The Jakarta Post
Mid-flight theft-related offences on board airplanes have become more common in several Asian countries over the past two years, including in Indonesia.
According to daily newspaper Kompas, the latest incident occurred on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha, Qatar, to Jakarta on Sunday evening, around three hours after the airplane took off.
When the cabin lights were switched off and most of the passengers were asleep, offenders allegedly opened the overhead compartments, removed several bags and began searching through them back at their seats or in the plane's main aisle. When the Qatar Airways plane landed, four bags were found to have been moved, allegedly by two different people.
It was reported by tribunnews.com that four Chinese citizens, who were allegedly members of a theft syndicate, were being questioned by the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport Police on Monday.
"We are still developing our investigation," said head of airport police Iptu Waluyo.
According to aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman, airlines are responsible for handling theft cases that occur during their flights.
"Regarding the case involving Qatar Airways, it would be better if the police were joined by Qatar Embassy officials during questioning. Then the suspects could be extradited to Qatar to face legal proceedings there," said Gerry.
Separately, Qatar Airways corporate communications official Koh Wei Ling said that there was no official statement yet regarding the case.
"We are still waiting for our head office in Doha to issue the official statement," said Ling.
Meanwhile, national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has called on passengers to keep their belongings safe.
"We always tell the crew to be alert when checking on the cabin, especially when passengers are asleep," said Garuda Indonesia corporate communications vice president Benny S Butarbutar.
State-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) II's president director Budi Karya Sumadi said that theft-related offences on board airplanes were under the airline's jurisdiction. But airport security are available to support them in bringing the alleged offenders to airport police.
In a press release on Tuesday, Garuda Indonesia informed that these offenders usually checked-in without any luggage, stayed for only one day in their destination, owned passports and tickets issued outside Indonesia and allegedly were part of a criminal syndicate. The theft itself usually occurred during the night when passengers were asleep or at the lavatory.
Currently Garuda is cooperating with other airlines through the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) to share information and conduct preventive actions, including conducting passenger profiling, issuing policies for assist air crew to prevent such incidents and providing security officers in destination cities. (kes)