Chinese authorities report that well-organized theft rings are targeting airline passengers on their way to destinations in China and Southeast Asia.
A South African Airlines passenger, Warren Becker, who claims he was robbed of his valuables on a flight from O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), says he was surprised to learn that what happened to him was part of a much larger criminal enterprise. Authorities in Hong Kong are reporting a dramatic spike in these incidents over the last five years.
Becker’s story, which took place over the holidays, is just the latest in a string of mid-air thefts targeting passengers flying to destinations in Southeast Asia. “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,” he explained to Traveler24. “They left all the South African Rands as well as my camera, as if to make it look like nothing was taken.”
The problem of in-flight theft has become so prevalent that Hong Kong police have started working with airlines to help train crews on how to spot potential members of these syndicates. “The thieves change modus operandi all the time,” Chief Inspector Kelvin Ip Chun-wing told the South China Morning Post. “Stewardesses play an important role. Many of the cases were caught by attentive stewardesses before the mile-high criminals succeeded.”
The Chief Inspector warned that passengers need to stay alert as well. He noted that the well-organized criminals tend to strike shortly after the cabin lights are dimmed and take special care to try to ensure that the victims don’t notice anything is amiss until passengers have deplaned and the brazen thieves have made their getaway.
[Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images]