A lot of strange things can happen on an airplane, especially in the movies. But in real life, theft, while a flight is in transit, is a tough caper to pull off, namely because there aren't any places to stash the loot.
That's the long and short of a heist that took place earlier in October on board a South African Airways jet destined for Hong Kong from Johannesburg. Several passengers complained to staff on board that most of their valuables had disappeared from their luggage in the overhead compartments.
However, after the plane landed in Hong Kong, airline cleaning staff discovered the missing items crammed between cushions and other hiding places in the seats. A quick inventory count assessed that all the stolen wares were recovered, leading to their return to distraught passengers.
According to officials, the crew was made aware of the incident when two passengers reported that some of their items were missing. One of them even pointed out some passengers they deemed suspicious and were spotted opening up the storage units while most of the passengers had nodded off to sleep during the 13-hour flight.
Hong Kong police were alerted by the airline crew, leading to authorities boarding the craft after it reached its arrival gate. Identified suspects were ordered to remain seated while the remaining passengers left the plane. After police searched the suspects, they discovered nothing on them and had to let them go without charges being laid.
“A call was made to have the police meet the aircraft on arrival. The rest of the passengers disembarked and the 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,” Tlali said, SAA spokesperson.
Not long after, while the cleanup crew was grooming the plane's interior in time for its next flight, the valuables were discovered, solving the mystery of their disappearance. Only one question remained: Who took all that stuff?
That's a matter authorities aren't likely to pursue, given the relatively happy ending. But South African Airlines and other companies have been hit by robberies before. Back in 2016, the discovery of a Hong Kong gang targeting incoming flights resulted in an arrest of one person. And back in 2014, police determined that roughly $2.6 million in goods had been stolen from planes.