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The frequent flyer who never took off - Newspaper Article

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ksthommo

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Article from todays Age Newspaper

The frequent flyer who never took off
By Steve Butcher
June 17, 2005
Austin Perrott amassed more than 16 million frequent flyer points, but he never left the ground, let alone fastened a seatbelt.
Perrott kept his feet firmly on the ground as a Singapore Airlines customer services supervisor in Melbourne, yet he flew high to VIP frequent flyer level before rocketing to Gold Elite status.
It allegedly all began when he stumbled on an "irregularity" in Qantas' mainframe computer system.
A Melbourne court heard yesterday how Perrott found that passenger lists for flights that had departed and landed remained "active" and could be accessed.
In a summary tendered to the Melbourne Magistrates Court, Perrott said he realised he could add names to the passenger lists.
He knew from working in the airline industry for more than 15 years that once a computer system closed a flight's passenger list, all data was automatically sent to the airline's frequent flyer program.
In February 1996 Perrott was to embark on a 61/2-year scam that police allege totalled almost $790,000 worth of points, of which $222,000 was redeemed. He was accused of causing losses of $151,000 to 10 airlines, including Qantas, British Airways and American Airlines, from 29 accounts he created.
Defence lawyer Suzie Cameron said that while Perrott, 45, disputed all three figures, he would plead guilty to an "appropriately framed presentment" in the County Court.
Friends at Qantas gave Perrott the password to the airline's computer system. According to the summary, Perrott said he wanted the password in order to gain access to cheap or free seats commonly available to staff and colleagues at other airlines.
Using the password, he was able to access the computer systems of several other airlines at Melbourne Airport.
Once initial accounts with Qantas and Air New Zealand were activated, Perrott began collecting points. By creating other accounts, he was able to redeem points. As the scam and his "stolen" points grew, Perrott was often paid by unsuspecting family and friends for airline tickets.
Perrott told police he had been in financial difficulty and had used the money to 'keep my head above water'."
He knew from experience that his frequent flyer memberships would create a VIP status, which would attract unwanted interest, so he tried to distribute points evenly into new accounts.
In November 2002, an internal investigation by Air New Zealand, which found Perrott was a Gold Elite member, revealed his "extraordinarily large amounts of points" were accrued through a terminal at Melbourne Airport.
After his arrest, Perrott told police he had been in financial difficulty and had used the money to "keep my head above water".
He had stumbled on the scam, tried it a couple of times and "saw . . . OK, this seems to work".
"Tried it on one airline and then tried it on several others and found that it was, you know, quite easy to create the accounts and subsequently credit them with . . . points and it basically got out of hand," he said.
He reserved his plea on numerous charges, mostly of obtaining a financial advantage by deception.
Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg bailed Perrott, of Balwyn, to appear in the County Court on October 24.
 

danielh

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I'm just curious to know how they valued the points to $Dollar values.

Either they have a formula or got the Dollar value from any actual flights he may have taken.

Regards
Daniel
 
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