And this is Why You Don’t Book Tickets for Other People Using Airline Websites

Jeanne passes along this complaint about Delta that’s in the early stages of gaining traction online.

Bottom-line: passenger is denied boarding by Delta because they couldn’t produce the credit card used to purchase the ticket (her boss bought the ticket).

The passenger was enroute to Uganda. Her boss got involved in the call, trying to convince Delta the ticket wasn’t fraudulent. And while we have only the boss’ word for it, she contends Delta’s agent suggested…

The talented and adept Delta Red Coat team answered all of my questions and explained to me that my employee was asked to present her credit card because the “country of Africa is full of frauds.” How embarrassing! All this time, I was under the impression that African was a continent full all kinds of different people. Thanks to your intelligent and worldly staff, I realized my grave and humiliating error. I owe you one, Delta! In an effort to capitalize on the wealth of knowledge your team possesses, I asked a few questions for my own edification. Like, “What other countries are full of fraud like Africa?”

“The Philippines,” your Delta Red Coat said confidently.

The complaint is starting to go ’round YouTube, though I’m not sure it’ll gain much traction there since it’s just the boss reading the complaint letter (very sarcastically) which she reproduces on her blog.

Clearly what the Delta employee meant to suggest is that Africa tickets have a relatively high incidence of credit card fraud (I”m prepared to believe this is true, and also that travel to certain Asian countries might as well, though I haven’t seen the data).

A decade ago it was common for airlines to request to see the credit card used for purchase on all tickets booked through their websites using a third party’s card for payment. When buying tickets at for domestic travel where I wasn’t going to be checking in with the passenger I’d have to stop by the airport (or a city ticket office!) and show the card in advance, and hope that the agent properly documented the reservation to that effect.

Booking United mileage award tickets for someone else used to require a stop at the airport to sign “a blue-ey” … an authorization form which, again, wasn’t even always properly handled. This applied to awards and upgrades where the passenger had a different last name from the accountholder.

Fortunately I would transit the airport often and agents in the club or at the ticket counter could handle this.

Even more fortunately, this is no longer commonplace. Although some international airlines do insist regularly on seeing the credit card used for purchase at check-in. This isn’t just on third party payments, either. And it’s especially frustrating when the card was used fraudulently and cancelled and reissued by the bank, it is no longer possible to show a valid version of the card (though showing the old one would work, but who keeps cancelled cards?).

Award tickets booked by Korean Air, where the tickets are in the name of the mileage accountholder and the credit card is in the accountholder’s name as well, require showing the credit card used for the taxes. It may be a $10,000 airline ticket, and they’ve already gotten written identification and written authorization to deduct the miles, but they’re worried somehow about the validity of the card paying perhaps $350 in taxes on a one-way ticket… even if the payment was made several months earlier and not charged back.

So Delta really isn’t behaving badly relative to its peers here. They do want to make sure the tickets weren’t purchased fraudulently. If they were, they’re going to face a chargeback and will have transported the passenger but won’t ultimately receive payment for doing so.

Still, Delta should be clearer about the possibility that they will insist on seeing the card used for payment at checkin or about any option to show it in advance. Of course, doing that serves as a barrier to someone being willing to make the transaction on their website so perhaps they aren’t incentivized to do so especially when it’s relatively rare that they’ll flag tickets to see the card before allowing the passenger to check in.

What should Liz Bohannon, the employer making the complaint, have done?

The answer here is actually quite simple: don’t use third-party credit cards to buy tickets on airline websites.

I don’t mean the employee should have used their own card, or Ms. Bohannon should have given the employee a company card.

I mean she should have booked the ticket through an online travel agency like Orbitz, Expedia, or Travelocity. Delta wouldn’t be asking to see the card used for purchase when the purchase wasn’t made directly through them. They don’t worry about it when it’s an agency ticket, because if the agency issued a ticket purchased fraudulently it’s the agency that will be on the hook rather than Delta.

Buying tickets for someone else with your credit card is best done through a travel agency including an online agency and not directly with an airline, especially on the airline’s website.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Delta sometimes requires you to show the same credit card even for a regular ticket!  Here’s another post by View From the Wing about an employee who wasn’t able to board her Delta flight because she didn’t have the credit card which her boss used to pay for the ticket. […]


  1. I am inclined to believe this is indeed a problem in Africa, because South African Airways asked for my card for an online booking when checking in on a domestic flight in JNB. And it was my card and my dad and i were the ticketed passengers.

