Air India flies into another scam, seeks CBI probe

Beleaguered national carrier Air India ruined by freebees, political interference in its management and defrauded by the recent `LTC scam', has been hit by yet another case of fraud, involving an estimated Rs15-20 crore, in its Family Fare Scheme (FFS), a scheme meant for family members of the employees of the airline.

The airline management, after an initial probe by its vigilance department, has referred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), sources said, adding, CBI help was sought for further probe since agencies outside were involved and the case was of an all-India nature.

The vigilance probe has identified at least one travel agency that is suspected to have defrauded the airline, causing an estimated loss of over Rs6 crore loss in the FSS, chief vigilance officer (CVO) of Air India, B K Maurya told the CBI.

Under the FFS, concession is given to employees of the airline in which they can take their family to a domestic destination once a year at subsidised cost.

"We have referred the matter to CBI. It is suspected that many more travel agencies could be involved in this case causing direct loss of crores of rupees to AI," Maurya said.

CBI sources said the vigilance probe has found that the FFS involved 5,916 tickets in one particular sector alone – the Chennai-Port Blair and Kolkata-Port Blair sector - as per records since 2007.

A subsequent probe has found that the travel operator "indulged in fraudulently altering the fare on flown coupons to higher amount than the fare shown on the audit coupons and thus presumably keeping the excess amount which is difference of fare as per flight coupons and the audit coupons."

Also, the vigilance probe has found that the mandatory printing of the rule - 'all family members travel together' - was not found on a number of tickets issued under FSS.

Air India suspects the fraud was committed with the collusion of its staff who separated the passenger and AI redemption coupons by writing two different fares aimed at claiming more money from the airline.

Air-India estimates the loss in the scam could be as high as Rs15-20 crore over the period.