Fraud is an increasing threat to the travel industry, and Travel Weekly is dedicating Febraury 2009 to raising awareness. Here we look at a scam operated by travel agency Top Flyers.
The case of travel agency Top Flyers cost the airline industry £1.2 million last year. The agency was set up near London’s Tottenham Court Road in May 2007 and operated legitimately for nine months.
The owners then operated what is known in the industry as a ‘bust-out’. This is when an agency orders a large number of first and club-class tickets from airlines. They then sell these tickets at discounts of 50% through their contacts.
Bust-outs usually take place over a weekend, often just before a bank holiday. On the Monday morning, the owner disappears with the money and leaves the agency without the funds to pay the airlines.
Many of the customers will have bought the tickets in good faith, but there will be others who are well aware they are obtaining valid tickets at a hugely discounted price.
Trevor Sears, who acts as legal counsel to IATA and is a partner at law firm Davenport Lyons, explained: “When this happens, the airline will blacklist the tickets.
“People who have paid full price will be able to fly but those who haven’t will be asked to pay the balance at check-in. Often people don’t turn up for their flight because word has gone round that the tickets have been blacklisted.”
The police were notified but have not yet been able to track down the fraudsters behind the Top Flyers bust-out. They are thought to have left the country soon after the fraud was committed.
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