    Luckily i had the card, but am glad i always have the credit card used for booking with me when traveling.

  2. Cathay has made me show my credit card at the check in counter several times when traveling to the Philippines through Hong Kong.

  3. I must be missing something incredibly obvious: how is there “fraud” potential *when the transaction has already been authorized and settled far before you check in?* This is what makes no sense to me. Someone buys a ticket, the money has completely cleared and has cone to the airline. At that point, why would they not allow the named person on the ticket to check in?

  4. This is an embarrassment for the airlines. Your last paragraph gives people an *incentive* to not use the very airline website the airlines want you to use! Absolutely perverse.

  5. I had this issue flying EK from BKK to HKG in F. My Amex by then had been replaced with a new one. To fly, I booked a new ticket at the same price, and they refunded the old one. Pain in the ass.

  6. Gary,

    My business travel is done by AMEX travel as per corporate travel. They book it without my credit card, is this a situation I might run into?

  7. What a second, Gary. Didn’t you recently tell us to avoid OTA’s because of the hassle of dealing with schedule changes and to book directly with the airline?

    So which is it? 🙂

  8. The president of Africa would be so mad! This reminds me of when a friend was unable to order something on the phone since she lived in the “country” of New Mexico. The agent said it didn’t matter whether she was in East, West, Old, or New Mexico, they simply didn’t sell to anyone outside of the USA.

  9. The Delta employee said it right but gets an F in geography.

    Fraud and corruption is epidemic in most African nations, and the traveler should have had at least a photocopy of the CC or some sort of affidavit. Or as Gary says, should have bought the ticket using Expedia.

    But you can’t blame Delta employees for being world class jerks. This behavior comes directly from corporate HQ.

    Thank goodness I avoid this airline like the plague. I despise connections thru Atlanta, or having to endure those fake smiles and unbearable accents.

  10. Quite a few asian airlines ask for the credit card for tickets booked directly through their website too. Some clearly say that the cardholder should be present with the card during travel, or the traveller should carry a copy of the card with a written consent of the travelholder.

    I have had Thai airways ask me for my credit card recently for a HKT-DEL ticket booked with them directly.

  11. FWIW, Delta has explicitly mentioned somewhere on the Confirmation page that the rep at the counter can ask for a copy of the credit card used for booking. I remember booking tickets on for my parents to travel from India and back; I sent them a scanned, countersigned copy of my card to produce at the airport if required because I just happened to come across the fine print.

  12. Swiped my AA Citi card at a Lacoste store in the fanciest mall in Manila, Philippines and in less than 10 minutes later someone was shopping with my card at Armani, Burberry and other designer stores.

  13. That is some bull. How am I supposed to remember which card I used for a ticket many months ago? what if you have 15 cards? You’re supposed to carry those around with you?

  14. Agreed; it’s absolutely moronic in the year 2013. I hope this gets out and airlines get flake for this madness. They’re literally creating an *incentive* for people to shift spending patterns away. Are you a business buying your employee a flight? Don’t fly Emirates, because you’ll deal with hassle. Are you booking someone on Delta? Better not use their website, lest you deal with hassle.

    I also had to show my card flying Emirates F from BKK to HKG. There could be nothing more stark than flying in a private suite with shower/spa and yet have to do something as utterly silly as show a credit card that was used to book the flight – a card carrying a transaction *that is completely settled by the merchant*. Not to mention the “transaction costs” this creates by forcing people to interact with a real person when they would otherwise not have to. Just ridiculous, IMHO.

  15. When you book an air ticket via orbitz or expedia, your credit card number just got passed over to the airline, and the charge will still come from the airline.

  16. Doesn’t this violate the Contract of Carriage to force you to produce a credit card?

  17. I think a lot of people don’t comprehend the sheer volume of credit card fraud that originates from some parts of Africa. In my experience (which is quite typical of other airlines), OVER 90% of attempted credit card transactions for flights to and from African points are fraudulent. There are higher risk countries of course – Nigeria, Ghana, Somalia and Kenya are higher risk than South Africa, Morocco or Egypt for example, but the fraud levels from any of these are multiple times higher than those from North America or Europe.

