SAA identifies 2 suspects in connection with mid-air theft on Hong Kong flights

18 October 2018 - 07:49 By Naledi Shange
Image: 123RF/Tomasz Wyszolmirski

National carrier South African Airways on Thursday said it was being proactive in trying to curb mid-flight thefts on their Hong Kong/Johannesburg route.

"Last week‚ two passengers who wanted to travel from Hong Kong to Tanzania via Johannesburg were denied travel on our flights‚ as those individuals have previously been associated with incidents of theft on board our aircraft. Based on collaboration and information shared with the law enforcement agencies‚ we are now better placed to be on the look-out for these individuals‚" said airline spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

"Once we are able to pick them up in the system‚ part of the processes we have introduced include conducting interviews with them to establish reasons or circumstances under which they travel‚" Tlali said.

The airline had reason to believe that the two passengers may have been up to some mischievous acts.

"We were able to determine certain similarities between two passengers who claimed to have no connection or association. There were other details that heightened our suspicions about them‚ especially in the light of previous association with incidents of theft on board‚" he said.

Tlali pointed out that South African Airways‚ which operates a daily service between Johannesburg and Hong Kong‚ (flight SA 286 and SA 287)‚ was not the only airline that had encountered issues on its flights to Hong Kong.

"While we acknowledge that mid-flight theft is not a phenomenon unique to SAA‚ as other carriers operating to Hong Kong also experience this problem‚ we would like to restate the message that our passengers must be extra vigilant on those flights‚ take care of their high value items (including phones‚ cameras‚ money and travel documents)‚ and work with our crew to identify the suspects so that the airline can take a stance against them."

"In addition‚ we would like to encourage our passengers‚ especially in cases where the suspects have positively been identified‚ that they must open criminal cases against such individuals‚" he said.

Earlier this month‚ SAA's cabin crew were told by some passengers during a flight that their valuables – stowed in the overhead compartments – had gone missing.

The missing items turned up on some of the cabin seats after police in Hong Kong boarded the aircraft when it landed and searched some passengers who had behaved suspiciously.

Tlali said the passengers had told the crew that they had lost money and a watch.

"One of the complainants was able to point out a few passengers who had behaved in a suspicious manner in the cabin and who were seen opening some overhead compartments while other passengers were sleeping‚" Tlali said.

"The rest of the passengers disembarked and suspects identified were ordered to remain in the aircraft and were searched by the police in Hong Kong. Nothing was found [on] them during the search‚" he said‚ adding that the suspects had to be released.

"The items complained of were however recovered by the cleaning staff as they cleaned the aircraft ... and were found on … the seats in the same cabin. The [items were] returned to the complainants‚" Tlali said. 

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