Nearly two lakh Air India frequent flyers will lose out on benefits after the national carrier was forced to suspend its passenger loyalty rewards programme, which was hacked into a few weeks ago. A probe by the Delhi Police revealed that hackers accessed the Air India website to steal points worth Rs 16 lakh on air travel miles accumulated by a total of 1.95 lakh flyers by creating fake frequent flyer accounts.
The hackers have accessed user IDs and passwords of some of the website administrators to verify such fake accounts and claimed frequent flyer rewards.
The anomaly was first noticed on June 8, when an Air India staffer verifying documents of a frequent flyer account holder noticed the account had already been verified. The document submitted towards identity proof was a driving licence, which is not on the Air India list of accepted proof.
“Air India only accepts passports, PAN cards, voter IDs and Aadhaar Cards as proof from fliers,” an airline official said. “Further verification revealed that the account was fake, and internal probe showed up 23 such fake accounts,” the official said.
Senior Air India officials who were questioned by the Delhi Police said that the rewards programme called Flying Returns had 1.95 lakh frequent flyer accounts, but it was not yet known as to how many passengers were actually affected. An airline staffer said that data from at least 20 genuine accounts could have been stolen. Several account holders, such as Nepean Sea Road resident Manish Kedia, said they only know that the rewards programme had been suspended. “I’m not quite sure what’s going on,” Kedia said. “There hasn’t been any clarity on whether the points we have accumulated will be remitted to the account, and when will be able to claim the benefits,” he added. Troy Apke Jersey