Woman In China Earns $424K From Flight Delay Scam (And Then Gets Arrested)

Filed Under: Travel

Shanghaiist reports that a person in Nanjing, China, has been arrested after making around $424K from delays on flights she had no intention of taking.

The 45 year old woman had booked over 900 flights between 2015 and 2019. She booked these flights without intending to go anywhere, but rather was counting on them being delayed in order to cash in on travel insurance policies.

She would purchase flight delay insurance, and then would analyze weather conditions and general flight on-time statistics in order to determine how likely it was that a flight would be delayed.

Over the course of five years she booked these hundreds of flights not just in her own name, but also in the names of friends and family members, in order to make it less obvious. This scam earned her about 3 million RMB, or about 424K USD.

The authorities had finally caught on to what she was doing, and on Friday it was announced that she was arrested and being charged with fraud.

Apparently some Chinese travel insurance companies have updated policies so that something like this couldn’t happen again, including adding provisions that a flight actually has to be taken in order for the compensation to be paid.

It’s still not entirely clear what kind of insurance policy she was taking advantage of, and how this worked. I wonder:

  • How long did the flight have to be delayed for her to file a claim?
  • Did these insurance policy essentially offer compensation for any sort of delay, or only for losses incurred as a result of the delay? If the latter, how exactly did that work in her situation?
  • Was the insurance company reimbursing her for the flights, or was she cashing in on the policy and somehow getting a refund from the airline due to the delay?

(Tip of the hat to David)

Comments
  1. At least in the past, it’s been a popular up sell option before confirming payment for a flight via OTAs in China to add a “trip delay insurance” which essentially is, you pay me $1, if it’s gets delayed you get $70. Kinda like a bet if you tell me with terms and conditions. Looks like she gamed the system. Fair and square imo, she’s taken the risk, should get the reward, unless if was actual fraud.

  2. I don’t blame her one bit. There is a Chinese proverb that says: 能騙就騙 “If you can cheat, then cheat”. Sucks for these companies to have had loopholes that could have been easily exploited. They should let her keep the cash.

  3. no one :
    that woman : i’m gonna do what’s called a pro-gamer move.

    lmao, what’s up with aviation loopholes and China? Remember when a man in Xi’an bought a First class ticket and used it to access the lounge to get free meals for an entire year? GENIUSES oml

  4. Is this a “scam” though? The insurance policy had clear terms for payouts, and she fulfilled them through making predictions (and accepting the corresponding risks) through weather predictions and historical flight data.

  5. It’s sad enough seeing when someone take advantage of corporate policy loophole, they’re thrown into authority, it’s even sadder seeing Lucky fall for it. She can’t control weather, how is this insurance fraud? And about the intention of no flying, should we’re all arrested from Iberia promotion since we all didn’t intend flying them to begin with?
    The insurer/bank can ban her, sue her, but I can’t see why she should be in jail, which is another testament about how law in China are hyper-business friendly.
    PS. flight delay insurance payout from credit card in China are usually no question asked, fixed amount, though some capped to ticket price. I suppose since insurer assume people will use it to maximum.

  6. Oh well, if I got a dollar for every flight that gets delayed in China I would be a billionaire by now.

  7. “provisions that a flight actually has to be taken in order for the compensation to be paid.”
    is this from one loophole to another extreme? what if the delay rendered the trip useless & must be cancelled?

    she is an analytic mind which we are not lacking around here, people have been doing things to profit for nothing like the refundable 1st class ticket to get in lounge and canceling it right from the cocktail bar. We must be outdone, we set examples for the world.

  8. This is the equivalent of card counting. As much as casinos would like to say it’s illegal, it’s not. The casinos (and insurance companies) have the absolute advantage of being able to set the rules, so they can either change the rules or ban a customer, but throwing a person in jail for this is bullshit.

  9. It’s like counting cards in blackjack, not illegal but highly frowned upon by the casinos. I think, the worst that should happen to her is getting banned by the airlines and travel ins. companies. But who am I kidding, this is China we talking about.

  10. It’s clear that those defending her are low lives partaking in similar practices but on a lesser scale. Perhaps these degenerates would consider getting a job so they can be paid to contribute to society rather than scamming ppl “because waahhhhh it’s within the rules”.

  11. This is so interesting.

    ‘For example, the terms of the Qunar platform have stipulated that the insurer knew or reasonably inferred that there might be a delay when booking a flight or insuring, and the insurer is not liable for compensation.’

    Wouldn’t that be exactly why you want to insure for a flight delay? If you don’t want to insure flights that people may think may get delayed then don’t sell insurance on those flights; run cost risk calculations.

