Airline ticket fraud causes monk to lose his cool

Posted by Ian Kar on January 7, 2015


As many consumers know, fraud can be a nightmare to deal with. Between merchants dealing with chargebacks and financial institutions dealing with incompetence, it’s easy for customers to lose their temper.

Even monks.

The New York Times wrote about a dispute between a monastery and United Airlines last week that caught our eye. A monk from a New Mexico-based monastery flew to his native Malawi, Africa to visit his ailing mother. The round trip ticket purchased by the monastery cost $2,489.

Problems rose when the monk needed to extend his stay, but was unable to. When the monastery called, United said they never received a payment for the ticket -- even though one of the monks already used the first half of the round trip. What?

“This was the most frustrating call of the day. Everything became our fault. There was no evidence that Brother John Baptist had been placed on a new return flight. No record of the conversation with Mark. I really struggled to remain calm and charitable. My monastic life is about staying peaceful in all circumstances. I failed during this call,” a monk told The Times.

What’d the monk say?  “I said to her something like: ‘Thank you for speaking. God bless you. I will pray for you. But you have not been helpful.’ ”

After posting on the monastery’s blog, which was forwarded to someone “with clout” at United, the situation was resolved. But what happened in the first place? Tough to say, since no one is giving a straight, or coherent, answer. At first, the monastery was told that MasterCard cancelled the ticket, citing “significant amount of fraud” in the region and that “it’s the cardholder’s responsibility to confirm payment directly to their credit card company.” But the transaction was already processed without alerting any of MasterCard’s systems.

United provided the monastery with some clarity -- a third-party fraud-detection company hired by the airlines deemed the transaction fraudulent, which triggered this domino effect.

Airline fraud is actually a very real issue -- just last month, Interpol arrested 118 people who committed airline fraud. Annually, the airline industry loses over $1 billion to fraud. Obviously, airlines should be protecting themselves from fraud, but poor antifraud services that inaccurately flag transactions as fraudulent can lead to some unhappy customers.

(Note: the monk pictured is not the exact monk from the story. We do not have his photo.)


Topics: Antifraud, airlines, ticket fraud