As a flight attendant, I’m always surprised by how much time some passengers spend rummaging around in the overhead lockers during a flight. I’ve always assumed they’ve been searching their own belongings (I have no idea what for) but considering the growing prevalence of in-flight thefts where professional criminals can steal thousands of dollars from hand luggage, perhaps I’m being a little too trusting.
And it turns out that’s it’s not just nefarious criminal gangs who are responsible for these high-value thefts. There have been several recent cases of flight attendants getting involved in similar criminal endeavours and now a member of Emirates cabin crew has appeared in a Dubai court accused of stealing over $5,000 from passenger hand luggage.
The crime is said to have taken place on a flight from Thailand to Dubai in June according to the Gulf News. Two Emirati brothers were travelling in the airline’s Business Class when they had to walk to another cabin in order to check on their sick father. When they eventually returned, the brother says Dh18,500 in various currencies (approximately $5,000 USD) was found to be missing from their carry-on’s.
The passengers demanded the police were called and on arrival in Dubai, officers took fingerprints from a wallet belonging to the brothers. Prints lifted from the wallet matched those of a 37-year old Egyptian member of cabin crew who had been working on the flight.
During a police interview, the flight attendant is alleged to have initially admitted the crime, although he has since pleaded not guilty at a recent court hearing. Unsurprisingly, the member of cabin crew is no longer employed by Emirates who have declined to comment on the story.
Security experts say the number of in-flight thefts has exponentially increased since 2014 – many of those are linked to the rising popularity of targeted cash thefts by professional gangs. The Middle East and China are said to be hotspots for this type of crime.
According to Aviation Security International, boarding time can be a particularly vulnerable period – “Thieves realise that most passengers let their guard down once they are on board as they do not expect this kind of crime to occur in such an environment,” says ASI.
“Passengers simply become complacent, taking their eyes off their valuables in the mistaken belief it is safe to do so, making them an easy target.”
You might wonder why some people are carrying so much cash around with them in the first place – although, often, there’s a very good reason. But it just goes to show that while aeroplane cabins are generally safe environments, you should never let your guard down in what is, after all, a public place too much.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.