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Cathay Dragon Captain Sentenced for Scamming Free Travel from Air Canada

Cathay Dragon Captain Sentenced for Scamming Free Travel from Air Canada
Jeff Edwards

The Canadian citizen who resides in Hong Kong had previously pleaded guilty to bilking the airline out of more than $35,000 by using reimbursement codes reserved for “secret shoppers.”

A commercial airline pilot who reportedly liked to boast about his prowess for earning free travel was finally forced to face the music in a Canadian courtroom in December. According to court records, Marc Anthony Tacchi was ordered to pay restitution of $36,551.27 to Air Canada, to complete 20 hours of community service and serve a supervised conditional release for six months.

The 44-year-old Cathay Dragon pilot, who is a citizen of Canada with residency in Hong Kong, previously pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from a scam which saw Air Canada taken for tens-of-thousands-of-dollars-worth of unpaid flights. The scheme involved fraudulently using flight privileges reserved for “secret shoppers” to evaluate the airline. Tacchi illegally used codes obtained through an accomplice who worked for the firm that provided secret shopper reports for Air Canada. The pilot, in some cases, managed to fly first class and even earn frequent flyer miles without paying for tickets dozens of times. In one instance, Tacchi admitted to making and selling ill-gotten bookings to other associates.

“The amount involved in these frauds is not insubstantial,” Judge Patrick Chen wrote in Tacchi’s sentencing documents. “The sole motivation for these offenses was greed. The accused used a fake name and fake address when filling out forms to perpetrate some of the frauds.”

According to the Vancouver Sun, Tacchi fraudulently booked travel through the elaborate scam several times between March and July of 2013. Judge Chen cited the fact that the aviator has stayed out of trouble since then as one of the mitigating factors that led to the relatively light sentence.

Several posts on the FlyerTalk thread discussing the onetime member’s fall from grace, note that the pilot was known to post to discussions under the handle “mtacchi” and earned a reputation for being somewhat proud of his skill at earning free travel through creative means. The professional pilot even appears to have briefly maintained a blog focusing on just such endeavors – including “The Great Canadian Mileage Run 2005.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (6)


  1. nadabrainiac

    January 10, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    “relatively light sentence”? According to the limited information in the article, his out-of-pocket was still less than the cost of his flights. In addition to the value of the miles he accrued, he received cash from other people for flights booked for them. If the value of those flights is included in the $36k number, he made less money, but still retained ill-gotten benefits. I’m sure there are more than just a few criminals that would be happy to spend 20 hours raking leaves and returning only what they stole as punishment. I would guess that if I stole a $35,000 car, I would become quite familiar with the inside of a prison, even after giving it back.

  2. FlyingNone

    January 10, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    He must have been some talker to worm his way out of a heavy sentence. No mention if he was fired from Cathay Dragon? Supervised conditional release ?…..what does that mean?

  3. KevAZ

    January 11, 2018 at 4:31 am

    @nadabrainiac He pulled the Great Canadian Get Out of Jail Card by saying the Canadian motto of “Sorry!”

  4. thefareguru

    January 11, 2018 at 5:57 am

    Jeff Edwards, you are so eager to tar and feather Marc Tacchi that you even inferred that he earned free travel through creative means and then deceptively inferred that the Great Canadian Mileage Run (GCMR) was free. Not bloody likely! The price of the ticket was C$6999 + tax C$350 = $7349 and then you had to do the work of flying to earn each and every mile. I did the Run as well. It took 61 days out of our lives.

  5. booatx

    January 11, 2018 at 6:31 am

    I am curious about the need for this scam. If he was/is a pilot, why would he need to scam an airline? Is there more information about that aspect of this story?

  6. nadabrainiac

    January 11, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    booatx: I can’t give you specifics about this situation, but the way the Secret Shopper program works in the US is you use a service or product, write a report on the aspects they tell you to document, then you are reimbursed for your costs. That is most likely how he was able to collect miles on flights he didn’t personally fund, because the seat was paid for. If he used his airline perks, he would not get miles and wouldn’t necessarily sit in First Class.

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