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Hong Kong Police Warn Travelers of In-Flight Theft Rings

Hong Kong Police Warn Travelers of In-Flight Theft Rings
Jeff Edwards

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]

View Comments (6)


  1. BJM

    January 14, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    FT flyers want FAs to mind their own business when it comes to Human Trafficking. I would think they would want FAs to mind their own business as well when it comes to their personal items they bring on board.

  2. sdsearch

    January 14, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    How big was his camera? Maybe another reason they left it is because they can only steal small things without creating suspicion by walking off the plane with more bags than they could have been allowed to bring onboard. It’s much easier to sneak some jewelry or cash into your existing bag than some bulkier valuable, like a bigger camera or a musical instrument.

  3. FlyingUnderTheRadar

    January 14, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Leaving foreign currency as well as valuable jewelry is just plain dumb. No excuse for it getting stollen and given airlines take zero responsibility the only that should be check is stuff that can be replaced by the airlines.

  4. weero


    January 15, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Don’t really believe these ‘statistics’: no one buys an expensive international ticket to steal some trinkets from the bags on board. Add to this that you cannot bring pliers and you will be confined for hours together with your victims. You only need to be caught once in your entire career which would happen very easily if you pry open a few bags bags and you literally land in one of the places that shows the least amount of lenience with thieves.

    That tastes like another power grab of some authority that invents a big gloomy threat so they can step in and regulate things unrelated to safety and security.

  5. ioto1902

    January 15, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    BJM : +1
    Nevertheless, HK authorities and airlines are making efforts because it is in their interest to keep tourists flowing into the peninsula and maintain a good image.

  6. DLERT

    January 16, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I am a locksmith and my tools of trade have never had any issues with the TSA.
    These tools are not screwdrivers pliers and the etc.
    After the lights dim in a cabin one could easily take down a bag in the overhead
    compartment and open the lock or solve the 3 cylinder combo lock in seconds.
    Locks are only time delay devices.
    Best if you booby trapped your bag with a squeaky noisy device that betrays
    the opening of your baggage. The lights will come on there will be a whole lot
    of explaining going on ! There are such devices that are attached to laptops
    and when the laptop is jolted or moved a bit or out of range the alarm goes off !

    Interesting that this article did not reveal the modus operandi of what goes on in
    the theft from ones carry on baggage. The methods of stealing from the
    checked baggage are fairly well known – almost exclusively airport employee.

    Interesting that such theft occurs at all when the TSA requirements for boarding
    a flight reveal who you are where you are seated and with the help of the airlines
    a method of ticket payment and other data.
    If the “SIGNIFICANT” theft is noticed and reported within a short time all the details of
    who was sitting in the vicinity of your seat can be reviewed or the whole passenger
    manifest for suspected undesirables on board – and not the NO-FLY guys obviously !
    The thief may be lucky and get away this one time – but if his methods are disclosed
    to the public then it won’t work that often in the future.

    Never let your guard down and give the thief the brief moment to pull off the crime !

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