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January 12, 2016

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Flyers left in lurch over Ctrip ticketing scam

CHINA’S largest online provider of travel services,, is embroiled in a row over flight tickets after it issued a ticket to a Chinese passenger that was illegally exchanged for airlines’ mileages.

The passenger, Fu Jingnan, was not issued a boarding pass by the airlines at Tokyo airport, leaving him in a limbo.

Fu, who posted his ordeal online, said he was not allowed to board the flight at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Thursday because his ticket from Tokyo to Beijing — bought on — was invalid.

The airport police asked him to “cooperate with the investigation” because his ticket was redeemed from another traveler’s mileages, Fu, who claimed to be a gaming software engineer, said on his microblogging website.

He contacted, which put him in touch with the agent who sold him the ticket. The Ctrip-approved agent got him a new ticket on another Japanese carrier, but as luck would have it, he was denied a boarding pass again — for the very same reason.

“I felt humiliated after being investigated for three hours at the Japanese airport and nearly detained,” Fu said. “I want Ctrip to apologize and has the negative records removed by the airport and airlines.”

Fu said Ctrip sold him a ticket that was actually exchanged with the membership mileages of a Japanese traveler he did not know.

The Shanghai-based website confirmed the incident had taken place and claimed one of its ticketing agents had sold flight tickets that were actually exchanged for mileages without the knowledge of the traveling passenger.

The website apologized to the passenger and flew him back on a new ticket. It said it would offer triple compensation and full refund to customers who encounter similar situations, and promised to boost supervision of its agents.

But apparently, this was not a rare incident. A similar case came to light when a couple was refused permission to travel in Beijing on Saturday.

A man named Li Miao said he had booked two return Air China tickets between Beijing and Japan’s Sapporo on for a couple last month. But they were told by the Air China staff at Beijing airport on Saturday that the tickets were invalid.

“Air China said they could not find the ticket numbers on their system. That means they (the airlines) did not sell the tickets,” Li said on his WeChat account which was reposted and read over 100,000 times yesterday.

The couple had to buy new tickets to get on the plane.

This time Ctrip claimed that “a ticket agent had forgotten to issue tickets to the customers after receiving the payment.”

But a travel agent from a rival website said that it could be another case of cheating.

“Some small agents issue fake or no ticket numbers to hold back the customers, who are prone to change their minds.

“They book with the airlines later and issue new ticket numbers putting the blame on the airlines,” the source said.

Many airlines lure passengers with “frequent flyer” deals, offering mileages that can be exchanged for gifts and even flight tickets, which is being misused by dubious travel agents. Almost all airlines prohibit trade on mileages.

China Southern Airlines, for instance, insists “all kinds of mileage trades are forbidden.”

China Eastern Airlines stipulates that its members must apply to the airline if they want to exchange their mileage with their family members, and must be done almost two months in advance.

Yet the illegal trade on mileages are not rare due to regulation loopholes.

On, China’s biggest online shopping platform, airlines’ mileages are even sold publicly. For about 600 yuan, a traveler can buy 10,000 mileage points.

“Your mileages can be exchanged for cash,” an online vendor claimed on its homepage.

These mileage points are then sold as tickets on online platforms like

“It is difficult for sites like Ctrip to determine whether the tickets sold by the agents are genuine or exchanged with mileages,” the source, who works on a rival site, said.

It is unfortunate that the traveling passenger in this case is left in a lurch, he said.

Last week, nine Chinese airlines ended their partnership with China’s second largest online travel agency,, following complaints about ticketing and refund issues.

The airlines said there were too many complaints about extra charges, refunds and other ticketing issues.

“Passengers complained that arbitrarily raises the prices of air tickets, alters the terms and conditions of ticket use, adds fees for ticket changes and refunds but fails to notify them about flight changes,” Air China, the nation’s flagship carrier, said in a statement.


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