Watch your bags! Syndicate found stealing from overhead compartments on flights

Mohd Azam Shah Yaacob

KUALA LUMPUR: Members of a syndicate have been stealing from carry-on luggage during flights to and from mainland China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, a Facebook user has claimed.

The user, going by the handle Faiz Mokhtar, said this was what cabin crew on board a Malaysia Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City told him after a man was caught red-handed stealing from his carry-on luggage.

Faiz said Malaysia Airlines cabin crew have been warned to be on the lookout for such crimes.

In a posting on Facebook, he said the incident occurred on Wednesday after he had boarded flight MH751 at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minch City.

The posting, which he uploaded at 11.25am on Saturday, included several pictures and a 80 second video clip of the incident.

Faiz said the syndicate member’s actions raised the suspicion of his friends who were also on the same flight.

He said the friends saw the man taking what looked like Faiz’s bag from the overhead compartment and immediately alerted him.

“I looked in the overhead compartment and saw that my bag was not there. So I went to where the man was sitting and saw that he was going through my bag with one hand while holding foreign currency which he had already taken from my bag in the other hand.

“My friends and I confronted the man and grabbed hold of him,” he said.

Faiz said he then immediately went through the bag to figure out if anything was missing.

“At that point in time the most important thing for me were my travel documents, and I was also worried that he may have put illegal items into my bag,” he said.

Faiz said the man’s actions were then brought to the attention of the cabin crew and the pilot then made a call to airport security and police.

“The crew made the call to delay the flight, declaring it unsafe until the man was removed from the aircraft. The crew also told me there was a syndicate operating in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam who would board flights specifically to steal items from carry-on luggage.

“I was told that the man whom we caught was from Hong Kong and had only a one-way ticket to Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps where he went after that would have depended on what he had managed to steal,” he said.

Faiz thanked the crew for being professional and of great help, adding that the leading stewardess had even offered to stay behind to lodge a police report on his behalf so that he could remain on the flight.

“However, that proved unnecessary as these days reports can be lodged while in-flight. In the end, the flight was delayed only an hour,” he said.

In a statement today, Malaysia Airlines confirmed the incident and added that the crew had also lodged a report with Vietnamese authorities.

It said Malaysia Airlines crew members were trained to handle situations such as what Faiz went through so as to ensure the safety of passengers as well as the aircraft.

“Malaysia Airlines, however, would like to remind passengers to always ensure that their possessions, as well as important documents, should always be under observation and not kept separate,” it said. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd