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Worst Passenger of the Week: A Leopard in a Tight Spot & A Gold Bar in the Toilet

Every Friday, FlyerTalk looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week award, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory. Here are this week’s winners.

Honorable Mention – Scotch & Cigarettes with a Wink and a Nod

It seems as if a surprisingly large percentage of the travelers and officials at one Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) customs checkpoint were up to no good on Saturday. According to authorities, six passengers arriving on two separate flights from Dubai International Airport (DXB) attempted to enter the country with more than 1,500 cartons of contraband cigarettes, roughly three cases of undeclared Scotch and thousands of dollars worth of high end electronics, including a number of prohibited drone kits. The contraband was reportedly spread among dozens of checked bags.

Officials say a customs worker was complicit in the failed smuggling attempt and was also arrested along with the passengers involved. The “air intelligence officer” had allegedly been recruited to make sure certain inspectors turned a blind eye towards the organized trafficking operation.

According to investigators, the mastermind behind the scheme, who was arrested at the scene, admitted to being the “kingpin” of the syndicate (which doesn’t sound much like kingpin-style behavior). The confessed kingpin allegedly threatened arresting officers with “dire consequences” and “thrashed” a number of officers in an ill-fated escape attempt (which, admittedly, sounds much more like proper kingpin behavior).


Third Place – Caution: Overweight Baggage

There was nothing subtle about this plan to show up in Atlanta with 224 pounds of marijuana in an attempt to liven up the dullest football game of the Super Bowl era just in time for kickoff. Four passengers were arrested at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) after arriving on a flight from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) with the impressive, but very much illegal in the state of Georgia, cargo of weed hidden among their overstuffed bags.

Police say, much like the results of the big game, the outcome was assured from the very start. Authorities had not only received a tip that the flyers would be arriving with several felonies in their checked bags, but also reportedly had photographs of the alleged drug traffickers on hand to help identify the suspected heavy-lifting drug mules.

“Once the flight landed in Atlanta, officers were able to identify the luggage that was checked by the suspects,” a police spokesperson told local media outlets. “K-9 units did alert to the presence of drugs inside all luggage belonging to the suspects.”

In addition to enough pot to get most of Mercedes-Benz Stadium high, police also confiscated nearly $8,000 in cash. The four passengers were charged with “trafficking marijuana” and booked into the Clayton County Jail where they were presumably spared having to watch Tom Brady and the New England Patriots defeat the Los Angeles Rams 13 to 3.


The Runner-up – Leopard Cub Spotted

A passenger’s attempt to smuggle a leopard cub from Thailand to India was nearly as cruel as it was inept. The 2-pound, one-month-old baby wildcat was discovered in the flyer’s bag shortly after he arrived on a flight from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) to Chennai International Airport (MAA).

Customs officials reportedly became suspicious because the passenger was “evasive in his replies” when answering routine questions. The inspectors were even more suspicious when the leopard cub began making noise from inside the unidentified man’s suitcase.

“The animal was in a state of shock and was making trill sounds, and appeared to be weak,” MAA officials told reporters. The airport later released footage of the cub happily drinking milk from a bottle. The animal is now recovering from its misadventure at nearby Arignar Anna Zoological Park until it can be safely returned to Thailand.

The suspect, accused of crimes that would shame the villain of a Walt Disney movie, was arrested at the airport. Police say they are investigating whether the incident is affiliated with an organized exotic animal smuggling syndicate.

Trafficking in exotic cats is a lucrative endeavor. In recent years, lion cubs, tiger cubs and now leopard cubs have been discovered hidden in passengers’ bags. Unfortunately, newborn cubs are, for obvious reasons, easier to smuggle than full-grown animals, but according to wildlife experts, the odds of the drugged and often still nursing animals surviving the journey are pitifully low.

The Winner – A Fortune – All but Flushed Away

A passenger at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) may have had this week’s worst smuggling plan. The flyer allegedly hid two gold bars in the flush mechanism of an airport toilet for later retrieval.

Cramped seats, flight delays, surly gate agents, inedible inflight meals and smelly passengers aside, the worst part of air travel is, hands down, having to make use of an airport restroom. Perhaps, the promise of gold would make the idea of exploring the crevices of an airside toilet worth the icky sacrifice. Still, it’s not a treasure map very many adventurers would be eager to follow.

In this case, however, the gold smuggler’s disgusting labors were for naught. The passenger was arrested and his pot of gold treasure was seized by authorities.

On the other hand, while this particular courier may have met his Waterloo in an airport restroom, he may have just had it easy compared to other failed and jailed hopefuls in the messy, but lucrative gold smuggling business. Gold bars have been discovered in the toilets of aircraft lavatories (an arguably more disgusting work environment) and dozens of would-be smugglers have been busted with an uncomfortable amount of gold hidden in their own rectums.

-Jeff Edwards

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