Air In­dia’s loy­alty scheme hacked


If you fly fre­quently with Air In­dia and are un­able to re­deem your air miles, it is pos­si­ble that hack­ers have taken a bite out of your re­ward points. Delhi Po­lice’s cy­ber ex­perts are prob­ing a scam in Air In­dia’s Fly­ing-Re­turns scheme, un­der which a pas­sen­ger can earn loy­alty points by trav­el­ling with the na­tional car­rier and later re­deem them.

A first in­for­ma­tion re­port (FIR) has been filed against un­known peo­ple af­ter Air In­dia’s Vig­i­lance Depart­ment de­tected a racket us­ing high-tech meth­ods to steal fre­quent-flyer miles. Ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal probe, a gang gen­er­ated 20 e-mail IDs and di­verted re­ward points earned by pas­sen­gers, with pos­si­ble help from some air­line em­ploy­ees.

The month-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that about 170 tick­ets were pur­chased by un­fair means us­ing driv­ing li­cences as ID, while many of them had the same sig­na­ture, ac­cord­ing to Dhanan­jay Ku­mar, Air In­dia Se­nior Man­ager.

He said that as board­ing passes were is­sued di­rectly in these in­stances and driv­ing li­cences are not con­sid­ered valid proof, the like­li­hood of in­sider in­volve­ment is strong. Tick­ets worth al­most ` 16 lakh have been sold on the ba­sis of the stolen miles, say sources, adding that the probe may have merely scratched the sur­face as al­most 20 lakh pas­sen­gers are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of AI’s Fly­ing-Re­turns pro­gramme.

The loot was first no­ticed this month dur­ing the ver­i­fi­ca­tion of ‘Know Your Cus­tomer’ doc­u­ments up­loaded by a mem­ber. The pas­sen­ger sub­mit­ted a driv­ing li­cence as iden­tity proof, which is not le­git­i­mate, but the ac­count was still ap­proved.

Ac­cord­ing to AI, all user IDs were checked and at least 20 were found to be sus­pect. The IDs were also hacked to gain unau­tho­rised ac­cess to mem­bers’ ac­counts.

“On fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion it was found out that these sus­pect user IDs had hacked var­i­ous mem­ber­ship ac­counts and re­deemed miles of gen­uine Fly­ing-Re­turns mem­bers. The de­tails of the num­ber of miles re­deemed from each such ac­count as well as the tick­ets is­sued along with ticket num­ber, name has been given,” Air In­dia said in its com­plaint.

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