Is it just me or does it seems like this industry is two steps forward and one step back? Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t more like one step forward and five steps back. Of course we have a myriad of things beyond anyone’s control—SARS, wars, Norovirus, weather, natural disasters, political dissention, economy and more. We have things beyond our control such as the still unexplained NCF fees, reduction and elimination of commissions. And sometimes, it seems that we ought to have some control and we just drop the ball. For lack of any regulation in the industry, we now have YTB selling everything from Ghana to girdles. And even more disturbing the discovery of $20 million dollar scam perpetuated against the airlines.
Last weekend, the Kansas City Star broke the story of a group of people purporting to be travel agents selling discounted airline tickets. The scheme was complex and you can read about it in the paper, but the damage if far more reaching than the $20 million. Rather than classify the accused as identity thieves, authorities decided to call them “black market travel agents.” OUCH! To the consumer, $20 million is a huge number, but in the greater picture of travel sales, it is less significant. So, how do we, as a community of travel professionals, react to this?
Strangely enough, the other trade press has been silent (at least at the time this was written) on this issue. ASTA has been silent. In fact, the only industry source contacted by the paper was Bruce Bishins of ARTA. More amazingly, it took the airlines 9 years to catch on—kind of strange when they can catch a PNR churn and mail out a debit memo in 24 hours!
But the silence from the industry now leaves the damage control squarely on the laps of the travel professionals. We discussed this scam in the TRO Community and all agreed that it is yet another black eye that true professionals don’t need. I asked a Missouri agent about the backlash locally, and he said he had not heard of much, but that he took a proactive step in notifying his clients and prospects. Of course, this is what we must do. As always, the true professionals will take the proactive approach even when there is bad news. With his permission, I am sharing the memo that Steve Cousino of Journeys By Steve shared with his clients.
This past weekend, the Kansas City, MO based Kansas City Star newspaper published an article (linked here) detailing a massive nationwide network designed to steal credit card information, and using the data to purchase airline tickets for unsuspecting members of the public. This network was made up of people all across the country, including Missouri, with victims in many areas, including the Springfield/Branson area where I am currently based.
Airline ticketing is a complex process with many safeguards built in to ensure the security of your information, whether it’s personal information like your birthdate or your payment information like your credit card details. In spite of this, the members of this network managed to find loopholes and take advantage of them, costing over $20 million in losses to airlines and victims alike over the past several years.
As a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), I am dedicated to maintaining a high standard of professionalism, including adhering to strict business ethics when it comes to your travel planning. I treat your information from your casual “We’d like to do this” emails to your credit card data with supreme confidentiality and sensitivity. I treasure you as my client, and work very hard to ensure you have the best possible vacation experience no matter where you travel. Our relationship is built on trust, and I thank you for your continued trust in me with handling your travel arrangements.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any concerns you may have regarding the security of your personal and financial information.