Saudi Arabian Airlines recently unconvered a burglary scheme perpetrated by international gangs to carry out thefts during flights.

The modus operandi involved rummaging through passenger bags and stealing valuables while they are asleep or using the toilets.

Mansour Al-Bader, media and public relations director at Saudia, confirmed that Saudi Arabian Airlines crew successfully thwarted three robbery attempts during the month of October, which were attempted at different points during the trip by a group of Chinese nationals.

The International Air Transport Association previously informed airlines around the world, including Saudi Arabian Airlines, about efforts of internationally organized gangs to carry out thefts during flights.

Al-Bader said gangs of three or four wear shirts of the same color so one can pose as the other, sit separately and keep their baggage in the overhead compartment, giving them to excuse to open overhead lockers without arousing suspicion.

Recently, an incident took place on Saudia flight SV 567 from Dubai to Jeddah where a Chinese passenger was observed to be moving around the cabin and went to the toilet repeatedly. He later changed seats. As the plane prepared for landing, a flight attendant noticed the Chinese passenger trying to pull the bag of another passenger in front of him from under the seat. The attendant immediately tipped off the passenger to keep an eye on her bag. The pilot was notified of the incident, and alerted the tower to provide security upon the plane’s arrival at the gate. The suspect was taken into custody at the airport.


A similar incident took place on Flight 576 from Jeddah to Abu Dhabi, where a thief was caught stealing $2,000 from a young Sudanese passenger last month. On October 16, a Chinese passenger boarded the flight alone dressed in a black T-shirt. The passenger had arrived from Istanbul and was on his way to Abu Dhabi via Jeddah, and appeared to be a member of the international gang. He began to move around frequently and head to the bathroom, and on his way back “would take a quick look at passengers in their seats.”

At row 41, a Sudanese passenger just finished his meal and reclined back his seat to rest, eventually falling asleep, with his bag in front of him. Noticing the passenger had fallen asleep, and without being aware of being monitored by the cabin crew, the Chinese pretended to fall asleep too. Five minutes later, a flight attendant noticed he had moved to another vacant seat.

Alert cabin crew informed the flight supervisor and captain of the incident, and approached the Sudanese man and discreetly asked him to check if something was missing from his bag. Upon checking his belongins, the man discovered that the $2,000 cash was missing. The captain then informed the airport tower of the incident.

When the crew took extra time to open the aircraft door, the Chinese passenger went to the toilet. Upon searching the toilet after he left, the crew found an envelope with $2,000 in the toilet trash can.

Police arrested the thief.