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SAA passenger took pictures of mid-flight robbery

SAA passenger took pictures of mid-flight robbery

South African Airways said on Thursday it had blacklisted a passenger after it became aware of claims that a theft syndicate was in operation on certain international routes.

This comes after Johannesburg resident Warren Becker complained that about R30,000 in foreign currency was stolen from his in-flight baggage while he slept on a flight from Johannesburg to Hong Kong on December 21 last year, Traveller24 reported.

“I had just woken up from a sleep when a passenger seated a few rows behind me advised me to check my bag, as she had seen some other passengers take bags from the overhead lockers and were rummaging around in them near the bathrooms,” Becker wrote in an e-mail.

The passenger who witnessed the theft spoke to News24, saying she saw the suspects open overhead lockers and go through economy-class passengers’ baggage.

She said she watched the man go through Becker’s luggage then pass something from it to another man, who passed it to a third man.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, took photos of one of the suspects which News24 has seen.

Becker said as soon as he was told he alerted flight attendants, one of whom told him that this kind of theft had happened before “and there was some kind of ‘syndicate’ operating on SAA planes and that ‘I had a right to know about this'”.

However, the passenger who had witnessed the theft said that when the cabin crew’s team leader was told, he denied any knowledge of a syndicate.

And to further raise concern, the passenger said that as soon as the lights went out, cabin crew “were gone” and she did not see them again until the lights came back on.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said crew are on duty throughout the flight and “will walk the through the aisles if necessary”.

Speaking to talk radio station 702, a former flight attendant, Phindile, said she was taught that flight attendants walk around every thirty minutes making it difficult for thieves to carry out their crimes.

Despite numerous queries from News24, Tlali would not elaborate on how often SAA flight attendants walked up and down the aisles.

He said when crew are alerted to incidents of criminal behaviour on flights they must report it to law enforcement agencies at the arrival destination.

The man suspected of going through Becker’s baggage as well one of his supposed accomplices were searched by Hong Kong police officers, but the money wasn’t found on them.

The woman who witnessed the incident believes this is because it was passed to a fourth person who had already exited the plane. She said she believes that at least four people are part of the syndicate.

Although a case has been opened by Hong Kong police, no one has been arrested. In fact, the witness said the exact same two men were on her return flight to Johannesburg and had again rifled through passengers’ possessions.

Tlali said since there was no evidence against the suspects they were free to go. He said one of the men had been blacklisted and will no longer be allowed on SAA flights.


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News24Wire is the news wire service offered by Media24. It covers all the latest happenings in South Africa, and abroad....
TAGS: Active SAA
Join the Conversation
  • Konstabel Koekemoer

    SAA’s cabin service is often really bad these days. I’ve been on international flights where you hardly ever saw the cabin crew as they were too busy chatting in the kitchen/staff areas. I avoid SAA whenever possible.

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  • Musa

    The so call witnesses woman mighty be involved as well m. Something sounds to good about her.

    • spark plug

      Ja right now thats the logic of a genius.

      • Konstabel Koekemoer

        The spelling says it all

  • Witte Boer

    Can we get a description of the perp maybe?

    • Marty

      he looks like ” Mr Winston Kodogo, of 55, Mercer Road.”

  • This Guy

    Should’ve held all the passengers on the plane and police searched everyone, letting people go, one by one.

  • TheZenOfZen

    “flight attendants walk around every thirty minutes making it difficult for thieves to carry out their crimes”

    What hogwash, 3 Minutes would be enough to commit this crime. Phindile, you talk nonsense.

    • Nextlevel

      In reality they have around 90mins on an saa flight to do their dirty deeds

  • Vivari

    SAA is state owned, and controlled.
    It’s normal procedure.

  • Steve Joseph

    South Africa has become known that we produce the best thieves!

  • Bernard Rother

    I guess we can safely assume that SAA is part of and run by the black taxi associations ?

  • Paul Helmbold

    Why oh why, will no one bring up that it is a problem with flights on multiple airlines going to the east? Multiple airlines.
    Because it is so easy to slander, rather than look for the truth.

  • I haven’t flown SAA for 20 years, mostly because I don’t trust them to properly maintain their aircraft, train their pilots and crew, both in-flight and ground, and to keep passengers safe.
    To know SAA, is to say NO to SAA.

    • Liesl Wolmarans

      I flew SAA recently. Nothing wrong with the plane, crew or the service. I would recommend packing a sandwich though. I would suggest that not having flown the airline in 20 years, you label your comment “uninformed opinion”.

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