Nancy and Bryan Murphy review their booking confirmation and itinerary for a trip they would never experience.
“Right now we should be exploring the Golden Circle in Iceland. We were supposed to be at the Secret Lagoon tonight,” Nancy Murphy told her husband on Friday.
She spent hours planning a four-day, kid-free dream vacation for the couple’s 13th wedding anniversary. Nancy called the vacation a “bucket list trip.”
“We have two young boys so we haven’t been away together for years, even for one night,” she said.
After booking the time off work and making arrangements for their two sons, the couple headed off to Toronto Pearson International Airport on Wednesday. They promised friends and family they would take lots of pictures.
“We handed our boarding passes to the WOW airline employee and he took our boarding passes and our passports, looked them over, scanned them,” Nancy said.
They checked a suitcase, paid the baggage fee to WOW air, and passed through security for the three-hour wait until the flight’s scheduled departure.
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When it was finally time to board, the Murphys said they approached the agent. Bryan said they were told, “I can’t allow you to board the plane.”
As it turns out, Nancy and Bryan Murphy have middle names that are on their passports, but were not printed on their boarding passes.
“Just because my middle name wasn’t on the boarding pass, what difference does it make?” Bryan said.
“My passport has a picture of me on it. It has my name. The first and last names match the boarding pass. Who else is it going to be?”
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Bryan said he became frustrated as the couple waited for 40 minutes to find out if there was any hope of boarding the flight to Iceland. Nancy said she cried.
“We were devastated,” she noted, adding they spoke with another couple who were also rejected because of the same middle name mix-up.
Nancy said she takes responsibility for not including their middle names on the initial booking, but she questioned why the first WOW employee did not flag it as being a problem.
Canadian air passenger rights advocate Gábor Lukács said that while the general principle is that a name on a passport must match a name on a boarding pass, to what extent is up in the air.
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“Most Canadian airlines don’t emphasize the middle name. As long as the first and last name match you’re good to fly,” he said, noting there is no uniform rule in Canada.
Lukács said he has even seen airlines attempt to charge a fee to make a simple name change, which he noted is illegal.
“We all know who the person who was intended to travel is and, as such, the airline has a duty to cooperate with the passenger,” he said while referencing the Murphys’ case.
At this point, the only cooperation from WOW air is an offer to pay the couple back a fraction of the trip’s full cost.
“I want an apology. I want to be refunded for the flights we didn’t get. We paid for services we didn’t receive,” Nancy said.
Global News reached a spokesperson for WOW air in Iceland, who said the name on a passport has to match the name on the flight ticket for “security reasons.”
“WOW air recently began allowing the option to change names on a reservation at check in counters, but at this stage this has not yet been fully implemented at the Canadian airports we service,” Svana Fridriksdottir said.
When asked about the initial airline employee who approved the boarding passes, Fridriksdottir responded that she will “look into this and try to contact our handling agent at the airport.”
It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime for Nancy and Bryan, instead the couple cancelled their days off and returned to work early. They said it likely won’t be until this time next year that they could plan another adventure.