How Airlines Combat Fraudulent Tickets to Protect Their Revenue

American’s ‘revenue integrity’ team was created in 2008. They search out abusive booking practices by passengers which take up seats that could otherwise be sold by the airline, and that work to get seats cheaper than the airline intends to sell them. Here’s a presentation by that team from 2010 (.pdf).

American is not alone in this, and the things that are flags for American are also generally flags for others as well — to greater or lesser degrees.

American searches for – and cancels – duplicate bookings. I recently put an itinerary on hold that overlapped with something I already had ticketed. My plan was to call, cancel the existing itinerary and use it as a credit towards the new ticket. By the time I called, the new itinerary I had held was cancelled.

Whatever the reason, unused reservations are a lost revenue opportunity

They look for duplicate bookings even when not under the same name. Specific flags are:

  • Multiple bookings on a single flight from the same booking source
  • Multiple online bookings from a single IP address

They also look for fake bookings in premium cabins made increase upgrade chances.

  • The most prominent scheme is to book duplicate Premium cabin bookings under false names in a separate reservation(s) from the real coach booking.
  • When within the upgrade window, the offender will cancel the full fare bookings , hoping to open up upgrade inventory, and quickly book the upgrade in the real reservation

    You can detect Premium Cabin Upgrade abuse by developing a report to match potentially abusive reservations by the relationship between the time of a cancellation and the time of a booking on the same flight

  • For example, find a reservation with a cancellation that occurred at 1:00 p.m. in a full First or Business class inventory and another reservation made in an upgrade class of service at 1:02 p.m. on the exact same flight
  • From there, you can manually review the two reservations to determine if the cancellation and new booking were made by the same booking source
  • Check for matches, or connections, between agency IATA, phone number, IP address
  • Interesting stuff!

    (HT: JonNYC)

    About Gary Leff

    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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    1. By duplicate bookings, you don’t mean nested bookings, right? You’re talking about a true second booking that leaves on the same day as something already ticketed, for example?

    2. Actually American has been aggressive in this area for many years. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, before ID checks were routine, Robert Crandall told his troops to check ID on tickets, and to tell customers they were committing fraud and confiscate the tickets if correct ID was not provided. And, in the late 90’s, when I tried to change a ticket for a colleague to save $250 on the fare, the AA airport ticket agent acted as if I was trying to defraud them. I found AA’s practices so distasteful that I refused to fly them for 15 years, and steered many other travelers away from them. (I’ve since mellowed out.)

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