WASHINGTON -- The amount of blank ticket stock stolen or missing
from travel agencies sank to the lowest level last year since 1991,
according to an analysis of Airlines Reporting Corp. figures.
ARC said 135,677 accountable agency documents were stolen or
missing, a hefty drop of 44% from 1997.
Stolen tickets hit a record 444,673 documents in 1995 and
decreased every year since then, thanks to tighter security rules
from ARC and heightened vigilance by agents. Automated ticket and
boarding pass (ATB) coupons represented more than 90% of all stolen
or missing stock for the past two years.
Stolen tickets were an infinitesimal percentage of the 1.07
billion accountable documents shipped to agents last year, and the
percentage is shrinking as electronic ticketing becomes more
prevalent and agents need fewer paper tickets on the premises.
Nevertheless, ticket theft can have devastating financial
consequences for individual agency owners who failed to comply with
ARC security rules and are held liable to pay for tickets that are
issued on their stolen stock and honored by airlines at the
The average stolen ATB coupon has a value of $550, according to
law enforcement estimates. A record 17,270 tickets were taken in 19
armed robberies of agencies last year.
Nine of the armed robberies occurred in December, mostly in an
alarming rash of incidents in Southern California that appeared to
dry up after two suspects were apprehended by police.
Although the number of tickets stolen in armed robberies was a
record, the number of robberies was well below the crime-ridden
years of 1994, 1993 and the early 1980s, when 30 or more robberies
a year were common. Unlike in other thefts, ARC never holds agents
liable for the loss of tickets in armed robberies.
Nighttime burglaries dropped off dramatically last year. ARC
said 46,896 tickets were stolen in nighttime burglaries, the fewest
since 1991 and a plunge of 60% below the record 117,994 tickets in
The loss of tickets from day-time thefts, resulting from
shoplifting by criminals posing as customers, was the lowest since
ARC began tracking such figures in 1991.
Because travel agents have grown much more wary of shoplifters
and have taken precautions, only two known incidents of day-time
theft occurred last year, with the loss of only 122 ATB
Other categories, such as thefts by agency principals after
their accreditation was yanked, also showed improvement. On the
other hand, the category of tickets simply labled "lost" was up
substantially over 1997.