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Gate Agent Arrested for Illegally Upgrading 500 Tickets

Gate Agent Arrested for Illegally Upgrading 500 Tickets
Joe Cortez

A former JetBlue employee is facing up to 20 years in prison and potentially $250,000 in fines, for her role in rigging the airline’s ticketing system in favor of friends. Tiffany Jenkins pleaded guilty on October 18, 2019, on three counts of wire fraud for converting some low-cost flights to expensive international flights.

A gate agent is facing hard time for her role in upgrading friends and family under the airline’s “involuntary exchange” rule. “A Chelsea woman pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston in connection with using her position as an airline gate agent to convert low-cost flights to more expensive flights and destinations for friends, family, and acquaintances reads a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

Although the press release does not name the airline involved, the Boston Globe independently confirmed that JetBlue was the airline in question and that 31-year-old Tiffany Jenkins plead guilty to three counts of wire fraud on October 18, 2019.

How Did So Many People Get Free Upgrades?

Between July 1, 2016, and September 27, 2017, Jenkins completed 505 ticket exchanges for over 100 people–which works out to over one upgrade per day–using the “involuntary exchange” rule or “INVOL” for short. Under the rule, gate agents are allowed to change flights for customers for free when facing extraordinary circumstances, such as the death of a family member or a missed flight.

Jenkins used the INVOL rule to swap flights for her associates who bought cheap JetBlue flights for short flights–between Long Beach Airport (LGB) and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)–then upgrade them for more expensive flights, often for international destinations. JetBlue estimates the cost of the upgrades to be around $785,000.

The press release did not specify if Jenkins had an agreement with prosecuting attorneys for the guilty plea. Under federal law, the former employee could face up to 20 years in prison, and fines of $250,000 or twice the gross loss or gain, whichever is greater. Jenkins will return to court on January 21, 2020, for sentencing.

View Comments (13)

13 Comments

  1. BThumme

    October 23, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Doesn’t say if that was R/T or not, not that it matters, but $785,000/505 tickets means a value of ~$1554 a ticket. Regardless, that’s a pretty attractive fee for a long haul business fee.

  2. simpleflyer

    October 23, 2019 at 11:26 am

    There’s a one syllable word that would have worked here instead of, ‘illegal upgrade.’

    Fraud.

    Persuading a party to enter a contract when one has every intention of altering the terms of the contract when it comes to the actual performance of same, and without informing the other party of the change, is not an ‘illegal upgrade’, it is fraud.

    If I agree with the owner to buy their self-executed black velvet painting for $5 and I substitute an original Picasso hanging in their living room, I have not ‘upgraded’ the purchase, I have committed fraud.

    **fraud: wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. **

    I ain’t no judge, nor lawyer either, but I consider it is a form of deception to obscure the nature of one’s activities using euphemisms.

  3. simpleflyer

    October 23, 2019 at 11:32 am

    BTW I realize she ‘informed’ the airline of the change, but the information supplied was inaccurate, viz ‘invol.’ There doesn’t appear to be anything involuntary by either her or her friends with this arrangement, hence the deception.

  4. drvannostren

    October 23, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    I mean…do it once, even a handful of times and you’ll get a slap on the wrist. 500+ times? That’s just arrogant and the employee deserves the punishment AND i hope the friends & family feel guilty AF if they ever ASKED this person to do it.

  5. jamesteroh

    October 24, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Too bad the domestic airlines wouldn’t prosecute employees who screw elites out of upgrades in order to upgrade their co-workers

  6. mvoight

    October 24, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Are they prosecuting the people who flew too?

  7. MikeFly

    October 25, 2019 at 6:26 am

    How does an Invol ticket reissue change a Long Beach to LAS flight to a LHR rountrip? Any invol that I have been part of or witnessed is to get the pax to their original destination or at best a co-terminal?

  8. kkua

    October 25, 2019 at 10:49 am

    I don’t get it… she’s from Chelsea, MA and yet passengers were flying between LAX and LAS. The systems should have rang their bells and alerted for supervisory overwrite for travel that does not involve either points of the ticket. She should have been forced plenty of community service hours to work in the fraud analysis department.

  9. JimInOhio

    October 26, 2019 at 5:39 am

    Note to Joe Cortez: Please consider changing the headline as these are not cases of “upgrading” but exchanging for totally different tickets. The agent isn’t facing jail for simply putting friends in Mint.

  10. zgscl

    October 26, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Seems like extremely poor internal controls to allow this to happen. Changing lax-Las to international ought to raise a whole bunch of red flags especially if done multiple times. Especially because last time I checked Jet Blue doesn’t even fly there…

  11. thebug622

    October 26, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    20 years in prison and a $250000 fine for this offense? Seems that our comments should be expressing outrage that the law allows this type of penalty for a non violent crime. Murders usually pay less a penalty for this

  12. Occupationalhazard

    October 28, 2019 at 8:09 am

    @thebug622

    Pls re read: “A former JetBlue employee is facing [b]up to[/b] 20 years in prison and [b]potentially[/b] $250,000 in fines.

    If she has no priors, expresses remorse, gets the right judge and can make at least some kind of restitution, then she won’t get anything near that. It also depends on how interested Jet Blue is in having her prosecuted, i.e. they may just want a deterrent to future employees and not to send her away for the Rest of Forever.

    Her attorney will ask for probation, the prosecutor will ask for an upwards departure and the judge will settle on something in between, in line with what other, similar frauds have resulted in. Luckily for her, she won’t have a string of widows and orphans coming in telling about how they were swindled out of their last farthing, but really, if one doesn’t commit crimes, then one will not have these types of problems.

    O/H

  13. AJNEDC

    October 28, 2019 at 11:21 am

    This story doesn’t make sense to me. As a few posters have already stated, how can you do an invol from an original LAX-LAS flight to LAS to London or Lax/LHR etc? Did travellers book Lax/Las originally knowing that they wanted to travel to London as an example, checked in for their departing flight on day of travel and agent routed them to LHR and back? Or were these international flights on JB’s service to the Caribbean and Latin America?

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