A few weeks back my mate flew from Hong Kong to Jozi (don’t worry, he ended up in Cape Town) and had the misfortune of being robbed during the flight. A once-off shocker, I thought, although recent evidence shows a syndicate is behind some rather well-organised sky robbery.
We’ll call it the mile-high syndicate, seeing that someone is getting effed, and estimates place the value of the theft at around R6,5 million in the past nine months. The worst hit routes are those landing in Hong Kong, and reports of such crimes have more than doubled in the past five years.
Here’s TimesLive with SAA passenger Warren Becker’s account:
He said on route to his holiday, on board SAA flight 286 from Johannesburg to Hong Kong, he dosed off. When he woke, a fellow passenger told him to check his bags as she had seen people rummaging through it in the aircraft’s 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 jewellery had been stolen”.
Becker says he had a total of roughly R30,000 stolen from his bag – $1 200 and £420.
“They left all the South African Rands as well as my camera, as if to make it look like nothing was taken,” he [said].
The most commonly stolen items are cash, jewellery and smartphones. The Hong Kong police have recommended the following safety tips and things to look out for:
Cabin baggage theft modus operandi to be aware of:
– Hong Kong flights are high on the criminal activity list. Be extra wary when you’re on a flight there.
– 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 lock your hand luggage.
– 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 travellers cards rather.
Becker has spoken of the lack of action on the part of SAA, his 15-20 emails as yet unanswered. At the very least you would expect some action from the airline, although given that they have their own vast set of problems I wouldn’t hold my breath.
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