Beware Of Buying Airline Tickets On Craigslist

If you buy airline tickets on Craigslist, you could find yourself paying for the tickets twice, thanks to this latest scam. Elliot blogs the story of a William Marleua, who who bought Southwest airline tickets from someone on Craigslist. Four months after taking the flight, a Southwest collections specialist called him and told him to pay up. Turns out the original tickets were bought using a stolen credit card, and then the real owner of the credit card disputed the charge. Here’s what Southwest said about the situation, “Southwest has never been paid for the flight Mr. Marleau took. It is our business policy to collect payment from the person who flew….It’s a difficult situation, but we cannot protect a customer who chooses to make a questionable purchase on Craigslist for a Southwest Airlines flight.”

Scam alert: don’t buy Southwest tickets on Craigslist [Elliot]


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  1. Baron Von Crogs says:

    Yeah, tickets are one thing I’d never buy off CL and this is a great reason why.

  2. chemmy says:

    Uhhhhhh, caveat emptor?

    Seriously, who buys airline tickets on Craigslist? lol

  3. pete7919 says:

    Can the tag “DUH” be added to this post?

  4. JustAGuy2 says:

    I’m with Southwest on this one. If he had bought concert tickets on craigslist, and they turned out to be forged, it wouldn’t be the venue’s job to let him into the concert for free.

  5. Aladdyn says:

    @chemmy: Buyer beware is always wise but the average person would expect to be risking the money they spent on the CL ticket, not that the airlines would charge them some other price after accepting the ticket. After the airlines accepted the ticket as legit I tihnk they should be held to that agreement with the person who had the ticket. The person who scammed both southwest and the guy who bought the ticket is the one who southwest needs to target. Just because its hard or impossible to find him doesnt make it right to charge the other guy.

  6. Baron Von Crogs says:

    I mean really, you want whores? Go to CL, you want to go on vacation? Go to

  7. joeblevins says:

    Umm, WTF is someone doing buying tickets from Craigs List? I wouldn’t buy them off of Ebay either.

    How does that work anyway? Were they in someone else’s name?

    I am with Southwest on this one. But, not sure how the airline can expect him to pay. They probably knew there was a problem a long time ago. There has been too much time passed for the flyer to be able to get back to Craig’s List dude.

  8. Angryrider says:

    Why would I want to use Craigslist to fly? Boneheaded… It’s generally agreed that most transactions are done in person and in cash.

  9. sickofthis says:

    I also thought that airline tickets were non-transferable. I’ve bought Southwest tickets for myself and, after discovering I couldn’t take the trip, tried unsuccessfully to change them to an employee.

  10. Pro-Pain says:

    Some people really need to get a fucking job.

  11. heavylee-again says:

    Another vote for the ‘DUH’ tag.

  12. ClayS says:

    Mr. Marleua unknowingly purchased stolen merchandise from someone via Craig’s list.

    What if instead of being an airline ticket, it was say, a bicycle. Would the person from whom it was stolen have a right to claim it or its value from Marleua?

  13. Concerned_Citizen says:

    This is kinda like that hotel that charged guests after the fact because the organization holding the conference failed to pay. The airline was scammed, they can’t just try to pass the buck to someone who owes them nothing. I do wonder how it can go to collections, they shouldn’t have his ssn. The debt should be as binding as a bill for a magazine.

  14. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    Suppose he bought the tickets from a travel agent or broker who failed to pay the airline. Would he still be liable for the ticket cost?

  15. Aladdyn says:

    @JustAGuy2: again thats not a good analogy. If they let him into the concert then tried to charge him the full admission price 4 months later, then it would be similar

  16. Baron Von Crogs says:


    The police could recover it as it’s stolen property.

  17. Aladdyn says:

    @ClayS: Yes the person who originally owned stolen property gets it back, the person who was scammed gets no compensation. What makes this interesting is that it was aervice that cant be taken back.

  18. Aladdyn says:

    @Aladdyn: a service

  19. ClayS says:

    Right, that’s the reason the airline is asking for the monetary equivalent.

  20. sirwired says:

    I’m with Southwest here… they provided a service, the payment for the service was taken back, somebody has to pay. For all Southwest knows, the flyer could be the scammer…

    I’m sure that if Southwest knew who the scammer was and had any hope of recovery, they would go that route, but they don’t, so the flyer is going to pay for the stolen service.

    This is different from the hotel case in that in the hotel case, the hotel was attempting to charge folks for something other than the room.


  21. gopher646 says:

    Who buys tickets off craigslist?! I think I’ve you’re dumb enough to buy airline tickets off craigslist, you deserve to lose the money.

