The curious case of the KLM passenger with two names

26 November 2010

Bitterwallet - KLM ticketsI recently booked return tickets to the US, flying with KLM. I'm a member of their frequent flyer programme, so I entered my Flying Blue details before confirming my flight, to collect points for the booking.

When I was prompted to enter passenger information, the website automatically populated the data fields with my name, address and other information - all taken from my Flying Blue account. This information is also a requirement of APIS (Advance Passenger Information System), a security measure put in place by the US Department of Homeland Security.

I paid for my flights and confirmed the booking, but when the reservation was sent to my email, the passenger name was "Smith Paul", not "Paul Smith" - I'd entered my first name as my surname, and vice-versa. Dick.

Except I hadn't.

My name had been entered for me by my Flying Blue frequent flyer account - I'd made the error when I first created the account last year. No big deal, I thought - I called KLM and rectified the matter.

Then I remembered I flew to the US with KLM in March this year. Out of mild curiosity, I checked the eTicket from March, and the name I flew under:

Bitterwallet - KLM boarding pass
I'd successfully taken a return flight the US under the wrong name - I didn't notice the error at the time, and so didn't have my eTicket corrected. So here's how that trip played out:

• I took four flights in total (from the UK to Schiphol and then on to the US, and similar for the return flight), and from memory my various tickets and boarding passes were checked by airport and airline staff on at least eight separate occasions - nobody spotted that my my first name and surname were incorrect.

• the name on the boarding passes didn't match the name in my passport or the information held by the ESTA programme, another initiative of the US Department of Homeland Security which I'd submitted in January 2009

• this incorrect information was presumably submitted to APIS by the airline, so this wouldn't have matched ESTA's records either; these two programmes are both operated by the US Department of Homeland Security to order to spot anomalies

Now I can at understand why staff wouldn't pick up on the mistake - those at the gates are checking hundreds of boarding passes; those at security see thousands in one day.

But why didn't the hardware spot that the surname on my boarding pass and on APIS didn't match the surname on my passport, or that my boarding passes didn't match my ESTA entry? A security system wouldn't overlook the fact that the two names don't match. The data in one field didn't match the data in the corresponding field - end of story. Computers don't get hassled or distracted, and they don't glaze over after checking boarding passes all day long.

Did the airline submit my information to APIS? Is APIS not networked to ESTA, or the system that holds passport information? It'd be interesting to know whether there's an obvious explanation, or whether all the bureaucracy is as ineffective as travellers often believe it to be.

