Man Robbed While Flying Air India From New Delhi To Hong Kong

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In a horrific, but highly verbose retelling, editor of South China Morning Post shares his story about being robbed while flying Air India.

Yonden Lhatoo, editor of South China Morning Post, had a sinking feeling about his flight AI310 on Air India from New Delhi to Hong Kong.

First, when reaching the boarding gate at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, he was informed there would be a one-hour delay.

“Our Boeing 787 Dreamliner, arriving late from Mumbai, had apparently developed technical problems and had to be replaced with another aircraft,” he writes in a long retelling.

“We were originally scheduled to fly at 11:15 pm Indian time, but it was around 1 am when we finally took off,” he continues.

In flight theft: An elaborate scam

in flight theft

The change of planes meant passengers' seats got messed up.

Lhatoo ended up in 22D, a middle-row aisle seat. He kept his carry-on luggage – a small, nylon, zip suitcase – in the locker directly above his head.

“Along with some clothes and books, I had in it a leather bag with my laptop, iPad, and some US, Indian and Hong Kong currency. I was carrying about US$3,000 in 100-dollar bills,” he shares.

Though the suitcase had no lock, it was so tightly packed and heavy. It would have taken considerable effort to remove it without his knowledge.

“The journey lasted less than five hours, and I drifted in and out of sleep through most of it,” he recounts.

Robbed while flying: "Nothing seemed out of order"

in flight theft

Upon landing in Hong Kong, he quickly inspected his carry-on baggage. Nothing seemed out of order and he left the aircraft.

“It was only in the evening, while unpacking at home, that I suddenly discovered all the US$100 bills were gone; they had been replaced with US$1 notes – 21 in total,” he writes, adding that it was a ‘nice exchange rate’ a little sarcastically.

Nothing else had been stolen. “That was the genius of the con,” he admits. Whoever did it would have had to remove the bag, make the swap and bring it back all while he was lying just underneath it.

“The only time the suitcase was out of my sight otherwise was for a couple of minutes when it went through the X-ray during the security check earlier. That’s also the first time someone would have seen there was money in it,” he elaborates.

There have been talks of organised gangs being responsible for mid-air thefts. “I’m not saying that’s what happened here because, frankly, I have no clue. I’m just stunned by the sheer audacity and duplicity of it all,” he writes incredulously.

He ends his entry by saying, “Whoever stole it, I hope you choke on it, seriously. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, you bunch of brazen mid-air bandits.”

It’s a pretty hilarious read despite the unfortunate incident. Read Lhatoo's full retelling here.


Have you ever been robbed while flying? Tell us your story in the comments below.

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Written by

Sarah Voon