Sharing travel stories and tips is what JohnnyJet.com is all about and I share this kind of content daily. But every now and then, I also like to feature reader-submitted tips. Since so many of you are out there traveling, too, you often have great stories to share and tips to share. RELATED: Seat Kidnapping: I Can’t Believe it’s a Thing – Here’s What to Do If it Happens to You While Traveling
This tip comes from reader Estelle H. who shares a story from a passenger who she says was flying to Hong Kong. Here’s the tip in the words of that passenger:
“I would like to draw your attention to an attempted robbery on a flight into Hong Kong last week. With an hour to go, during the flight, I thought I noticed my bag being replaced in the overhead locker. I wasn’t sure and decided it was probably a fellow passenger, moving it to access their own bag.
I dismissed any thought of any wrongdoing, but upon arrival in HK, something told me to retrieve the bag, just to make sure nothing suspicious had occurred. When I opened the overhead locker (not above me) and saw my leather bag was the only one occupying the space, I knew there was a problem. I examined the contents, only to find all of my wife’s jewelry, along with some cash, had been stolen during the flight. I raised the alarm and my wife and I quickly blocked both aisles to stop anyone at the back of the plane disembarking … there were around 120 passengers.
My wife and I both shouted for assistance from the stewards and stewardesses. Eventually, a steward told me that security had been called but passengers were becoming very agitated and unwilling to show patience or understanding. They just wanted to get off the plane. My wife and I were the only people controlling the passengers.
I pleaded with the passengers to check their own bags, at which point three fellow travellers reported they had also been robbed. It was only at this point that I saw any evidence from the cabin crew that they were willing to provide any meaningful support.
I vaguely remember seeing a passenger wearing black, sporting a white baseball cap, and pleaded with the rest of the passengers to see if they could remember anyone fitting my description. It turned out to be a passenger standing in front of me, who, once identified, proceeded to offload money, jewelry, camera equipment and false documents, running into tens of thousand, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods. By this time, security had boarded the plane and the captain had been informed and was standing in the rear section watching the events unfold.
Eventually a policeman boarded the plane and I was able to explain the events leading up to my apprehending the thief. I have since been informed that this criminal activity is reaching epidemic proportions and that authorities have caught three thieves just last week, (with 30 already on remand since early December) on flights into Hong Kong, with all the criminals coming from the same town in China.
It is estimated that only 5% are being caught judging by the reports of passengers contacting the police after they have arrived at their destination. They sit in the back row of the plane observing where bags are, behind or away from the passengers, and systematically pull them from the overhead lockers, while passengers rest or watch movies, take them to the back of the plane and steal any valuable contents. They prey on foreign airlines as the penalties are so lenient, the pay-off makes it worth the risk.
I naively have never thought of robbers operating on planes, but now I have experienced it first-hand, there are a few takeaways:
- Hand luggage should ALWAYS be locked.
- Do not assume luggage under your seat is safe. Last week, a passenger had her purse stolen by the guy sitting next to her while she slept.
- If in doubt, wear or keep any valuables on your person at all times.
- Don’t assume, like me, that everyone on a flight is a law-abiding citizen.
- Do not assume business class travel is secure. Robbers can be wealthy.”
This is an unfortunate incident, to be sure. And sadly, theft is something travelers need to be on the lookout for along every part of their journey. A flight attendant was caught stealing an expensive bracelet at a security checkpoint (here’s how to protect your belongings) and a video was recently released showing three Miami TSA officers stealing from passengers. In-flight theft is definitely real – here’s how to prevent it from happening to you. And once you finally reach your destination, here’s how to avoid getting pickpocketed.
This post, originally published in September, 2017, has been updated.
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