Airline Ticket Processor Reports Computer Theft
Machine Contains Data on Passengers

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

By Griff Witte, Washington Post Staff Writer

An Arlington-based company that processes consumers' plane ticket purchases for the major airlines said yesterday that a computer containing passenger data has been stolen.

Spokesmen for several major airlines confirmed that the data included credit card information, but said they are working with the credit card companies and are monitoring the situation for potential fraud. They said that no unusual account activity has been detected so far, and they are not suggesting that customers cancel their credit cards as a result of the incident.

The processing company, Airlines Reporting Corp., issued a statement saying that two computers, one monitor and one projector have been stolen. One of the computers, it said, "contained information related to travel transactions." The company's statement did not disclose when or where the theft took place, and attempts to reach a spokesman last night were unsuccessful.

"ARC began working with law enforcement authorities immediately upon discovery of the theft and has continued to do so," the statement said. It added that all "information available to date indicates that the crime was a property theft. To date, no misuse of data has been reported to ARC."

Spokesmen for AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. all said that the stolen computer included information about their customers.

ARC is an airline-owned company that distributes tickets sold by more than 130 carriers through travel agents. It does not handle ticketing for purchases made directly through the major airlines, however. For instance, American Airlines customers who bought their tickets through AA reservations, or at the airport would not be affected, according to American spokeswoman Stacey Frantz.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said a "very limited amount of data" about Northwest customers was on the computer. Spokesmen from the other companies declined to characterize how many of their customers were affected and how much data was available on the machine.

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