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How Keeping Your Maiden Name Could Lose You Money

How Keeping Your Maiden Name Could Lose You Money

Like millions of other married women, I still have the name I was born with. It doesn’t seem fair to me that women are supposed to give up their names while men aren’t expected to change a thing, so I opted out of the system. That choice saved me some time waiting in line at the Social Security office and Department of Motor Vehicles a couple decades ago, but now it could lose me and my “call me Ms.” sisters some cash and keep us off Air Canada planes.

The airline lets people give their travel vouchers to family members, which means that even if they can’t use it, they don’t have to forfeit the voucher — they can send a relative in their stead, but only if they have the same last name. If they don’t, Air Canada will screw people right out of the money they paid for tickets they can’t use. Same-sex couples who don’t have the same last names are in the same non-traveling boat.

Air Canada claims that it’s same-name or no-go policy prevents fraud, but that isn’t much of an excuse: West Jet, United, and U.S. Airways all let people give their vouchers to anyone they want, whatever their names, and have managed to avoid being beggared by rampant fraud.

This silliness came to light when Air Canada wouldn’t allow Chris Turner, whose wife didn’t change her last name to his, to transfer a travel voucher to her. Turner earned his voucher by agreeing to be bumped from a flight and take a later one instead. He may have done that with the intention of getting a free flight for his wife, which would have been easy-peasy if only she had changed her name. He then resorted to that great arbiter of justice, Twitter.

Air Canada defended its policy on Twitter, saying that Turner could buy his wife a ticket (which assumes he had that amount of cash available), then submit a reimbursement request. Having had my share of airline problems — lost luggage, cancelled flights — I can say with some authority that the appropriate response to that is a wry guffaw. Airlines have elevated obstructionist bureaucracy to Kafkaesque heights (or Dickensian, or that of Terry Gilliamian or Milan Kunderian). Based on my experience, it would be a long, long time before Turner ever saw that money again, and if he isn’t a persevering sort, the reimbursement might never materialize.

Turner and his wife both sent Air Canada unflattering open letters of 140 characters or fewer. The little lady (aka @Hilksom) pointed out that the policy doesn’t serve its ostensible purpose of preventing fraud: “Sooooo… Turner can transfer the voucher to our NEIGHBOUR Kelly who has the same last name, but not his WIFE. Gotcha.” Turner himself griped, “those of us who are not married to June Cleaver find this deeply insulting.”

I am not married to June Cleaver, and I am indeed deeply insulted.

Air Canada appears to be folding in the face of reason and decency. Turner told the Twitterverse that the airline was transferring his voucher to his differently-named wife and is considering changing the policy for everyone, tweeter or not.

Turnergate hurt Air Canada in the public eye, but changing its policy will hurt it in the wallet. Limiting voucher transfers to people with the same last names means that some number of vouchers went unredeemed, when the people who earned them couldn’t use them and couldn’t transfer them to someone with their last name. If passengers can transfer vouchers to anyone, more of them will be redeemed, which means Air Canada will have to provide value for them.

Too bad. It is not okay to profit off the backs of people who wouldn’t knuckle under to a hoary custom born of misogyny, or of the people who married us. Air Canada, please do catch up with the 21st century. I look forward to hearing about your new egalitarian policy for exploiting your customers.

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

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162 comments

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3:22PM PDT on Apr 26, 2014

Despite the best of intentions, the wording of the story here is still controlled by old-fashioned thinking, "whose wife didn’t change her last name to his." Whenever people ask me, I explain that my husband decided not to change his name to mine because he already had numerous accomplishments by the time we got married that he did not want to obscure.

5:50AM PST on Feb 8, 2014

Here in AL, there is a FEE to KEEP your name when you get married. And then when people find out your name is different from your husband's, they ask if "that's what you go bah?" as if it were some kind of alias.

3:23AM PST on Feb 8, 2014

My mother in law is a teacher, twice divorced. She kept her first husband's name because all her teaching degrees were in that name. She found it easier to explain to immigration when applying for jobs overseas. Either that or there's some romantic life story that will someday be a major movie starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. I read much of useful information. Thanks.

4:29PM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Thanks

7:00PM PST on Jan 13, 2014

ty

5:20PM PST on Jan 13, 2014

I can only say that we experience quirky corporate policies world wide.

11:52AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

My sister has all girls...so none of them will have the same last name if they all change it, yet they are still family. Ridiculous. Hope they do change it completely and glad this couple got their voucher.

11:40AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

I too am insulted.

10:43AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

This should not be a problem for married people--but it is. Do US airlines have the same policy?

10:23AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

Not every culture - in fact, I think the US is one of the FEW that does! - has a woman change her surname upon marriage. I know many Hispanics don't; Asians and Middle Eastern folks typically don't; etc. Does that make them less married??

Then, of course, there's the small fact that this airline is saying FAMILY MEMBERS, not even specifically husbands or wives. In today's world, there are all kinds of family situations. If someone wants to give their voucher to a stepchild - maybe a child they've raised since they were a baby, yet technically not a biological offspring and has a different last name - they can't? If someone wants to give a voucher to a daughter who has married and DID take her husband's name, they can't? etc. This is nuts!

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