  22. Erwos says:


    Except, of course, both Southwest and the guy who bought the ticket are victims. It’s not just the little guy who can get victimized…

  23. Jacquilynne says:

    How do you even buy a plane ticket from Craigslist? I thought airlines did everything they could to make tickets stick like glue to the person who originally bought them?

  24. Aladdyn says:

    @ClayS: Except the airline didnt necessarily lose the full cost of the ticket. If the flight wasnt full, a nice compromise would be the airline just charge to recover fuel/fees for the cost of having him on the plane.

    I still think the airlines had the responsibilty to match the ticket to the originall purchaser at the time of boarding though, if they let someone on the plane who didnt have the same name as on the ticket, too bad for them. (assuming thats correct)

  25. MeOhMy says:


    For all Southwest knows, the flyer could be the scammer…

    Exactly. From Southwest’s perspective, a ticket was purchased and used and then charged-back. They really have no way of knowing if the guy really did get screwed or if he was the one that did the screwing, so they have no choice but to go after the guy that used the ticket.

    It illustrates the disastrous ripple effect that identity theft has even on people who are not directly impacted.

    It also illustrates for the rest of us that buying air tickets on craigslist…probably not a good idea.

  26. ClayS says:

    Yes, or maybe charge him the lowest fare offered for that flight; a reasonable compromise.

    I have no clue how a ticket issued to one specific person can be used by another. ID verification is a part of the security process by the TSA.

  27. Oh No I Di'n't. says:

    Really, who buys tickets off Craigslist. Also, if you own buy airline tickets how do you resell them? Aren’t they in your name?

    I’m so confused.

    Regardless, buying airline tickets on craiglist is poor decision making.

  28. wring says:

    Captain Chargeback to teh rescue!

  29. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Does this mean the girl I met off Craig’s List and slept with me on the first date didn’t really get her wallet stolen and didn’t really need the $300 I gave her for food?

  30. JustAGuy2 says:


    I think the ticket DID have this guy’s name on it (otherwise, how would Southwest have found him?).

    It looks like the craigslist ad said “I’ll get you Southwest tickets at a discount, if you pay cash,” and this guy responded.

  31. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @tmccartney: @Jacquilynne:

    Southwest is different….you can’t change the name, but you can always apply the full value of your ticket to a new ticket – be it on your name or someone else’s. Of course, the price can go up between the time you bought the original ticket and the time you bought the ticket on someone else’s name… You have a year to do this past the date of the original flight. However, you need to type in the confirmation number of the canceled flight and the credit card holder’s name – I would have thought a credit card name different from the CL seller would have been suspicious…

    But yeah, that’s the greatest part about Southwest, even on the cheapest fares, they never have a change fee!

  32. StevieD says:

    Why buy from a third party?

    Oh, I know why!!! Trying to save a buck.

    The buyer accepted the risks, the buyer needs to pay up.

  33. sgodun says:

    Craigslist? Fraud? Geddouttahere!

  34. unklegwar says:

    And WHO, exactly, thinks buying Airline tickets from COMPLETE ANONYMOUS STRANGERS is a good idea?

    Throw this and the one about fraud on eBay (again, buying from COMPLETE ANONYMOUS STRANGERS) into the same trash can.

    Stupid is as stupid does.

  35. BlondeGrlz says:

    @JustAGuy2: Oh, that doesn’t sound suspicious or perhaps illegal at all. Like that guy who was stealing stuff and selling it to his friends for his “50% off employee discount”.

  36. Buran says:

    @Concerned_Citizen: That’s what I want to know. How do they know who he is? Sure, his name has to match the name on his photo ID, but since he didn’t buy the ticket through the airline website and had to have the name changed on the ticket after the fact — but HOW did they contact him in the first place? I’m confused by that part.

  37. Aladdyn says:

    I re-read the linked blog and after reading some of the comments there it sounds like what might have happened is that the CL post was someone saying that they could BUY southwest tickets for people at a discount. So the CL poster got this guys info from him and purchased the ticket in Marceau’s name using the stolen credit card info. That would explain a lot if thats actually what happened. If the tickets in Marceau’s name then I definately see why they would be going after him, and why it would be on him to find the scammer.

  38. Aladdyn says:

    @JustAGuy2: oops i missed your post. Yeah what you said.

  39. jimv2000 says:

    Seriously, if you can’t hold whatever it is in your hands first, don’t buy it off Craigslist.

