Family Loses $160,000 Greek Holiday in Travel Agency Scam

A dream family reunion in Greece has turned into a nightmare for a Sydney woman and her relatives, exposing a widespread travel scam that has affected almost thirty other Australian families.

Nicole Vris had planned a grand holiday to Greece for herself and 35 family members, spending $160,000 on what was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The excitement turned to devastation when she discovered that none of the payments made to Travel World Sydney had gone towards actual flights or accommodations.

The Vris family was looking forward to reuniting with friends and family in Greece. They received what appeared to be flight reservations from the travel agency. However, suspicions arose when they tried to confirm their flight details directly with Emirates and found out that the reservations were fake.

“We called Emirates directly,” Ms. Vris explained to Channel Nine's A Current Affair. “They asked us for numbers that were on that itinerary. They [the numbers] just didn’t exist. We were not in the system.”

When she approached the director of Travel World Sydney, Zahra Rachid, for answers, she was met with vague responses and eventually was ignored altogether. With the departure date approaching, it became clear that the family had been duped out of their hard-earned money.

“It is a hell of a lot of money,” Ms. Vris said. “Had we have not found out, we would’ve shown up at the airport on this particular day … all 35 of us … to be told that we don’t have a ticket.”

Ms. Vris is not alone. Fair Trading has received 28 complaints about Travel World Sydney since the beginning of the year, totalling nearly $235,000 in lost consumer purchases. An investigation into the travel agency is currently underway.

Fatima Awada, another victim, had planned a family trip to Germany. Her family, who had paid nearly $15,000, found out their tickets had been canceled months prior. “My mum hasn’t seen her sisters in such a long time, and just to spend time with them and make memories,” she lamented. “But it is not happening anymore, for me at least.”

Awada's sister, Nouha, discovered her flight was canceled just two days before departure. “We had just called to ask about our bags, and they’re like 'oh you don’t have a ticket,' and we’re like 'what? our flight is tomorrow.' So we had to try and find new tickets straight away,” she said.

The office of Travel World Sydney in Arncliffe is now closed, with a sign on the window indicating that the landlord has regained possession of the property.

NSW Police have launched an investigation under Strike Force Baile and are urging anyone affected to come forward. Here is their full statement:

Full Police Statement

St George Police Area Command have commenced an investigation under Strike Force Baile regarding alleged frauds involving a travel agency at Arncliffe.

Police have been told that a number of people have come forward to report that they had made travel arrangements with the agency and those bookings had not been honoured.

As investigations continue, anyone with information is asked to contact St George Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Photos: A Current Affair

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