The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fly-cheap Chatterjees

Mumbai, May 13: For months, it was a mystery. Why could you never bag one of those cheap Air Deccan tickets to Calcutta unless you spelt your name in some version of Banerjee, Chatterjee or Mukherjee'

Tushar Kantilal Chandradas has now spilled the secret after police arrested the 48-year-old south Mumbai travel agent and four of his clients, all Calcuttans.

Nobody ever got the cheap tickets because Chandradas bought them all, online, whenever the airline came out with a low-fare scheme.

“He usually booked them under the surnames Banerji, Chatterjee and Mukherjee,” senior police inspector R. Rathore said. “He then sold them at a profit.”

The clients were mostly students, domestic helps or migrant workers from Bengal.

Chandradas would usually charge Rs 500 extra, but with the original prices ranging from Rs 99 to Rs 999, it was still far cheaper and faster than AC three-tier. The lowest-fare tickets, after he had taken his cut, were still cheaper than three-tier ordinary sleeper class.

If the date of departure was close, however, the charge could go up to Rs 1,500.

There was a catch in all this, of course, but nothing beyond the man’s powers to solve. “A passenger with an e-ticket needs to prove his identity to the airport CISF. So the passengers were provided with fake IDs,” Rathore said.

Which is how the four clients came to be booked last week and spilled the beans about their travel agent, who was nabbed yesterday. All five have been charged with cheating, forgery and providing false identity and can be jailed for up to three years.

The four passengers, all from Bowbazar, were travelling under the names B. Bannerji, M. Banerji, K. Banerji and L. Banerji when they aroused airline staff’s suspicions, Rathore said. “They have agreed to testify against Chandradas.”

Upmarket Kalbadevi, from where Chandradas’s Deepak Tours and Travels operated, is home to some of the city’s biggest jewellers. Their workshops in the area have a large number of employees from Calcutta, providing the travel agent with ready customers.

The police said Air Deccan was not involved in the racket.

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