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February 29, 2012

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Almost all air ticket agencies are illegal

MORE than 90 percent of air ticket agencies in China are illegal and defrauding the public, and Shanghai has been among the most severely affected cities, the country's air transport industry association said yesterday.

China has more than 100,000 agencies to sell flight tickets, but only 9,000 have certificates from both the industry and commerce authority and the association, said Chai Haibo, deputy secretary-general of the China Air Transport Association, which represents China's airlines.

"The number of 'black agencies' is huge, because they only need a computer and a telephone to cheat customers," Chai said.

The association has cracked down on 10 large scale illegal agencies in Shanghai since last year, he said.

Most of them distribute small ads on streets and ask customers who call in to remit money into a bank account, and then they disappear, he said. Others build websites that copy those of major Chinese airlines but leave a different phone number for customers to call, Chai said.

"The association's East China office receives complaints almost every day," he added.

In one case, Wang Haodong, a local white-collar worker, was cheated out of 980 yuan (US$155) when he tried to buy a plane ticket from Shanghai to Dandong, in northeast China's Liaoning Province, on a website pretending to be China Southern Airlines.

"After I remitted the money to their bank account, customer service claimed they had yet to receive the money and ignored my later calls," said Wang, who works for a software company.

An official with China Southern said the company's IT department was tracking down the cloned websites to report to police.

The airlines will never ask customers to remit money to any bank account, airline representatives said yesterday.


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