An airport can be an exciting place, one where your vacation or adventure begins.
It can also be a very stressful place if you’ve made a common passport date mistake, your flight is cancelled (especially if it was booked this way) or you realise your middle name is not on your plane ticket.
It makes sense that the name on an airline ticket and passport must match, to confirm the person travelling is the ticket-owner. But do you need your middle name on a plane ticket as well?
Anecdotally, I’ve taken dozens of flights to far-flung places with a middle name on my passport but not my airline ticket. Has a lack of issues been down to luck? Or because it’s not needed?
According to the New Zealand Government, “the name in your passport must match your tickets and your officially registered name”.
It does not explicitly state whether just the first name and surname must match or all names, including middle names.
What do travel agents say?
Travel agencies such as Flight Centre are, arguably, the experts when it comes to booking airline tickets, simply due to the thousands they book every year for clients.
According to a Flight Centre spokesperson, the rules on middle names tend to be set and enforced by airlines and while most only need a first and last name, some do require it to match the passport exactly.
“A handful of airlines do require middle names on bookings in order for customers to travel, but the general rule for the majority of carriers is first and last name as per passport is sufficient,” they said.
What do airlines say?
Because airlines will check your ticket and passport when you check in and board the aircraft, it’s important to understand their specific terms and conditions around names, especially if they are not universal.
Air New Zealand does not require middle names on flight bookings but gives passengers the option to include them if they wish.
If you’re flying Jetstar, you also do not need to add your middle name to your booking, unless you’re travelling to one specific destination, a Jetstar spokesperson told the Herald.
“When travelling, the name on your Jetstar booking is required to match the name on your ID or passport. However, it is not a requirement to add your middle name, unless you are travelling to Honolulu (US).”
Qantas does not require a middle name to be included when making a booking. If other airlines are included in a single journey, it recommends checking their policy.
In the US, however, airlines may be stricter on this, as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is required to collect “secure flight data” on passengers. According to the TSA: “This includes the passenger’s full name as it appears on the non-expired government-issued photo ID, date of birth, gender.”
Better safe than sorry, says Consumer NZ
If you’ve booked with a travel agency and there is an issue with your name on the booking, the agency is obliged to correct the error without charging you, consumer watchdog Consumer NZ says.
This could extend to omitting a middle name when an airline requires one.
Since some airlines demand it and other airlines are not bothered by its inclusion in a booking, Consumer NZ recommends a “better safe than sorry” approach.
“While omitting your middle name might be fine with one airline, we think it’s safest to always ensure it appears on your ticket if it’s also on your passport.”
Given how simple it is to include your middle name when booking a ticket or with a travel agency, it seems like a simple but worthwhile precaution to take.