  12. I mean, she should be entitled to at least keep all the money earned for tickets she bought in her name. Still, it isn’t illegal to purchase a ticket for somebody else. I’m not sure how anyone can prove she never intended to take those flights except in instances where she was going to be on two planes at the same time. As far as I know, mind reading still isn’t a thing yet.

    She played their game and won.

  13. The source article has some details on how compensation works. Generally it’s delays of 3-4hrs or more will get you 100-300CNY (~15-45USD), though I’m not sure if these are in line w/ the compensations she got before the changes. They’ve also added clauses based on the intent of purchasing insurance to give themselves even more wiggle room for these cases.

    FWIW she also worked in the industry before, so used her knowledge to improve her chances.

  14. This Woman is a genius, and why would they sell insurance if they never intended to pay out? Isn’t it them who are scamming us? I am gonna start buying such insurance from now on since have the flights I take are always delayed anyways and I have every intention of taking them……

  15. Hey karbupple why don’t you take your hot air to some other blog. Your sarcasm is not appreciated here.

  16. It is interesting that so many here think that what she is doing is simply gaming the system, when we actually have no real clue as to what she actually did to get $424K in payouts. Was fraud involved ,or was it purely a numbers game ? The former is illegal, the latter is possibly ethically wrong .

  17. Insurance companies claimed that she faked some of the delay certificates, though the details of that haven’t been revealed yet. If that is true I think there should be no doubt that she deserves the charges.

  18. this is not scam flight was delayed thats why she got insurance amount is there any law how many tickets any one can book?

  19. Robin, do you really think it’s such a great idea to marry a professional scammer such as her? How long exactly do you think it will be before your bank account is empty, your home & assets are gone and you’re left with a string of debts & bad credit.. oh and then no wife.
    Maybe re-think that idea.

  20. This reminds me of those who used to purchase multiple tickets for flights on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and then go to the airport and volunteer to be bumped from one flight after another.

  21. To answer your question here Lucky:

    · How long did the flight have to be delayed for her to file a claim?
    · Did these insurance policy essentially offer compensation for any sort of delay, or only for losses incurred as a result of the delay? If the latter, how exactly did that work in her situation?
    – The kind of insurance policy she purchased is quite common in China, which you paid around 5-8 USD (30-50 CNY) for each flight you intend to take, and if the flight is delayed by 2-4+ hrs or cancelled, you get a fixed compensation of 30-60 USD (200-400 CNY), no need to prove your losses and all delay reasons accepted (including weather). This kind of policy is quite popular especially during summer when rainy weathers and thunderstorms become big troublemakers.

    · Was the insurance company reimbursing her for the flights, or was she cashing in on the policy and somehow getting a refund from the airline due to the delay?
    – As mentioned above, she got fixed compensations. On top of that, since the flight is cancelled, she should be entitled to full refund of the air ticket from the airline.

    This story sparks quite a lot of debate in China on whether she did break the law or not. As mentioned above, this is just like counting cards in casinos. To me, the insurance policy is just like buying an option in financial markets or making a bet on horse races, here you bet against flight delay by calculating past flight delay data (assuming you hold no insider information of future flight delay from airlines, then that’s insider trading.)

  22. It’s funny how so many chinese financial products are designed more like gambling products than insurance/investing. The easiest way to handle this would be to make the insurance an indemnity product — it pays out the cost of the loss (up to a limit) from the flight cancellation or delay. Otherwise you end up in situations like this with people gambling on the weather. This is exactly why you couldn’t do the same thing in the US without committing actual fraud — between the direct insurance when buying the ticket, credit cards, and 3rd party insurers, these bloggers would be millionaires.

  23. For your question:
    1. most Chinese trip delay insurance requires 3 hrs or 6hrs delay to file a claim, depends on your policy cost, typically expensive insurance require 3 hrs delay at least, cheaper insurance requires 6 hrs.
    2. different from most trip delay insurance provided by credit cards in the US, trip delay insurances in China are not reimbursement based. A very typical trip delay insurance policy is: you need to pay 20 CNY (3 USD) to buy insurance for your flight and if the flight delay by any reason (include weather, mechanical, etc.) for more than 3 hrs you will get a compensation of 300 CNY (45 USD). So she doesn’t need to stay in a hotel to get the reimbursement, she will get the cash directly from the insurance company.
    3. refer to the answer above, she gets the cash compensation from the insurance company. And also different from US Airlines, most Chinese Airlines will arrange the accommodation for those passengers experience a long delay, so they don’t need insurance to reimburse the accommodation cost.

  24. One thing that could get her in trouble is that she used her friends and family’s id to book multiple tickets for the same flight she chose to maximum her return.

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