The Unique Allegiant Name Change Option

I was supposed to be winging my way north on my first trip on Allegiant to Bellingham this weekend for a short visit with some family. Unfortunately, a lot came up for them and they called the trip off. On most airlines, I would just have to take my losses (the ticket cost less than the change fee), but on Allegiant, there is the unique option for a 2010_08_09 g4boardingpassname change.

In fact, if you’re interested in using these tickets (from Long Beach to Bellingham on Thursday, back Sunday), send me a note at cf@crankyflier.com.

As you know, almost no airline allows you to change your name. Allegiant, however, is different. Its business model means that name changes make sense. For me, this means that my absurdly cheap $40 ticket won’t necessarily go to waste, despite the fact that the $50 change fee costs more than the ticket itself.

So why is it that this works for Allegiant and not others? It’s all about the nature of the people onboard. Allegiant is a pure leisure airline and it sells nearly all of its seats (usually over 90% filled each month). By nature, most of these leisure travelers show up for their flights, so Allegiant can’t gain a ton by overbooking. With most people booking further in advance, Allegiant also doesn’t see a big spread in airfare. Allegiant also makes a ton of money via ancillary revenue. So, if Allegiant lets someone else take over a ticket for $50, it’s probably worth another $30 or so in ancillary revenue that it wouldn’t get if the original traveler just didn’t show up.

For the traditional airlines, it’s a different story. The business traveler is more likely to no-show (or change plans at the last minute) than most, so those airlines with a biz traveler focus can consistently overbook more. Those last minute tickets on traditional carriers cost a lot more than a mere $50 name change fee, so for them to allow it would be a revenue-negative move.

The biggest concern for airlines is, of course, that a secondary market gets created and the airlines won’t be able to take a cut. Think about it. The scalper business could be huge. You buy a bunch of cheap tickets for Thanksgiving the day they go on sale and then resell them at 5 times the price once flights start filling up. It would require some pretty serious process work to make sure that the system doesn’t get taken advantage of. For most, it’s easier to just not allow it at all.

From Allegiant’s perspective, they’ve spelled things out in their terms and conditions:

The purchase and resale of any or all Allegiant Air products including, but not limited to, travel, hotel, auto, activities or services, packages, promotions, convenience fees and taxes, baggage fees and/or seat fees by any individual, entity or company is strictly prohibited unless you are an authorized agent of Allegiant Air.

In other words, I can’t charge anyone who might want my ticket. I can have them pay the name change fee, I think, but that’s it. (Maybe I can encourage a donation to Equitas Academy. I sit on the board and our big fundraiser is coming up.) But I can’t make any money off this. The hard part for Allegiant and anyone else, however, is that this is likely to be incredibly hard to enforce.

I remain convinced that there’s a way to make something like this work on a wider scale, but I don’t have access to the internal data you’d need to really figure out if it could work or not. At least for Allegiant, it seems like a much easier case to make.

19 Responses to The Unique Allegiant Name Change Option

  1. Remember the days before 9/11 when you didn’t have to show I.D. to board a flight, you could look at the Sunday paper and see tons of ads in the classified section with people selling penalty airplane tickets they couldn’t use. They would give the market and dates, airline name, and say male or female. It was mostly domestic travel, but sometimes you would see an international market and it shows how dumb people were if they bought those tickets. You would need a passport and it wouldn’t match the name on the ticket….duh

    Coming from an airline we would try and track these tickets down by checking flight manifests to see how many people were traveling on the dates given in a certain market and try and catch them at the airport when they checked in by asking for I.D. that matched the name on the ticket.

    People think there is nothing wrong with giving someone your paid ticket, just as if they bought a concert ticket and gave it to someone if they couldn’t go.
    But the airlines know if you can’t go on your nonrefundable fare, they would rather have you cancel and try and sell the seat (at a higher price) to someone else, or at least have it free so a full fare traveler could change at the last minute and have a seat available.

    Airlines will act like it’s impossible to change a name on a ticket. No it’s not, it just means a little extra work on someones part and having the policy that says it’s ok to do. With so many electric tickets, you don’t even have to deal with changing a physical paper ticket, so it’s even easier to do. If they wanted to!

    • Oliver says:

      @David — you generally don’t have to show ID to board a flight. You need to have a boarding pass or gate pass with the same name as the one on your ID to clear security. Unless the TSA happens to decide that the flight you then want to board needs a secondary screening (because they don’t trust their own primary work), there is nothing that prevents you to then board a plane with a different boarding pass.

      • Heh so true. I’ve used the trick of purchasing a fully refundable ticket so I have a boarding pass to get behind security then canceling the checkin and requesting a refund once I’m past the TSA peeps. It’d be easy enough to do this to fly on someone else’s ticket.

        Alas United would really hate me for this as I always pick on them for my boarding passes.

