I am almost certain that Sir William Shakespeare did not have legally changing your birth name to your married name in mind when he wrote this line from "Romeo &Juliet". Nor did he take into account the scrutiny in which airlines examine the name on your passport in comparison to the name on your airline ticket. I hate to break it to ya, Mr. Shakespeare, but the airlines will most certainly disagree with your profound notion about the insignificance of a name. And they will tell you exactly what is in a name, all while refusing to let you board onto the plane and escorting you out of the airport.
While my recent name change experience hasn't gotten to the point of me being denied to board onto the plane (fingers crossed), I recently dealt with a hell of a lot just because I changed my birth name to my damn married name. Oh, and you bet your pretty little ass that my new husband, whom I love and adore, heard everything from "Why the hell did I change my name?!" to "I need divorce papers!" That last statement about divorce is something that I really said, but not in the context in which you're probably thinking.
Are you sitting down? Good. Because this is gonna be a long one ...
It all started with 2 lonely web surfers looking for love online. Jk. I won't bore you with all of our premarital dating details, but yes, we did meet online. Fast forward to 6 years later, we get married in San Francisco, CA (if you want a blog post about our wedding, which I must say - was pretty amazing, comment below and let me know). After the wedding, we decided to save up a bit more money and didn't go on our honeymoon right away. A few months later, in our newlywed bliss, we finally booked our honeymoon trip to go to Bali this May (T-Minus 22 days). At that point, I hadn't changed my name because 1.) I'm lazy AF and 2.) I was still on the fence about it, to be honest. So I booked my plane ticket under my birth name, thinking that it wouldn't be a big deal to change my name to match my passport later on. BIG mistake. BIG. HUGE.
Commence, Part 1: The Name Change Process:
I decided that I wanted my husband’s last name afterall and finally got my shit together (so I thought) to get my name changed. I did everything all the name change websites tell you to do. Obtain certified copies of your marriage certificate. Check. Get your Social Security Card updated to your new married name. Check. Get your Drivers License updated to your new married name. Check. And last but not least, update your passport.
Now the whole updating your passport part took me some time because my previous passport had just expired and I was worried that I would need to provide my birth certificate, which I had lost in one of my many moves (I was a bit of a nomadic gypsy for a hot minute). But I was later reassured by a U.S. Passport Agency Rep that it wasn't required and all I would need was: payment, my previous expired passport, some new passport sized photos, our marriage certificate, and the DS-82 Passport Renewal Form signed & completed. Phew. All good, right? Wrong!
First off, who knew that taking a damn passport photo would be such a big fucking deal? Well, I sure didn't. I searched for the nearest place to take a passport photo and was given a nearby store as a result. Cool. It was right by our house and my job? I could get it done during my lunch break, no problem. Wrong again. Called the store beforehand to make sure they even took passport photos. They confirmed, so I went. Got there and yup, it was busy as hell, of course. EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER tries to get errands done during lunch. Duh, Lanie. But I remained cool as a cucumber as I stood in line. I figured it would give me more time to powder my face and look good for the photo that I'd be stuck with for the next 10 years of my life. I was finally up next and as I explained that I needed a new passport photo to the cashier, I got a sinking feeling that she was new and didn't know what the hell she was doing. Why? Because she motioned for another cashier to come help her and said, "I haven't done this before, I don't know what I'm doing". Great. Just my luck. Her and her trusted confidant sat me next to a garbage can onto a stool that was in front of a white pull down projection screen. Click. They took the first photo without warning as I stared blankly at them while they were arguing over how to take the photo. "Um, may I please see the photo?" I asked. And I swear their eyes rolled to the back of their heads, down their spines, then back up again to respond with a "Sure. Here." I refused to be stuck with the disgusting photo that they showed me for the next 10 years, so I begged them to take it again. Click. "Here, how's this one?" The second photo wasn't as terrible as the first one, but it was still pretty bad. "I guess that's as good as it's gonna get," I replied. "Well, you're lucky we even showed it to you before printing it," the trusted cashier said, "we don't even show them to people usually". I was taken aback by her snarky remark but didn't have time to refute because I had to get my ass back to work. I sat in the car with my ugly passport photos and called my husband. "I hate them and the girls that took them were bitches!" I griped. "We can just take better ones at home babe," he said, calming me down. (Side note: my husband is the most patient and sweet man that I have ever met. If you ever meet him, give him a high five for putting up with my bullshit.) We looked up the requirements for a passport photo and made a plan to take the photos ourselves. He had to take new passport photos as well, so we ended up doing a passport photo shoot that same weekend & this was the result:
I gotta say, I'm pretty friggin' happy with my photo. But I may have shot myself in the foot by looking so glamorous because TSA is now going to expect to see that same brushed hairstyle and dolled up face. While on the contrary, I wouldn't be surprised if my husband gets stopped and pulled aside (for obvious reasons that I will not say). Nevertheless, moral of this passport photo story is: Take your own passport photos, follow the requirements, and send them in.
After our at-home photo shoot, I mailed in my completed application along with a money order for an expedited passport renewal, my printed photos, a certified copy of our marriage certificate, and my previous passport. Two weeks later, I got my new passport in the mail and was ecstatic. I thought I was in the clear ... until I called to have the name on my airline ticket changed.
