For those who think on-board theft is almost impossible, this passenger’s story of how he was robbed might be a lesson you will never forget. Travelers are often warned about a mile-high syndicate operating on board flights to Asian destinations, alleged to have a net of stolen goods worth R6.5m in the last 9 months.
Reported cases of this mile high criminal activities have more than doubled in the past fiver years. One of the most recent cases is the one that occurred on the 21st of December 2015 when South African Airways (SAA) passenger Warren Becker became a victim.
In the message he sent to Travelers 24 when he landed back in South Africa after what he called a “ruined holiday”, Becker said en route his holiday destination on board South African Airways flight 286 flying from Johannesburg to Hong Kong, he woke up only to be told to check his baggage as some people were seen ransacking it in the aircraft lavatory
“When I checked my bag, which was locked for extra security, I found the lock broken and foreign currency as well as some extremely valuable jewelry had been stolen”.
“They left all the South African Rands as well as my camera, as if to make it look like nothing was taken,” he told Travelers.
Becker added that he had roughly R30 000 stolen from his bag – $1 200 and £420. South China Morning Post also made it clear that the stolen goods on in-flight robberies predominately include cash, jewelry and smartphones.
Local police authorities were also said to have appeared immediately the South African Airways fight landed in Hong Kong. “I have emailed SAA between 15-20 times,I have not heard back from them once.”
On the other hand, Traveler24 said it had made attempts to contact South African Airways, but is yet to receive any response regarding the matter.
Meanwhile, similar criminal activities are said to have been reported on other international flights bound for Hong Kong. For instance, sometime in September 2015, Jakarta reported that the offenders in these cases usually checked-in without any luggage, stayed for only one day in their destination, owned passports and tickets and are allegedly part of a criminal syndicate.
Becker says he coincidentally came into contact with his alleged robbers on his return flight back to South Africa from Hong Kong again on 7 January 2016, more than two weeks after the incident.
According to him, the woman who pointed out the criminals on the outbound flight from SA was with him on the return flight again, and they managed to take photographs of the alleged criminals, which they are willing to show to the police.
Becker pointed out that the rubbery ruined his holiday because he had no money to spend and he had to resort to borrowing money from his girlfriend and also using his credit card.
Cabin Baggage Theft Strategies You Should Be Aware Of
- Suspects more than likely sit on the back row of the plane watching for the ideal opportunity.
- They are said to systematically pull the bags from the overhead lockers, while passengers rest or watch movies.
- Bags are then pilfered at the back of the plane for valuable contents
- International airlines are allegedly targeted, with “lenient penalties” making it worth the risk.
- Always ensure that your hand luggage is locked.
- Do not assume luggage under your seat is safe, keep this in mind when leaving your seat or heading to the toilet.
- Don’t assume you’re safe in business class either.
- If in doubt, wear or keep any valuables on you. Better yet, leave valuables behind when you travel.
- Don’t travel with cash. Travel with travelers cards rather.