The Heathrow-based airline ticket-fraud unit has come under fire from ABTA after an agent complained that officers failed to help catch a fraudster.

Sally Dixon, manager of Home and Abroad in Newark, said her staff became suspicious about a client requesting a ticket-on-departure flight to Lagos, Nigeria and gave a mobile phone number. She wasted 3hrs liaising with the fraud unit but was eventually told no-one was available to make an arrest.

An ABTA spokesman said: “It’s disappointing that the member concerned was not able to receive a satisfactory response but the ticket-fraud unit is under-resourced.”

Detective sergeant Martin Ade, who heads up the unit, said he would investigate the incident. But he stressed that the unit has to be careful not to be guilty of entrapment when handling such cases and that on most occasions, the person who turns up at the airport to collect a ticket is not the criminal.

Ade said if agents are suspicious, they should ask for a copy of the credit card to be faxed through. If the client fails to do this, agents should refuse to complete the booking and then pass all the details to the fraud unit.