Air Canada allows married couples to use each other’s travel vouchers when purchasing a flight, but only if they share the same last name. These vouchers can be used to pay for flights and are usually given for situations such as mechanical delays or being “bumped” onto a future flight.
When Chris Turner, author of the War of Science, was bumped from one Air Canada flight to a later flight, he was given a voucher that he could use as credit towards a future flight. Air Canada’s policy is to let immediate family members use a passenger’s voucher, but when Turner attempted to use his voucher on his wife’s ticket, he ran into an issue. Because Turner’s wife had elected to keep her maiden name, Air Canada would not let her use her husband’s travel voucher.
Air Canada explained through Twitter that this policy is in place to prevent fraud. But Turner expressed that he believes this policy “institutionalizes a lower quality of service to women who kept their maiden names.” Twitter lit up in support of Turner with users calling this policy sexist and outdated, especially in light of same-sex marriage.
Air Canada’s solution was to offer Turner the ability to apply the voucher to his wife’s ticket after her flight is complete to get a partial refund—something passengers can do with their vouchers for anyone. The ability to apply a voucher prior to a flight is a benefit for direct family members, but not for ones with different last names. Air Canada’s resolution is something Turner can do for anyone, not just family members. In essence, this process treats married couples without the same name as not married at all.
Many airlines allow vouchers to be used on any tickets. For example, American Airlines allows a voucher to be applied to any ticket as long as the bumped passenger is the one booking the ticket. But other airlines are much stricter. Delta only allows bumped passengers to rebook a flight in their own name. Air Canada’s policy falls in between the two and is less common.
Bill Glod, a frequent flier, ran into similar issues with US Airways; however, US Airways was able to override its system whereas Air Canada would not. “US Airways offered my wife the ability to add a spouse to her US Airways Club membership,” Glod stated, “but when she attempted to add me, they rejected her request because we had different last names.” While US Airways rules stated the couple must share a last name or an address, the system rejected their request anyway. US Airways overrode the system after being contacted by Glod, but their system remains the same.
Turner posted on Twitter that all the Air Canada representatives were kind to him even though they could not assist and if they “hadn't been so wearily familiar with the glitch [he] was encountering, [he] probably wouldn't have made it public.”