Airline Ticket Scam Leaves Travelers Stranded and Furious


By Jawahar Malhotra
HOUSTON: The old adage “If its too good to be true, it probably is” came back to haunt many travelers from the Houston area as they bought airline tickets from an out-of-town travel agency which had advertised in this and another community newspaper over several months.

According to reports received from two people who had bought their tickets from Patel Travel Inc. over the 718/ 877 numbers it had listed in their ad, the booking turned up to be non-existent, once the travelers had reached the airport to board their flights. The travelers identities are being kept confidential as federal authorities are currently investigating the situation, but it was reported that between them, and the others they referred, over $20,000 of tickets were purchased from Sunny Chowdhury of Patel Travel Inc., only to learn later that these were all worthless.

According to one traveler, he paid for the tickets weeks in advance, and when he tried to get his boarding pass at Bush Intercontinental Airport, he was told that the tickets were denied as they were paid for with a worthless credit card. With the prospect of the family’s vacation plans ruined and in panic, when the man repeatedly tried to call Chowdhury and Patel Travel, he could not get through to the 718/ 877 numbers nor did he receive any replies to text messages or emails.

Patel Travel Inc. has advertised in Indo-American News for a few months and these are the first reports that the paper has received about travelers having being duped out of their money by the company. A cursory log in at press time found that the company maintains a professional looking and enticing website home page but all the other pages elicited an error message that “The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.”

Indo-American News does not routinely perform a background check on its advertisers nor does it guarantee or take responsibility for the advertisers’ goods or services. There have been few, rare cases of unscrupulous advertisers in the paper’s history, and those have mostly been in the travel business. Indo-American News has stopped running the Patel Travel Inc. ad and will cooperate with any ongoing investigations into this case .

Few reports of such unscrupulous behavior have been filed against local travel agents who advertise regularly and are well connected within the community, although, in the past three decades that this paper has served the community, there have been some who have pulled the same scam. While it is hard to accept that such criminal activity preys on the Indo American community. The best advise to avoid becoming a victim is to check out the travel agent thoroughly and better still, deal with one who has been referred and is local.