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Gulf customers shortchanged as flight booking website is suspended
July 10, 2014, 12:47 pm

Some international flights, including to and from Dubai, may not be valid after an online flight booking website was suspended for not paying airlines money collected on their behalf. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has suspended from selling flights. It reportedly owes €45 million ($61 million) to various airlines for tickets issued in May and June, including €14 million for tickets issued in the UK, €22 million for those issued in Germany and €9 million for those issued in Greece.

Some of the bookings include flights to and from Dubai. A Dubai-based resident warned of the scam on his Facebook page after his ticket bought on the website was cancelled. “For anyone who is looking to book flight tickets soon, please be aware that the company Air Fast Tickets have been selling air tickets, cancelling them, then avoiding offering refunds,” he wrote.

“The matter is now with the credit card department in order to extract my money. Thankfully Emirates NBD have been helpful so far. Unfortunately this appears a recent thing and seems I'm not the only one to fall victim to this.” A BBC listener named Andy Thompson also told the radio station he bought a £500 ($857) ticket to Dubai on June 5 using, only for it to be cancelled 24 hours later, with no refund.

"I tried to ring them but that was well-nigh impossible - it was 20 minutes hanging on the phone and I gave up both times," Thompson told the BBC.
"I was told to wait seven days but nothing came through, and by this time I knew I was in trouble."  An IATA Middle East spokesperson confirmed to Arabian Business that the website had been suspended from selling tickets.

“[The] ticketing authority for the AirFast group remains suspended, following their failure to remit funds in the UK and Germany at the end of May. Discussions are continuing with AirFast regarding the recovery of the outstanding amounts,” the spokesman said.

Dubai-based Emirates NBD declined to confirm it was investigating customers’ claims that their tickets had been cancelled without a refund but said it was “committed to providing customers security and comfort while they conduct online transactions”. 

The website was still operating on Thursday, although some destinations, including London, could not be selected.

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