  40. stephenjames716 says:

    I used to buy ticket vouchers for southwest all the time off craigslist. I found a guy that traveled all the time for work, and always wanted to unload his rapid reward vouchers. The reason why I looked to craiglist in the first place was because it was much cheaper. I would name my price (in LA there were tons of people selling so you could do that) and I would get multiple offers in minutes. I would then have the guy call southwest with me on the line and we would setup the flight. I would then meet him in person and give him the cash.

    This also worked when I had to fly into Roanoke, VA for a wedding. Flights were outrageous and the times were not convenient. ($1000 roundtrip/per person, fly out at 6am on a sunday after a weddding..not!) I ended up finding a guy that had two free tickets from getting bumped, and paid $900 for two round trip tickets with better flight times.

  41. edrebber says:

    Southwest’s policy has no legal basis and is not enforcable. I would not pay.

  42. Hawk07 says:

    Finally, a good article on the Consumerist vs. the daily “BB Open box item ______________” or the “_______ store imprisoned me for ____________ (pertaining to receipt)”.

  43. flyingphotog says:

    @edrebber: Yes their policy is enforceable. It’s called a Contract of Carriage. All airlines have one. It’s an agreement between the airline and the passenger to follow certain rules.

    From Southwest’s C.O.C. page 11

    “15. Tickets – General (Issued Apr. 25, 2007; Effective Apr. 25, 2007)
    A. No person shall be entitled to transportation except upon presentation of a valid ticket or
    proof of identification acceptable to Carrier that transportation has been purchased through
    Carrier’s electronic ticketing or Ticketless Travel systems or through the reservations or
    electronic ticketing systems of a another airline or agent authorized to sell transportation on
    Carrier under a codeshare agreement. Such ticket/electronic ticketing documentation shall
    entitle the person to transportation only between the points of origin and destination.

    B. A ticket that has been altered, mutilated, or improperly issued shall not be valid.

  44. balthisar says:

    What’s the big deal? He did give the ticket back to them, after all. You know, right before he boarded the plane. :-)

  45. youbastid says:

    Well, after reading this, I doubt I’ll do it again, but I’ve bought southwest tickets from craiglist. People sell their rewards flights all the time, which I guess is safer since they aren’t “purchased.” I got a flight for $300 when all flights from all airlines (including southwest) were in the 5-600 dollar range at the time. Everything went off without a hitch.

    This was over 8 months ago, so if you’re careful and are sure they’re using rewards points, and you can get their name and # (or meet them face to face), that’s best.

  46. guevera says:

    And here I am working for a living… this is brilliant!

  47. gte910h says:

    It is my policy to not pay for things a second time after they’ve already been used or sold.

    It would have been me who’s SOL if they caught it before I boarded the plane. It is them who is SOL if they catch it afterwards and have to prove I did something wrong.


  48. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’d be careful about buying anything off of Craigslist, especially anything which could be fraudulently obtained (like airline tickets), high-ticket items, or things which seem too good of a deal to be true.

    I’m not saying that everything on CL is a scam, but CL seems to have attracted all the scammers and crooks who decided that Ebay was too expensive and too regulated.

    I don’t see why they’re going after the passenger though…I’m pretty sure the tickets didn’t have STOLEN printed across them, so it wasn’t like the guy knew he was buying “hot” tickets.

    What is the usually legal precedent for situations where a person buys something that later turns out to be stolen or fraudulent? If you bought a car that later turned out to be stolen, would you be out the whole purchase price and be completely SOL? Do we have any lawyers in the house who can answer that?

  49. JustAGuy2 says:


    Basically, yes. If I buy a car from you, and it turns out to be stolen, I lose the car (it gets returned to its rightful owner). I can then try to sue you for the money you took from me, but that’s all I can do.

  50. Anonymous says:

    There are numerous mitigating circumstances where someone would go to CL to buy an airline ticket…. if you are close-minded and/or you would never do it, that’s fine. Not everyone goes on amusement park rides either.. it’s your option and your opinion. Thousands of valid airlines tickets have been sold on CL with no problem at all. In this case the CC was stolen. That was the only problem. I have purchased all of my last 6 airline flights with seriously discounted rates with CL tickets (people selling their Frequent Flyer miles). Just because YOU don’t want to do it, doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t do it.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Its not just Craigslist that people should be careful buying from its also eBay. I bought a voucher on eBay and when I used it to purchase a flight 2 months later. Turns out that on the date of my flight that the voucher was reported as fraudulent. Since it is over 45 days neither eBay or Paypal will give me a refund, so I am currently discussing the situation with my credit card company. I would never purchase gift card or vouchers from eBay again.