After being called out by a consumer advocate, officials at South Africa-based low cost carrier FlySafair admitted on social media that bag theft is a “huge problem,” but the airline says that it is powerless to solve the issue on its own and offered a reward for anyone who could propose a solution to the growing issue of bag tampering.
Theft of passengers’ valuables is such a serious problem on flights to and from South Africa that Hong Kong police have taken the rare step of issuing a travel advisory to air travelers headed to the region. Authorities say that the crime wave targeting air travelers is part of a sophisticated criminal enterprise.
“The thieves change modus operandi all the time,” Chief Inspector Kelvin Ip Chun-wing told reporters as early as 2015. “Stewardesses play an important role. Many of the cases were caught by attentive stewardesses before the mile-high criminals succeeded.”
Now, at least one airline has indicated that baggage handlers at some of the busiest airports in South Africa are a part of the illicit activity. Faced with complaints by a well-known consumer advocate, officials at budget carrier FlySafair admitted that baggage theft is a serious problem, but the airline said that there is little it can do to solve the issue without help.
“It’s a huge problem,” FlySafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon told the Sunday Times on Thursday. “We as airlines feel that we are terribly under siege … The problem in this process is that no one party has full control over the baggage as it progresses through the entire system. It is a big problem and we can’t face it alone.”
The airline says that it has hired security consultants and even offered rewards to help curb the rampant thefts. The carrier placed much of the blame on frequent delays at airports such as O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), which give thieves ample time to rifle through passenger belongings. Gordon said that resistance from government regulators has made it nearly impossible to police baggage handlers.
“It’s widespread!” anti-crime crusader Yusuf Abramjee said in a Twitter post that led to FlySafair’s stunning admission this week. “Bag handlers are running amok.”
— MOHAMED FEROZ (@mohamed_feroz) December 27, 2018