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Chinese tourists snatch and fly: The duty free store at Phuket airport

Take-Away Tourist Thieves Try to Steal and Fly Home to China from Phuket

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
PHUKET: A bold tourist thief flying home from Phuket to China hurried onto the aircraft with costly cosmetics stolen at the last minute from the duty free store, a meeting heard today.

The captain of the aircraft allowed pursuing security officers to retrieve the stolen cosmetics but refused to hold the flight to allow for the thief's arrest.

In a similar incident on another airline, a second thief also escaped punishment thanks to the reluctance of the captain to delay takeoff, the meeting at Phuket International Airport heard.

The incident raised the issue of who has the authority to stop a flight and whether proper punishment of a criminal is deemed more important than a timely takeoff.

Last-minute thieves was just one of many issues discussed when airport authorities met with China-based airlines and tour operators today.

With tourism safety high on the agenda, the discussion swung to security with a report about the latest theft - which took place at 7.30am on October 16.

King Power duty free staff told Phuket airport security a theft of cosmetics had been detected and security camera footage pinpointed the passenger hurrying to board the waiting flight.

Security officers were at the plane's door within two minutes of the theft being detected.

Instead of allowing the security officials to enter the aircraft, the captain ordered cabin staff to retrieve the cosmetics, return them, and left it at that.

It was not the only time such an incident had occurred as Chinese passengers looked at the duty free items before heading home from Phuket, the meeting heard.

The names of the Chinese airlines involved were not disclosed.

Who has the power to order a flight to stop, a representative from Thai Air Orient wondered aloud.

''I do,'' said Kanputt Mungklasiri, Executive Vice president and Deputy General manager (Operations and Maitenance) at the airport.

''If it's a concern about security or safety, we certainly have the power to stop aircraft leaving Phuket.''

He chaired the meeting and said he planned to hold further talks with King Power to find a way of preventing thieves from escaping without punishment.

The behavior of Chinese tourists has been debated and heavily criticised in China, where news of the last-minute thieves is likely to bring further anger at the damage done to China's reputation abroad.

Representatives from Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and airlines based in Hainan, Juneyao, Shanghai and Sichuan were at the meeting.

Today's meeting was told that Phuket's new Terminal X, where most passengers from charter flights will be processed, will be open on January 1.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Yet again PW speculates. Like many I have traveled by air many times. Never have I visited duty free, proceeded to the departure gate and boarded the aircraft within minutes. (yes I can read) Was the tourist flying home prior to committing theft, as you suggest? If so how on earth could they be guilty without a trial? We also know this authority has trouble counting. 11M visitors! How can a sane being believe a word they say? Simply more discrimination.

Posted by gee on October 29, 2013 21:27

Editor Comment:

PW is not speculating, merely reporting events as relayed by airport and airline officials at a meeting. The AoT figures of passengers passing through Phuket are reliable but often misinterpreted by readers/journalists who fail to understand they include arrivals AND departures, international AND domestic. Please try to familiarise yourself with the basics of simple arithmetic.

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If there was evidence in the form of CCTV (that worked) I think the person/people should have been offloaded or attempted. Theft is a terrible crime (I can relate to stealing food etc if starving but still condone it which is not the case here) as now this sends a message to every potential thief on flights they get away with without trial I am not a lawyer but believe a plane is similar to an embassy therefore the territory of it's country of registration and only the Captain can request Police etc to board the plane. Therefore if the person/people refused to leave even if the Police came on to the plane they do not have the authority to remove people the legal position could cause long delays. However the message should be that this will not be tolerated, perhaps being entered on the "Black List" for Thailand? Again I am not a lawyer.

Posted by Same, same but different on October 30, 2013 11:21

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Assuming Orient Thai observe usual safety protocol (hour check, excepted!) then the passenger's luggage would have to be removed from the aircraft if the passenger was denied travel. That costs money. If you have a look at who owns OT and his connections, I suspect few people in the kingdom would argue with them.

Posted by Barry on October 30, 2013 13:13

Editor Comment:

The airlines involved in the King Power thefts were not named at the meeting. No point in making stuff up.

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@gee

Perhaps I am misunderstanding what has got Gee's dander up. Does he think that the Duty-Free shop just made something like this up? What Gee thinks would be gained by such a stunt is mysterious.

In the big picture, thank goodness the pilot understands his responsibilities are to get the aircraft onto the tarmac on schedule and not sit at the gate burning fuel for a simple theft.

I do find these two reported incidents enlightening as I did not realize the Chinese had sticky fingers.

Sticky rice...yes.

Atleast the thieves were confronted in front of other passengers, some surely Chinese, and were hopefully quite embarassed to hand the stolen items over to the flight staff ;-)

Cheers

Posted by C&C on October 30, 2013 13:52

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C & C

Aircraft don't "burn fuel at the gate".

They use ground power and only turn on their main engines after pushback.

On airports where such power is not available, they would have their APU running (Auxilliary Power Unit) which is a small jet engine at the rear of the aircraft.

It uses no more than 115kg/h on a Boeing 737 which many of the Chinese airlines seem to operate.

There are other instances where an APU would be used regardless of ground power but their fuel consumption is negligible.

There are many financial factors for not wanting to delay departure but fuel consumption at the gate is not one of them.

Posted by ThaiMike on October 30, 2013 15:40

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My only issue was the assumption of guilt without a fair hearing. And as PW referred to the Chinese individual as a thief I just thought I was unfair. Also staff associated with an unnamed retail outlet has a history of unfounded, fabricated accusations of shop lifting with ulterior motives.

Posted by gee on October 30, 2013 17:21

Editor Comment:

If the person is unnamed, it's a bit difficult to claim ''guilt without a fair hearing'' . . . although perhaps the person was pulled off the plane on landing to face a firing squad. To accuse all staff of the store of making ''unfounded, fabricated accusations'' seems far more difficult to justify. You are hereby found guilty of the crime of hypocrisy.

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The Captain may well have control of his aircraft, but at the end of the day, he cannot begin pushback without the benefit of the ground crew, and cannot take off without the assistance of ATC. If this had happened in say Europe, that plane would have gone nowhere.

Regarding the possibility that they story might have been made up, I recall about 3-4 years ago, there were a number of incidents at BKK involving thefts from KP. It transpired that the official interpreter, a Sri Lankan, was acting as an intermediary for the Boys In Brown soliciting bribes. Once the interpreter was replaced, the arrests stopped. Go figure.

FWIW, if there was a scam going on here, it was probably nothing to do with KP. I think they were quite embarrassed by the BKK incidents. They released the CCTV tapes of the incidents, but you could not see anything being stolen, and the goods were never found with the suspects.

Posted by SpurredoninDublin on October 31, 2013 16:33

Editor Comment:

Indeed. It's odd how the recollections of some Phuketwan readers distort the facts to suit their agendas.


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