How are flight scalpers taking over the Chinese market

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(CNN) – When I decided to travel outside of Hong Kong in early March, the number of Covid-19 cases per day had reached 50,000, with the highest number of deaths in the country. the world.

But I tried to go to Shanghai, my hometown, for the first time in over two years.

I found it difficult to travel from a Covid peak to a place with a zero-Covid policy. I thought I was ready for all the hassles and problems to come back to – the Covid -19 reports counted, allowed time off from work and ordered hotel quarantines, not to mention a huge price.

I didn’t know the problems were just beginning.

Three clicks

In late February, reports surfaced that Shanghai was reducing the number of inbound flights from Hong Kong and setting the limit to 50% per flight.

The policy has not been published, but the response has been quick. When I look at airline ticketing systems, I see the days for future flights are going to fall one after the other. In less than an hour, all available locations for the entire month of March were fully booked.

Anxiously, I turned to a tourist I had seen. The next day, he called and gave me the option to fly on March 8 to Shanghai with Hong Kong Airlines.

“Do you like it or not? Decide now, or it will be later,” the officer demanded of me.

I’m not happy with the decision under pressure. But seeing that the tickets were gone so fast I didn’t know I decided to go.

Medical staff collects PCR test swabs in Hong Kong

Medical staff collects PCR test swabs in Hong Kong

Images of Lo Ping Fai / Xinhua / Getty

Three days before I left, my flight was canceled. The airline did not provide an official explanation, but it is widely believed that the result of Shanghai’s re-regulation of inbound flights from Hong Kong is that the city is reporting Covid-19 infections. I called the planes and looked for other options, only to find that everything was over.

I was stuck in an endless loop.

Scalpers and fraud

Next, I turned to another piece of advice: Ms. Yu, the one I saw on social media after seeing the new book he downloaded for someone.

“Ms. Yu” has no network. He only runs his business through WeChat, a popular email program in China.

Airlines in China have sold the most expensive tickets from airlines. But while China will effectively isolate itself from the outside world and reduce the number of incoming flights, global flights have fallen to about 2% of the pre-pandemic level, the state director said.

However, there is a growing demand from the Chinese to study and work abroad. And the very short supply of flights to China has turned these agents into scalpers who resell desired tickets at higher prices.

I asked the messenger how much “premium” I would have to pay for a ticket in a month.

“In fact, it’s very expensive these days. I think it’s more than a lot of people’s budget,” he said. “I often train my customers after they ask.”

Not just money. Tickets are actually sold at public outlets and delegates are not required. All they can do is check the booking system and collect the remaining tickets quickly.

The envoy said there were bots constantly searching for the requested planes and seizing the tickets that were available on time, but the system needed to be manual.

Yu said he had to work at night to check the ticketing system, because the planes would “drop some books at night.”

For the day I planned to travel, he asked for 11,000 RMB (about $ 1,650) for a new book. It’s a joke for a 2.5-hour route. Full pre-pandemic costs range from $ 300-450 per trip.

I thought I had no other choice, I agreed to the price and paid a $ 450 deposit, and Yu said to get back to me if he couldn’t secure a book within 24 hours.

As air tickets and Covid-19 show results should work the same, he told me to line up one Covid-19 show per day for the entire week if he had last minute seats. as far as I can read, make sure I get it. time to try before I fly, according to the rules.

Fortunately, Yu helped me book a book on March 8. She told me it was 20 hours before she left. At about the same time, my PCR test was back well from the day before. I was ready to go.

Once a major global hub, Hong Kong’s air traffic was significantly reduced during the crisis.

Once a major global hub, Hong Kong’s air traffic was significantly reduced during the crisis.

Dale De La Rey / AFP / Photo Credit

The tick does not swear

The day of my journey has arrived. Hong Kong International Airport is very quiet, with low operating numbers.

When I look at it, I boldly show everything – my travel map, a Covid identification card and a QR code given to trips to the mainland.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Wang. The plane is full. We can’t take you on the plane today,” the flight attendant said.

“The Shanghai authorities only agreed to 50% control and the area was filled.

The flight attendants regretted it. They continued to comfort me and promised to get me a seat for one flight tomorrow.

They also said they could set up a PCR test at the airport so that I could prepare the test report for the next day. I thought I had no choice but to agree. The plane gave me $ 1,000 HKD ($ 128) in compensation.

While waiting for the airline to resolve my case, I saw a group of four junior high school students following around the flight attendants, asking to be released on the plane. They look tired and depressed. The students told me they were arrested on the same flight and track as me, but on a different day.

“I’m sorry we can’t put you on that plane. See that lady waiting there? She has a ticket, but we can’t put her on today,” he replied. and the scribe to the company, pointing my way.

The girl of the group came over and started talking. After I verified what the clerk said was true, he asked to join me as a friend on WeChat where we were recorded.

Her name is Sarah Wang. He told me that he and some other friends were college students in Hong Kong. Unable to buy any of the top tickets from scalpers like me, he bought a ticket that offered easy access and stopped at the airport overnight, with the intention of climbing on the plane.

The author’s idea is to board the plane from Hong Kong to Shanghai

The author’s idea is to board the plane from Hong Kong to Shanghai

Serenity Wang

Not enough money

The next day, I finally got on the plane. Instead of happiness, I was sad and tired.

Despite all the difficulties, I was one of the lucky ones to return home.

In all, I lost over $ 3,000: I lost $ 160 for a reservation and then paid $ 1,726 for a new one, and $ 1,130 for a mandatory hotel quarantine.

In some cases, money can’t buy a trip home. I learned that scammers are looking for Chinese outsiders and using their instincts.

Student Sarah Wang told me she did a good job and came to Chengdu in southeastern China with a standard ticket ($ 420). But before that, he lost $ 940 to a scalper, who promised to take his two books from Hong Kong to the mainland if he paid the deposit. The man did not respond after the payment was made.

I was able to fall into the trap just as easily. The messenger who wrote the textbook for me is no longer known.

The market for conflicts with China has been the Wild West since the early days of the epidemic.

In March of 2020, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced to reduce the number of global aircraft to one flight per week on a route for every aircraft in China. On top of that, there is a “circuit breaker” system that can shut down the route for up to four weeks if more than one good case is detected on the flight or route.

Meanwhile, Sarah Wang has joined a WeChat group for victims of airline fraud. There are more and more members of the group – all Chinese partners trying to fly home.

They think they lost more than $ 70,000 to scammers pretending to be ticket scalpers.

The CAAC has issued rules on the price of world -class aircraft – it has imposed pricing power and banned certain ticket buyers, shifts and changes.

But the black market continues.

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