Airlines unite in ‘groundbreaking’ fraud crackdown

Airlines teamed up for the first time this week in a “groundbreaking” meeting to tackle travel industry fraud.

Thirty-five representatives from airlines including British Airways, Virgin, Emirates and BMI met to discuss ways of solving ‘cardholder not present’ fraud, e-ticketing fraud and so called bust-out operations, when an IATA agent sells high volumes of discounted tickets and absconds with the money.

The meeting at Scotland Yard was organised as part of Operation Sterling, an industry wide group set up to crack down on different types of fraud in the travel industry. Members include ABTA, the CAA, Teletext and The Co-operative Group. They are also looking into fraud in packaging and homeworking.

Davenport Lyons solicitor Trevor Sears, who represents IATA, said: “We looked at systems we could use to halt any suspicious activity straight away, in the same way as credit card companies stop your card when an unusual number of payments are made abroad. The airlines are determined to work together and take this forward.”

Peter Burns of the Metropolitan Police added: “We are speaking to the airlines individually as well as banks and GDS companies and gathering intelligence. It was groundbreaking to have everyone in the room together.”

This follows the sentencing of four bogus travel agents for a total of 18 years at Southwark Crown Court last week. Christakis Phillippou, 62, of Bark Place, Bayswater was given seven years. Evangelina Liogka, 38, of Montpelier Place, Knightsbridge was given three and a half years and Timothy Entwisle, 56, of Ludworth, Dorset, was jailed for three years.

The group set up five separate companies between July 2003 and August 2006, to sell holidays at inflated prices. They pocketed customers’ money before closing down and leaving them empty-handed.

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