Quebec couple charged fees to cancel airline tickets after names spelled wrong

Kurt and Marlene Dobbertin were charged $150 after they were issued plane tickets to Wisconsin from Ontario-based travel company FlightHub with their names spelled wrong...until CBC Montreal Investigates stepped in.

Kurt and Marlene Dobbertin ordered to pay $150 to correct typo on 2 airline tickets

The Dobbertins say they were forced to pay cancellation fees for e-tickets which spelled their names incorrectly, until CBC Montreal Investigates intervened.

It's not uncommon for people with exotic surnames to spend a considerable amount of time on the phone going over exactly how to spell them.

They're probably also used to asking for corrections when all else fails.

It's rare for the typos to cost $150.

Kurt and Marlene Dobbertin were charged that amount after they were issued plane tickets to Wisconsin from Ontario-based travel company FlightHub with their names spelled wrong, and had to get new ones.

There was no commitment to refund the money until CBC Montreal Investigates intervened.

"I've been spelling my name right for 81 years," Dobbertin said in an interview at his home in Sherrington, Que., about 60 kilometres south of Montreal.

He said he originally called FlightHub after he had trouble booking the e-tickets online, and received good service over the phone. A customer services agent reviewed all of his and his wife's information before sending the tickets by email.

"My name, also, they spelled back to me," Dobbertin said. "I just missed that my name was spelled with two Ps instead of two Bs."

Dobbertin said he called the company back as soon as he opened his email inbox and saw the typos.

"The ticket is worthless to me, it has to be spelled right," he explained. "It won't get past the airport. Clearly my passport is spelled with two Bs."

FlightHub agreed it would have to reissue the tickets with the Dobbertins' names spelled correctly, but it asked for a $75 dollar cancellation fee per ticket, Dobbertin said.

He argued with the company for two hours over the telephone, he said, but to no avail.

"[The agent] actually said it was a good deal because if I waited any longer, it's going to cost me $175 to cancel per person."

The company does indeed charge $175 in cancellation fees per ticket, as per the information on an electronic copy of a receipt forwarded to CBC by Dobbertin.

Dobbertin paid the $150 in cancellation fees, and bought new tickets without any typos.

Company calls it a 'miscommunication'

When CBC Montreal Investigates reached out to FlightHub for comment, a company representative apologized to the Dobbertins.

FlightHub apologized to the Dobbertins after a phone call by CBC, and said the money for the cancellation fees would be making its way back to the couple.

"This is probably a miscommunication," said Jean-Michel, who presented himself as a manager in customer service, and would not disclose his full name for "security reasons."

Jean-Michel also committed to calling the Dobbertins and refunding the cancellation fees. During a second conversation with CBC, he said he'd left them a voice message, and that they'd already been refunded.

"The agent [who dealt with them] is probably a new agent, with not much experience, I guess," he added.

Jean-Michel also said a supervisor would speak to the agent.

Be cautious online: consumer group

Advocacy group Option Consommateurs said people should be careful when making ticket purchases online from flight companies.

Annik Bélanger-Krams with advocacy group Option Consommateur says online consumers should look into the backgrounds of web-based companies when buying flight tickets.

Annik Bélanger-Krams, an attorney with the organization, said consumers should make sure to buy their tickets from registered travel agencies.

"Look up on the governmental agencies, for  instance, the Office de la Protection du Consommateur, and see if that company has a history of having complaints against them, or a history of fines," she added.

Bélanger-Krams also advised looking up reviews by previous users of the companies online.

CBC Montreal Investigates

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Raffy Boudjikanian

Senior reporter

Raffy Boudjikanian is a senior reporter with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. He has also worked in Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal for the public broadcaster.


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