In a press release, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced Taylor Thompson and Tiana Fairfax of Philadelphia, and Theodore Robinson of Upper Darby, PA, were arrested and charged with the crimes against their company.
Flyers Paid for Lower-Priced Fares, Then “Upgraded” to Alternative Itineraries
According to claims by the federal attorneys, the three worked in concert to defraud the airline of change fees through overriding the internal booking system. Between 2017 and 2018, the group allegedly collected over $283,000 in “commissions” by making changes to more than 1,700 itineraries.
The alleged scam worked when the group encouraged flyers to book lower priced airfare for trips they did not intend on taking. From there, the group would then use Thompson’s supervisory login credentials to change the flight details without charging the full difference in airfare, as airline policy required. Thompson’s position as a supervisor allowed her to approve itinerary changes without paying the fare difference in the event of an extenuated circumstance, such as the death of a family member.
In turn, the flyer would pay a “commission” to the group via CashApp which was higher than the original fare, but lower than the full difference in fares. Thompson allegedly approached another employee first to join the scam, before Fairfax and Robinson got in. After Thompson was fired by the airline, attorneys say Fairfax and Robinson approached another supervisor to get in on the skimming ring.
Although the U.S. Attorney’s press release does not name the airline, USA Today reports Spirit Airlines was the one affected in the case. The Miami-area carrier has not publicly commented on the allegations. All three are pending trial and are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Airlines Remain Prime Target for Insider Crime
Although rare, airlines remain a target for criminals seeking to profit off travel. In 2020, a pair of former airline employees were convicted on charges of identity theft for their part in a scheme to create forged ID cards to help flyers get free non-revenue travel.
Source: frugal travel guy