Last week, we had our internal Crankyfest gathering for Cranky Concierge. We do this every year as a way for the team to get together, work through issues, and talk strategy for the future. Thanks to some shenanigans, a lack of French language knowledge by the TSA, and an unhelpful American agent, one of our employees almost never made it through security after the event. There is definitely an important lesson to learn here. Don’t mess with funny titles for travelers.
We usually do our gathering in June or July, and this year we chose Palm Springs. Palm Springs in the summer? Well, yeah. It’s hot, but it’s also cheap. And it makes it easier for us to put together a great outing without breaking the bank. In fact, we were able to fly everyone out using miles, which was tremendously helpful.
For one of our guys, Kevin, we found availability using British Airways miles to fly him back from Ontario to Dallas/Ft Worth on American at the end of the trip. Ontario is only an hour away from Palm Springs and it was on the way back toward home in Long Beach anyway so this worked well. But the person who booked it decided to have a little fun with Kevin in a way that can only be done when booking British Airways.
See, when you book a flight using British Airways points, they give you an incredible range of titles you can use. I’m talking about everything from Rear Admiral to Princess. There are dozens and dozens of choices. So, the person who booked Kevin decided he was feeling French.
With that, Monsieur Kevin was booked on an American flight. Now, you wouldn’t expect anyone to care about titles. It’s not like an airline is going to verify if you’re a Princess or not, right? And “monsieur” just means “mister” in French so it really shouldn’t be a problem. Leave it to TSA to find a way….
Kevin got to the airport and picked up a boarding pass at a kiosk. The title is printed as part of the name on the ticket, so Monsieur was clearly visible. You can see the boarding pass on top of the photo below.
Of course, Kevin didn’t think twice about this. He walked through the empty TSA checkpoint and the ID checker balked. Kevin was told that his name on his ID didn’t match the name on his ticket, and he wouldn’t be allowed into the secure area. Seriously.
Now if it had said ROBERTS/KEVIN MR, then the TSA clearly would have let him right through. So Kevin explained to the agent that this was the exact same thing in French. It didn’t matter. The agent, while actually very friendly and sympathetic, refused to let him through. The agent said that the airlines had been unhappy that some people with name mismatches had been getting through, so they decided to be more strict on the policy. He said that if American was fine with it, then it would be ok, but first, they had to walk over to American to ask.
You would hope that the American agent would have fixed this quickly, but no. This agent apparently didn’t feel like being helpful at all and barked at Kevin that he’d have to call reservations and pay a $200 change fee to get the ticket reissued. (Yes, that’s right. The TICKET counter couldn’t help with ticketing.) Sacré bleu!
The agent didn’t even bother to look at the record, but once Kevin explained that it was a BA ticket and this couldn’t be done directly with American, then things started to move. The agent went into the back with a supervisor to review the situation. The agents came back with a reprinted boarding pass on the stock they use at the ticket counter (the bottom half of the photo above) that had absolutely nothing different in terms of the name field. That was good enough for TSA, so Kevin went right on through and boarded his flight.
This isn’t the first time we’ve messed with silly titles — Kevin passed through DFW without trouble as a Commandant once — but it’ll probably be the last. It might be perfectly legitimate to do it (at least with monsieur), but it’s not worth the hassle if you run into an uneducated agent who won’t find it amusing. (That being said, the rest of us in the company found this all hilarious….)