Theft in Mid-Air. Here’s How Passenger Valuables Were Recovered

In August I wrote about a ring of thieves stealing from passenger bags in the overhead bin.

There are occasional stories of passengers stealing from others’ carry on bags, usually this happens during long international flights when the cabin is dark and many passengers are asleep.

On Monday’s South African Airways flight SA286 from Johannesburg to Hong Kong several passengers reported being robbed. Their cash and jewelry was taken from bags in the overhead bins.

Copyright: tupungato / 123RF Stock Photo

Two of the passengers reported the theft to crew, and identified suspects who “behaved in a suspicious manner” (hardly credible testimony) and “who were seen opening some overhead compartments while other passengers were sleeping.”

Cabin crew didn’t stop and frisk those fingered as suspects. Instead, when the plane landed in Hong Kong, police boarded the aircraft. Officers were going to search passengers, the thieves left their loot behind. The haul was discovered later sitting on seats in plain view. No one wanted to be searched with stolen goods on their person.

United flight attendants have been told to be on the lookout for passengers stealing business class bedding. Stolen watches and jewelry, and the overall security of the cabin (remember, they’re there ‘primarily for your safety’) seems a higher priority.

TSA screeners steal from passengers at checkpoints. Baggage handlers steal from checked bags. oneworld’s head of finance allegedly stole $2.2 million. And a former Miss USA stole noise cancelling headphones. So why not passengers stealing from each others’ carry on bags?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I would change the headline. Robbery is not the correct term here. Rather it is theft. Robbery implies that force or the threat of force was used in order to steal the property in question.

    It is very different to be the victim of a theft and the victim of a robbery.

  2. I think Gary is being very PC LIberal here and not naming the race of people, I can almost guarantee you who it was but we dare not say in case we get accused of being racist, homophobe, islamaphobe, mysoginist, sexist…. can any one think of others they have come up with? Oh yeah, deplorable, LOL.

  3. Thanks for the article Gary. Wasn’t aware of this kind of thing happening during air travel.

    Not sure why someone focuses on “the race of the people” and whining about “PC liberal”. Guess if it was a specific race or political breed, it might make the theft more/less acceptable? Moron.

  4. While we’re not sure about the thieves, there’s no doubt about Robbo.

    As trump couldn’t have said any better, these are difficult times and we all feel your pain as society continues to oppress your kind, attacking your god given privileges…

  5. Talked with a flight attendant
    Two days ago about these thefts. She said the bigger problem was passengers walking off the planes at the end of flights with entire bags taken from the overhead bins. Good reason for passengers heading toward the back of the plane to keep their bags with them instead of using bins at the front of the plane denying those passengers bin space that is rightfully theirs.

  6. Robbo…did you click on the link to the actual story? It doesn’t specify the race of the people either. But thanks for jumping to some big conclusions about both Gary’s motives, as well as conclusions about the suspects.

  7. I always lock my carryon bag securely to make it harder for someone to help himself/herself to my camera and various electronics while I’m sleeeping. If nothing else, I hope a potential bin thief will move onto someone else’s bag. I keep my cash, credit cards, passport, etc. on my person. My husband thinks I’m paranoid…

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