  2. JayB says:

    My guess is that someday, once the rules permit it, just about every person on a flight will have bought his or her ticket in the secondary market. Just sell the stupid ticket for whatever price you want. Then, go away! What I do with my ticket is none of your business, except what may be involved security-wise, and that doesn’t take a degree in rocket science.

    The airlines will always be able to get additional fee revenue from whomever shows up and takes a seat. I just don’t see the problem.

    By the way, Cranky, that wonderful picture of yours in the search for guest host topic is priceless. I suggest you throw it in every couple of months just to reinforce our feelings why we find this blog such an interesting read.

  3. James says:

    I presume the current airfare is higher than $50 to make it worth the hassle?

    • CF says:

      What hassle? It’s really easy to do. But yes, the current airfare on these flights is a whopping $461.87 per person including the convenience fee, etc.

  4. kt says:

    its a rip off airline nickle and dimming you for everything. why do travel writers keep promoting these sham airlines….cause they get free tickets and other perks to,

    • CF says:

      I usually don’t respond to these kinds of comments, but when it calls my honor into question, I always do it. I have never taken anything from Allegiant. You can see a full list of disclosures on my ethics page. This is not nickel-and-diming (nor is it nickle and dimming). It’s a perk that no other domestic airline offers, as far as I know.

  5. David Z says:

    I wonder if an airline made any attempt in the past to explain why they won’t allow name changes even if they really can? Of course, they might get dinged anyway. :)

  6. Travelnate says:

    CF ~ Interesting note about one of your comments. I had to fly to Kentucky frequently for work, two to three times a month, from our headquarters in South Florida. We found it cheaper & easier to book the Ft Lauderdale to Knoxville, Tn flights (no more Atlanta, woohoo!) on G4.

    What was interesting about these near-full MD80s: the HUGE amount of suits & ties on these flights.

    Almost everytime I flew, I prebooked the exit row window, and my seat mate at the aisle was *always* a business traveler. (I must also say this applies to some of the other markets from FLL, however the Sanford flights are most definitely leisure, the few that we took).

    I think that everyone keeps saying that the leisure travelers are the mainstay of Allegiant is not necessarily true. I spoke with a lot of people in my many travels on G4 and found out that only a few were leisure travelers from our destination point, the rest are a healthy mix of business & leisure travelers FROM South Florida.

    We can clearly see that American has taken notice and started up services from Miami to many of G4’s networks where it “competes” out of Ft. Lauderdale, however most of the travelers I spoke with said they’ll *always* fly Allegiant over the ERJ 145s of Eagle.

    Just like in the Phoenix market, I wouldn’t be surprised if business traffic accounts for at least 25% of those flights out of Mesa. G4 has picked many former HP markets where only connections exist, and Phoenix is still a large business center – where folks that live in Scottsdale, Chandler, Mesa, and Paradise Valley will almost certainly pick the nonstop on G4 out of convenient Mesa before heading to Sky Harbor to take a multi-stop flight.

  7. Fred says:

    Something I have thought about is to essentially photoshop boarding passes (for travel claims, not to get past the TSA). Whenever I check in online, I save the boarding pass as a PDF file as well as actually printing it, and so far I have a ‘collection’ of mostly Delta boarding passes.
    What is there to stop me from copying and editing the dates/airports/names on the boarding passes, by copying and pasting using the real font from my collection? They won’t look perfect, and of course the bar code won’t be valid to get on a flight, but with a little time and practice, I think that one could make a half-decent ‘fake’ boarding pass.
    Or, for that matter, photoshop someone else’s name onto your boarding pass.

    • CF says:

      Yep, you can easily photoshop boarding passes to get you past the TSA. But as they like to say, there are many layers of security, so if you’re really a threat, some other layer will stop you. Uh huh.

      • MCR says:

        Has anyone actually tried this? Would it be a crime? I have 3 people on our group that won’t be able to travel on an upcoming trip because of work and would hate for the tickets to go to waste.

        • Hrm, people have done it. Would it be a crime? Likely.

          I’d feel much more comfortable doing this by purchasing a fully refundable ticket so that I’d have a boarding pass to get behind security then canceling the check in and requesting a refund once I’m past the TSA peeps. This way the TSA can’t argue that you didn’t go through some of their checks.

          Either way I’m sure its against the airline’s contract of carriage..

        • CF says:

          Are you talking about photoshopping boarding passes or changing the name? If you’re changing the name, you can do it as long as you don’t resell the ticket. Otherwise, you’ll take a chance that you’ll get caught and it would be against the airline’s rules.

          • MCR says:

            Would we be violating any TSA rules? What would happen if we get caught? I just hate for the tickets to go to waste since the airline won’t give a refund.

          • CF says:

            Are you talking about selling the tickets to someone else? That’s an airline rule, not TSA. And if you get caught, you’ll forfeit the tickets. I’m not sure if they could go after you for further damages, but that’s possible, I suppose.

  8. ben says:

    this is no longer the policy at allegiant. they no longer transfer names. they’re also kind of jerks about it.

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