A former US travel agent has been charged with stealing almost 3.7million airmiles from her clients, and using them to buy plane tickets for herself and her family.
The Daily Mail reports that Karen Yeakel was fired from her job at Stellar Travel in Bellevue, Washington, in 2011 as a result of discrepancies in the frequent flier account of one of her best clients.
She has since been charged with using clients' airmiles to buy more than 135 flights, worth more than £67,000. She has also been charged with using the credit cards of some clients to buy £111,000 worth of plane tickets, which she then offered at a discount to other customers.
Prosecutors wrote: "Yeakel frequently denied her clients access to their airline miles or misled clients into believing that the airlines had restricted the use of airline miles when, in fact, no airline miles were available as defendant Yeakel had misappropriated them for her own benefit."
Stellar Travel company partner, Susan Bluhm, did not identify Yeakel's clients, and they were not named in the court papers. However they were described as "high net worth individuals".
She added:"A handful of her top clients were affected, and those clients are still our clients. They realised that this was the action of a rogue employee. This was almost two years ago, and we dealt with it."
ABC News reports that the charge was filed in a federal court document called an 'information', which usually means that a plea deal is in the works.
Ms Yeakel began working at Stellar in 2003. Court papers said that the scheme to provide airline tickets purchased by some clients to other clients began in early 2005. The scheme to convert frequent flier miles for her own use began in 2008.
Click on the image below for some holiday trends for 2013...
Holiday trends 2013
Travel agent stole 3.7million air miles and used them to buy family flights
Greek bookings took a bit of a beating in 2012, not least because of the political unrest. But things are looking up for 2013 says Noel Josephides, managing director at Sunvil. "The pound has appreciated approximately 10 per cent against the euro, and we are predicting a considerable return to Greece as well as Portugal and Spain," Try this: A week's self-catering stay at Villa Irene in the Aghios Gordis on Corfu, which costs from £535 pp (two sharing) in May.
With the Solar Maximum predicted to peak in spring 2013, the trend for Northern Lights holidays is set to continue. Stephanie Eddy, Marketing Manager of Activities Abroad, says: "We have seen a noticeable surge of requests from parents looking for family-friendly Northern Lights holidays." Try this:Activities Abroad offers a Family Aurora Adventure in Nellim in Finnish Lapland from £1,495 pp.
This may be the age of austerity, but that doesn't mean that we're going to stop taking occasional opportunities to indulge ourselves, says Ted Wake from Kirker Holidays. "Consumers may make less frequent purchases, but they want to make it count when they do spend. Typically, they enjoy delegating the smooth running of their special short break to an expert for a hassle-free, one-stop shopping experience that's not necessarily cheaper but is much more fun and better value for money, including extra touches such as a dinner reservation, opera tickets or perhaps a private walking tour. Try thisKirker Holidays offers three nights at the Do Pozzi hotel in Venice from £538 including flights, water-taxi transfers, accommodation with breakfast, timed entrance to the Doge's Palace, guide notes and the services of the Kirker Concierge.
In a determined search for quality and discounted prices, more Brits will be booking four and five-star ‘secret hotels’ than ever before, says Fulvia Montresor, travel expert at Hotwire. "In 2012, seven per cent of Brits booked secret hotels. This year, it’s expected that number will increase." When booking secret hotels, holidaymakers get up to 50 per cent off - but don’t know the name of the hotel until they complete their booking. Hotwire.com recently announced that it had seen a 100 per cent increase in secret hotel bookings in the past 12 months.
David Pattison, Head of Product & Marketing, Voyages Jules Verne, says: "Despite the continued economic situation, it's clear that travellers are keen not to miss out on their well-earned holidays. Instead, they have become more careful in their choices, seeking out experiences that offer the best value whilst not necessarily being 'cheap and cheerful'. Try this: Voyages Jules Verne (0845 166 7035, www.vjv.com) has a 'HighLights of Vietnam & Cambodia' tour that costs from £1,245 pp.
Thanks to the success of the British cycle team in the Tour de France, not to mention Bradley Wiggins' success in the 2012 Olympics, cycling holidays have never been so popular. Jonathan Bryan, managing director of Discover Adventure, says: "We predict that this interest will continue to rise, especially with the Tour de France celebrating its 100th edition in 2013."
"We predict that this interest will continue to rise, especially with the Tour de France celebrating its 100th edition in 2013."
Sample package: Cycle the mountains made famous by the Tour de France on this new trip, a nine-day Pyrenees coast-to-coast cycle trip with Discover Adventure* (01722 718 444, www.discoveradventure.com). Journey from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and conquer numerous steep cols, including the famous Col du Tourmalet (2,115m). Departing 15 June and 7 September 2013, the trip includes eight nights' hotel accommodation, most meals and Discover Adventure leaders. Flights extra. Participants pay £826 pp (two sharing) or there's a fundraising target of £2,065 pp (£299 registration fee applies in each case).
Victoria Hampton, marketing manager at DialAFlight, predicts that all-inclusive holidays are likely to be more popular than ever before, as holidaymakers try to avoid nasty surprises on their bills at the end of their stay. "All-inclusive holidays have grown in popularity throughout 2012 and we expect this to continue into 2013. Hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico have always met this demand considerably well and now more and more destinations have started to follow suit, such as Dubai, Asia and the Indian Ocean. This has also contributed to the continuing growth of cruise holidays which, in some instances, offer all meals, drinks and some shore excursions in one all-inclusive package."
Sightseeing through the window of a train is one of the most relaxing ways to see a country, but train travellers are now looking for more exotic rail journeys to fulfill their holiday expectations. Maria Cook, general manager at rail holiday specialist Ffestiniog Travel says: "The desire to visit unusual destinations that offer a hint of adventure as well as culture and leisure is increasing among rail travel tourists over the age of 50." Try this: Ffestinog's new 11-day rail trip exploring Eritrea and Cairo departing in November.
Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels, says: "With Downton Abbey proving to be one of the most popular period dramas of all time and the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice in 2013, country house hotels and stately homes are very much of the moment." Pride of Britain Hotel members include 17th century Stapleford Park in Leicestershire, National Trust-owned Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire and Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa in Bedfordshire.
The UK's appetite for overseas travel remains resilient to the recession, according to Paul Simmons, UK Director for easyJet. "A remarkable 86 per cent of travellers are planning two or more overseas breaks in 2013," he says. "Beach holidays are still a firm favourite, with the Greek Islands revealed as a top destination for 2013 alongside the ever popular Alicante, Faro and Malaga (pictured)."
"The introduction of low fares to Moscow, Venice and Reykjavík will open up the range of short trips available, which is great news for the 35% of people who said they were already planning a city break to complement their sun holiday."