • I flew air berlin from Tel aviv-Dusseldorf-Miami and I didnt have a problem w my kid and I. The ticket did not have my middle name but my ID did. My kid does not have a middle name. I booked it through AA as an award ticket.

  • I’m a Sr and my son is a Jr and it happens ALL THE TIME with AA – international or domestic. We have the same first, middle, and last name – only difference is Jr/Sr. We have the suffixes in our advantage profiles, and when we book with AA I just in the two advantage numbers (so the system picks the names from our profiles). After that, I can’t see the reservation on the AA app, and can’t check in online. I’ve been working with AA for a month to try to solve this – they’re aware of the problem but it needs an IT fix (and we know what IT means in a big company …) most recently they’re going to add the Jr into my son’s last name so it reads “Lastname Jr” … we’ll see if that solves it.