    Delta in Ghana did not even accept third party credit cards for any transactions there until very recently. If you weren’t the traveler, you had to pay cash only. Most airlines operating in that part of the world have a similar policy for third party credit card transactions.

  18. oh no, i think i might be in trouble. my bf redeemed his citi thank you points for my flight to london on united and paid the remainder with his ink card since he was shy some points. i am flying alone so he will not be with me. do you know if i will have an issue? it’s no problem for me to carry a copy of his credit card. i am also an authorized user under his ink card account and his name is on my card, but the credit card numbers are different.

    any thoughts? i hope this isn’t an issue since the booking was not made through united, but through citi.

    thanks in advance.

  19. This also happened to me on a Delta award ticket to Senegal.

    Taxes were about $150 and had been paid nine months in advance. In the interim, my creditcard had been cancelled due to fraudulent charges.

    24 hours before the flight, when I tried to check in, I was told that I could only do so at the airport, after I showed my credit card. When I called to inform the agent that the credit card no longer existed, she seemed almost delighted by the idea that I would not be able to travel. After fifteen minutes of arguing and pleading, I got a supervisor on the line who was willing to void the ticket and reticket it on an existing card.

    If it weren’t for the supervisor, I’d have lost the trip.

  20. Quote: What should Liz Bohannon, the employer making the complaint, have done?

    I disagree. Tickets are bought beforehand. If Delta wants verification, Delta should ask for a copy of the card when booking the ticket.

    Especially small(er) companies will not give a company card to all their employees, particularly if that employee does not travel much. You cannot expect people to know that they should use expedia to prevent this kind of thing.

    And I find it quite ridiculous that Delta is so inflexible in this regard. After calling the owner of the card the whole thing should have been cleared – period.

  21. @ang probably not a problem, united is better about this than delta is, call united and ask and if they are going to want to see the card have your boyfriend show it in advance

  22. 2 questions Gary-

    1. Bought an awards tickets using United miles for my sister under my Mileage number and credit card. Would she have a problem getting on the flight?

    2. Bought an awards ticket using Delta Miles but all travel on Korean Airlines. Will she have problem?
    If so, can I just give her the credit card I used to pay for the awards ticket? Or…..

  23. The added insult to injury that no one’s commented on?

    The ticket was cancelled again *after* the boss had made the trek to the airport to purchase another ticket for her employee.

    Twice the pleasure!

    Delta (and the other airlines) need to figure this one out.

  24. I’m not faulting Delta for trying to prevent fraud which – lets face it – there are regions in the world that have much higher fraud than others.
    However’ how about some sort of mechanism to detect this before purchase?!? I can tell you I once booked a ticket on ELAL from TLV to DME with a u.s amex card and ELAL’s website knew to flag this as suspicious and gave me a temporary PNR and reffered me to talk to the reservations dep. where a rep told me to email/fax them a form + copy of the credit card. If this was done here by Delta, instead of at the airport at chk-in time, it would have saved alot of grieve.

  25. When purchasing an award ticket from BA, we were told to be sure to bring the credit card to show at the airport. And this is flying on BA, using a card to pay fees on an award ticket. Luckily it was an Amex PRG, so it’s a top of the wallet card and therefore we have it along regularly. But it is a pain, and a very good thing that the rep emphasized it.

  26. +1 @ 26. Xandrios. To those who do not understand, fraud from that continent of Africa is rampant. We get transactions that have the entire name, address, and verification code. The transactions clear daily and most times the cardholder (if stolen) has no idea their card data was stolen. The physical card was not stolen, but the files were. When we are unsure (card name does not match intended person), we do ask for a copy of the card. Why are the airlines waiting for people to show up? That is dumb. They could verify these in advance (assuming there is some reasonable lead time).

  27. I was a victim of credit card fraud as well as 200 other Presidential Plus card holders. Delta refused $4500 of transactions. I am glad. I wrote about it on my blog I am happy to see that this is in practice. You may feel snarky or entitled but I just put a 7 year fraud alert on all my accounts through the big 3 because of this. I am happy to read this article because you have to put things in perspective. Being offended that you are being questioned is ok with me because being a victim of credit card fraud is not fun at all.

  28. Gary – I have several clients flying business class to Hyderabad via Dubai on Emirates. We always charge their air travel to the corporate MasterCard. No one carries a copy of that card. Are they going to have a problem? Tickets are issued by a brick and mortar travel agency.

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