Singapore

Scoot investigating baggage touting syndicate at Changi Airport

Scoot and Changi Airport Group investigating after touts are observed offering passengers cut-price rates for excess baggage

Budget airline Scoot is investigating claims that a baggage-touting syndicate is operating at Changi Airport.

The touts target passengers who have excess luggage by offering them lower rates than what they have to pay at the Scoot check-in counter.

A man who requested anonymity told The New Paper that a tout approached his two friends who had excess baggage for their flight back to Chennai in India at Terminal 2 recently.

The tout, who gave his name as Raju, said he could arrange for their excess baggage to be checked in for $5 per kg, which is significantly lower than Scoot's rate of $20 per kg.

"He said he would keep $1 per kg while $4 would go to the person manning Counter 10," the man said.

When they went to Counter 10 and mentioned Raju, the check-in person put in their luggage without charging them. They later paid Raju, who told them that he holds a work permit, $65 for 13kg of excess baggage.

HOW SCAM WORKS

A TNP team later observed how the syndicate operates.

Working in small groups, about a dozen men, believed to be foreign workers, were seen approaching Scoot passengers repacking their luggage.

If the passengers accept their offer, one of them would then weigh the baggage and type something into his smartphone.

Another man would help the passengers get their luggage checked in, after which the passengers hand him money.

Replying to TNP's queries, a Scoot spokesman said the airline is investigating the claims with its service partner, which handles ground services and baggage, and Changi Airport.

She said: "Our service partner will remind their staff on the severity of illegal touting activities.

"Scoot takes this offence seriously and would pursue necessary disciplinary and legal actions should the claim be true."

A Changi Airport Group spokesman said that touting is not condoned at the airport.

She said: "Offenders who are involved in touting activities will be issued a Prohibition Order (PO) and civil action will be taken against them if the order is flouted.

"In the past year, two people were issued with POs."

Ms Gloria James, head litigation lawyer of Gloria James-Civetta & Co, said those issued with a PO will not be allowed to perform certain actions as specified in the PO for a specific period of time, which can range from a few years to a lifetime ban."

Criminal lawyer Ravinderpal Singh of Kalco Law said that under the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore Act, those caught touting in the airport can be fined up to $2,000.

NOT NEW

Aviation expert Gerry Soejatman said that this touting activity is not new.

"This type of operation has been around for a long time. It is known in the industry that check-in staff have done this from time to time," he said.

The last reported case of baggage touting at Changi Airport was in 2011.

He said: "What surprises me is that this must have happened for a while for the media to catch a whiff of it before the airline, which does raise a question on the airline's own internal surveillance and controls."

Counter-terrorism expert Ivor Terret said the existence of such an operation at Changi Airport is worrying.

"Airport employees who are willing to bend the rules for financial gain may also be susceptible to manipulation by terrorist groups," he said.

This could pose a greater threat than a scam for passengers to evade paying the full rate for excess baggage, Mr Terret added.

"Such corrupt airport staff with access to passenger baggage could enable terrorists to plant explosive devices both in the airport structure and passenger aircraft."

COURT & CRIME