The suspects who allegedly stole from sleeping passengers aboard a SAA flight en route to Hong Kong from Johannesburg could not be arrested “as there was no evidence linking them directly to the incident”.

This is after two passengers approached the flight’s cabin crew before landing, complaining that they had lost their valuables while they were asleep.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali confirmed on Thursday that the incident happened on Flight SA 286 on Monday.

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“One of the complainants was able to point out a few passengers who had behaved in a suspicious manner in the cabin and who were seen opening some overhead compartments while other passengers were sleeping,” said Tlali.

He said the complainants had lost their money and a watch.

Tlali said once the matter was brought to the attention of the crew, they followed procedures in managing complaints or incidents of that nature.

Items recovered

“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,” he said.

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Tlali revealed that the items that had allegedly been stolen were, however, recovered by the cleaning staff as they cleaned the aircraft. They were found on seats in the cabin where the suspects and complainants had been seated.

“The money was returned to the complainants,” he said.

Tlali said the airline would not hesitate to impose a ban on any passengers who are reported to have breached its conditions of carriage as they form part of the rights and responsibilities of the airline and its customers.

He added that many airlines that operate to or from Hong Kong have to contend with this challenge, not just SAA.

“In matters where suspects are charged and successfully prosecuted, they get blacklisted and may not be able to book and fly on SAA again. In addition, we introduced enhanced cabin monitoring when flying at night or when the cabin has been dimmed to allow passengers to rest or sleep. This measure has significantly lowered incidents of this nature but it’s not foolproof,” said Tlali.

– News24