TOPICS:   Travel


  • jaffacake
    or perhaps a computer flashed up an alert to a human, who checked the data, realised the mistake, examined your profiles and decided you weren't the type to carry a bomb?
  • TeflonMan
    Slow news day?
  • Thomas P.
    Who cares?
  • Neville N.
    Same thing happened to me. I'm furious.
  • Brian
    So true, the name Paul Smith isn't a high risk name when security staff are profiling people.
  • Mrs G.
    "Saturdays child works hard for his living"... haha, if only :)
  • Fredferd
    You should have been given the 'rubber glove' treatment at every check point IMO
  • niblet
    if true, this is outrageous.... the yanks are kicking up shit about the TSA and their heavy-handed approach to security.... stories like this back up their worries its just another waste of time and money that inconveniences travellers.
  • Jeremy H.
    Why didn't you fly direct from the UK anyway?
  • Meeeee
    Your still a dick though, you still entered your details wrong at one place or another. Conclusion - Pay more attention to filling out forms then wasting time writing articles saying you cant fill out forms correctly.
  • common s.
    Maybe they know things like this often happen and have common sense programmed into the system. Different airlines put names down as NAME SURNAME, or SURNAME NAME. So they check both ways for a match, so as not to waste time.
  • poopants
  • Madeley R.
    Why are you always going to America? There are plenty of other countries out there to visit you know. Or is the constant lure of slightly cheaper Apple products just too overwhelming?
  • whisky
    The hardware wouldn't give a monkeys whatever your name is. It's the software that should have flagged it up.
  • Yawn
    Cool story bro
  • Mark C.
    Considering some cultures traditionally put the family name before the gven name anyway, not to mention the waide variation between different airlines' booking systems, I'm sure it's something they make allowances for.
  • Paul
    @Meeeee "you're" not "your" ...tit
  • Lumoruk
    He visits America so often because the Development team are over there. He has to pass on the details of the latest fixes that need doing then they action them. Hence why it is taking so long to get the bugs fixed on hotukdeals.
  • David
    I'm relieved that you were able to travel without hindrance. Surnames and forenames are regularly interchanged in other cultures where you might well address someone with their surname only or surname, forename. It makes perfect sense to me that Paul Smith and Smith, Paul are the same person and it's refreshing to know that our systems can accomodate human beings rather than the other way around.
  • Paul S.
    Lumoruk - you're confusing the people associated with this site. There are two people with the name Paul. We're not the same person. And the dev team isn't in the US. Tit.
  • dearieme
    Ho hum,another day,another NOTHING story-one day there will be an interesting story posted here,but by then hell will have frozen over.
  • Mark
    It would have been a different story if your name was Abdul Abdulla-Afganistanivich oh and lumor is a cock, please don't associate everyone on hukd with him.
  • zax
    What everyone is failing to notice is the point Mr. Smith Paul is trying to make. ... erm.. I mean Paul Smith.... which is that this is a serious Security issue. He could have put his name as Smith Osama and no one would have stopped him.
  • Paul
  • tiny
    What I wanna know is how you manage to get that all on expenses?
  • Smith P.
    No, I'm Smith Paul.
  • Dave
    Many years ago I booked a flight through KLM, and noticed that my ticket also had my surname and forename the wrong way around. A quick phone call sorted it out, but I wondered exactly how I'd got it the wrong way around as I'm a bit anal at checking all the details of forms before I part of my cash. I am also a Flying Blue member, so I wonder if there is some sort of problem between KLM's site and Flying Blue's database that swaps the names over? Or maybe Flying Blue had a fault where people who became Flying Blue members at a certain time (I've been with them since 2003) have their details the wrong way around in the database?
  • David
    What does it matter if he was called Smith Osama? Is this the name of some wanted terrorist or something? Are any of you really so naiive to believe that a terrorist would always travel under the same name? It reminds me of the ID card fiasco - it basically depended on all the criminals following the rules and by definition 100% of terrorists and criminals are proven to not do that.
  • Smith O.
    What's wrong with my name? Racialists.
  • Keith
    It worked when that shoe bomber Reid Richard booked, he got on the plane no problem. Masters of disguise those militants.
  • Tommy
    Just wasted 90sec of my life reading this shit, why don't you get a proper job? Consumer forum my arse, you take everyones news and blog as your own most of the time, and your the tit on here, andrex are after someone for a new range in paper, suggest you apply you should fit in well writing about shit, That no one cares about, in a few years or sooner, you will be sweeping the streets with your bum chums...
  • Hnnnrg
    Paul Smith is building quite a port folio of articles in which he demonstrates how insanely poor his attention to detail is. I don't know what to make of it. Is it deliberate? Is he aiming for the Jade Goody effect, where he becomes the lovable idiot? Or is he just stupid, plain and simple? One thing's for sure, the line of people queuing up to join HUKD's editorial staff when this place first began must've been real fucking short.
  • Smith P.
    Agree hNnnrg this Paul smith is a real cunt, I wish he would fuck off to the states and stay, I think he likes to tell persons he's a big man reporter, when most reporters would not piss on the twat, His target Market, are pricks like him, everyone else thinks he talks and writes a load of utter fucking crap, oohh they got my name wrong, next time let's hope they chuck him off the plane mid air, you 5 year old acting twat, worse bit about it he actually believes this dribble he writes....What's he famous for? Boasting about himself, reporter? Fuck off you must be joking

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