An employee of Emirates Airlines was recently charged in the Dubai Criminal Court of embezzling funds, electronic forgery and abuse of his position. The 35-year-old Skywards customer service agent illegally collected 2.6 million miles by registering passengers in the Skywards program without their permission or knowledge. He would open up new accounts using the passenger’s personal information but would include his own email address and collect the miles. Since October 2009, the employee said he registered over 2,000 passengers without their consent. He then redeemed the miles for award flights between Dubai and Nairobi, which he sold though a travel agent accomplice who was involved in the scheme. The employee reportedly received over Dh60,000 from selling the award tickets before the Skywards security team started investigating the situation when a passenger requested to open a Skywards account but discovered that one had already been opened for her.
Bottom line: Aside from the obvious problem of theft and fraud associated with air travel, this case illustrates how many travelers there are that don’t bother to participate in frequent flyer programs and miss out on free travel. In less than a year, an employee collected the mileage equivalent of 57 roundtrip flights between Dubai and London. All of those miles could have been legitimately earned by paying passengers if they had just signed up for the program.