Part 2: Change Name on Airline Ticket
Silly ol' naive me called the travel agency in which we booked our discounted airfare to simply change my name on my ticket. "Sorry ma'am, we cannot change the name of the ticket without the authorization of the airline." Ok, understandable. I called the airline. "We cannot change the name on your existing ticket because you booked it through a travel agency. You will need to work with the travel agency to send in a request to have your name changed on your airline ticket." Now I'm starting to get heated. They're giving me the run-around. I called the travel agency back. "I was told by Blank at Blank Airlines that they cannot change the name on my ticket without your authorization". After a long hold, the travel agent comes back on the line, "I am sorry ma'am, your ticket was purchased at a non-refundable discounted rate and we cannot change the name on it. In order to change the name, we will need to cancel the existing ticket and you will need to purchase a new one at the current price with your correct name." My heart sank to my stomach. Were they fucking serious? We already spent a good amount of money on the first ticket. And now, in order to have the name on my ticket match the name on my passport, I had to buy ANOTHER plane ticket without getting refunded? I wanted to murder someone. There HAD to be another way around this.
Part 3: Relentless Researching Online About The Importance Of Passport Names Matching The Name On An Airline Ticket
After realizing that the travel agency and the airline were both money hungry sons of bitches, I went to the place that first brought my husband and I together - the world wide web. I scrolled through countless articles and forums that all pretty much said what I feared the most: The name on your airline ticket MUST match the name on your passport, otherwise, you are not guaranteed to board onto the plane. Even if I have all my documents on hand? Marriage certificate proving the name change, previous passport matching the name on the ticket, current passport with my married name, social security card, etc? Nope. Still no guarantee. And this did not sit well with me. I read that the worse case scenario would be that I'd be able to leave the U.S. (maybe) with said documents, but once we got to the International Airport, they could deny my entrance into their country and force me to purchase a plane ticket back home. No, thank you.
I decided that the most cost efficient way for me to have peace of mind would be to change my married name on my passport back to my birth name to match my airline ticket. Yes, a pain in the ass. But I figured it would just be the reverse of what I went through to get it changed in the first place.
Part 4: My Birth Certificate & The Passport Agency
I lost my birth certificate about 10 years ago and the thought of it had always loomed in the back of my mind. But I never had a need to prove who I was with it until all of this drama occurred. So I finally looked into obtaining a certified copy of my birth certificate to prove that I was in fact the same person BEFORE I got married. And thank goodness I did. I ordered it online and it was shipped to me within 2 business days. (Side note: I've always told everyone that I was born in Rosemead, CA, but I was actually born at the Kaiser Permanente off Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA. I guess that's a benefit of having your birth certificate. Actually KNOWING where the heck you were born).
Anyways, I booked the earliest appointment I could at the Passport Agency to avoid any mailing mishaps and/or confusions. I got there 15 minutes early the day of, only to find a long line of other patrons that had booked the same appointment. As I waited in line, the lady that was checking everyone in announced that everyone have their Appointment Confirmation Number ready (had that) and their completed application form (fuck, didn't have that). I had every form of identification possible, both past and present, but not the damn application. I was next to be checked in and as she asked for the application, I clenched my teeth and responded, "Um, I don't have an application". She looked annoyed. I would be to. But what passport application do you fill out if you just renewed your expired one with your married name and would like to change it back to your birth name? She didn't know either. So to cover her bases, she gave me 3 different passport application forms that I had to complete before waiting in yet another line.
I completed all 3 forms and got in line, again. Once I got to the window, I was hoping to see a ray of light to give me hope. Instead, I was met with a grumpy lady that had zero interest in calming my anxious nerves. "I was told to complete all 3 of these forms because I would like to change my married name on my passport back to my birth name. Oh, and I have my birth certificate as well," I said proudly. She looked confused and asked "Do you have a court order to change your name?". "No, but I have my marriage certificate," I replied, matching her confusion. She called over her manager, who I have to say, was in better spirits and made me a bit more hopeful. He asked the same thing, "Do you have a court order to change your name back to your birth name?". I repeated with a "No". He proceeded to ask, "Do you have divorce papers?" and it is at this juncture, my friends, that I. Lost. My. Shit. "I need divorce papers?! I'm not getting divorced! I just want my passport name to match the name on my airline ticket so I can go to Bali!" And if any of you know me personally, you know that the vein in my forehead was pulsating and yes, I was crying. "What's the name on your Drivers License?" My married name. "Okay, so you need to go back to the DMV and change your Drivers License back to your birth name and then we can update your passport". WHAT?! Again, with the run-around? This nightmare is never ending. There had to be another solution and I refused to leave without another option.
The Final Bow: A.K.A. Also Known As
After 20 minutes of deliberation, the manager finally said, "Oh, you can just add an A.K.A. 'Also Known As' page to your passport." What the fuck? If it were that simple, WHY was that option not offered in the first place? WHY was this not mentioned in any of the forums that I had scoured through? WHY did I have to go through such an emotional roller coaster?
Honestly, the main reason for this blog post was to vent, but also to relay this information to any other brides, brides-to-be, newlyweds, or anyone whose passport name DOESN'T match their airline ticket name. THERE IS HOPE. After I paid a couple hundred dollars to add this A.K.A. page to my passport, I called my husband to tell him. He looked online and found that this is common with celebrities who often times have lots of names that they go by. So, I guess I'm kinda like a celebrity y'all. A really low-budget, unpopular, and broke celebrity.
So if you're booking an international airline ticket, make sure your name matches your passport name. And if you're planning on changing your name, you better be absolutely sure that you want to. If not, you can always be a celebrity like me and have an A.K.A. name.
- Lanie Whitby A.K.A. Lanie Constantino