Despite efforts at enforcement, baggage touts have been waiting at the check-in aisles of flights leaving Singapore for places like Chennai, Sri Lanka and Yangon.
They target travellers with small or lighter bags and ask them to take on pieces of bulky luggage to check in as their own, in exchange for cash payment of between $5 and $10 per kilogram. These items include electronic goods such as large-screen TVs and computers, dropped off outside the departure hall by a driver in a delivery van.
Aged between their 30s and their 40s, the mostly-male touts travel together in groups of five or more. They will accompany the passenger who agrees to take on the goods to check in and hand the money over either once the item passes through smoothly, or on occasion, when the item has arrived at its destination securely.
The touts also approach passengers who looked like they were carrying too much luggage, offering to take on their excess baggage for about $12 per kilogram, instead of the usual $15 charged by most airlines.
“It’s not a nice thing to see, especially in our posh airport, and it’s a problem that’s been getting worse recently,”.said a businessman James Nair, 45, a Singaporean.
One traveller, foreign worker Raj Rajan, 29, saw it as a way to make a quick buck. He checked in a 20-kilogram TV set and received $150 when he was cleared for the flight. He felt the immediate benefits outweighed the danger of potentially carrying contraband items as he needed the cash. But he changed his tune in the middle of the interview when interrupted by a tout, saying, “Sorry, I’m carrying this for my uncle.”
Importer Aung Soe, 35, another outbound traveller, said he was approached by touts twice so far this year but had told them off each time. “I want to have a peaceful flight and not be worried about what the boxes might hold,” he said. “I could be in deep trouble if it were drugs or something else as bad.” Changi Airport Group said it is aware of the existence of these touts and that airport auxiliary police (Certis CISCO) conducts anti-touting patrols regularly at its four terminals. People who are found offering baggage-pooling deals are issued stern warnings, with repeat offenders being handed over to the police.
Officers have issued warning letters to five offenders and four others were passed on to the police this year. Carrying another person’s luggage is not illegal but people caught touting in public places can be fined between $1,000 and $5,000 and could also be jailed up to six months.
“The airport remains vigilant and is working closely with the relevant agencies to monitor such activities,” said a Changi Airport spokesperson. “We remind travellers to refrain from accepting items from other travellers in their baggage as these may be contraband items.”
However, what follow are a stream of comments from the forum:
Tim wrote: I strongly disagree having touting in singapore, be it at shopping complexes and now in the airports. When i was traveling abroad, i found these touts irritating and threatening … just wanting to rob ppl… if we have this in singapore, the environment is not safe or does not give tourists a feel of safe….. i anyone has excessive baggages, she/he should arrange for relatives or friends to wait at airport to help out …or worst case, ask the airport staff to help out… another way, is to get those legal transport service counter staff to provide transport and assistances…. NO TOUTING IN SINGAPORE …PLS !!!!
David wrote: Just cannot understand how some people can sell their life for such a cheap price!!! What happens if you check in the other guy’s luggage and it was found to have drugs before it reaches the plane? The answer is simple, you are a dead man!!!! Just remember this for $150, you can be a DEAD MAN!!!! It is only time that drugs will be used in such luggages when more people accept the idea. This is only a test market!!!!So NEVER NEVER PLAY PLAY with Singapore Law!!!
THOR wrote: You will be dumb and stupid to risk your life or jail time for a few miserable dollars. How would you know what is inside those packages and luggage ? It could be bomb, drugs or money laundering ? I will instead report these touts to the authorities immediately on the spot. They are giving our beautiful airport a bad name !
Bukit wrote: This has been happening many years ago. Once I was flying to New Delhi and I only got a cabin bag immediately an Indian saw me queue up at the check in counter with nothing big. He approached me and ask if that all I am carrying. I said yes. He asked if I could help him to check in one of his bag weight about 20 KG and he is willing to pay me half of what the Airline charged. As a frequent traveler I knew well it is stupid to help and accept money from this people. What these people pay you is not worth the risk.
Christopher wrote: I am working in Changi Airport for the past year and noticed there are more than meet the eyes. This have been going on for years and some airlines station manager look the other way. Some of the staff are in it too. There are a few group of regular baggage touts lurking around always and they are informed of the passenger’s baggage weight.
There are more hanky panky going on when you see it from working there on the ground. heard of those poor uncles pushing trolleys for 8 hours being paid Sin $10. Shocking but true. Previously there are those who are paid Sin $100 a month. Imagine that at the world best airport!!!! A first world airport paying a third world pay. God forbids!!!!
ISAY ! Wrote: Why is our Airport security so lax then? Wouldn’t the terrorists use this method to transport bombs and what have you onto our planes then??? What is the CAAS doing about it???
Phua wrote: What if the baggage being tout by a stranger contains drugs that may cause a death penalty, then it is pure bad luck!
David wrote: In my opinion, the authority is aware of this and for some reasons known to them, they are not taking actions. With all the cameras in the airport, and the possibility of play back, they are just waiting, most likely for the bigger fish which may not be the culprit but the “goods” and when this happens, it is likely that someone is going to lose his life.
MM wrote: This news was reported some years back,i think the Government should terminate CAAS Head and thats the only way other new Heads know the seriousness of the Tout tarnishing our countries image.
Robert wrote: In US airport, passengers are not allowed to check in luggage that don’t belong to them prevent any kind of terrorist activities. This is not just a simple touting activity. The MHA and airport security needs to take this seriously. There is a security breach here … End
An escaped cat on the airfield causes problems for an animal health officer, and an undercover policeman attempts to track down mini cabs touting operating illegally at the terminals in London airport.
Judging from the comments touting is dangerous and you could end up in jail or the death penalty. Especially if there are drugs involved, the penalty is death by hanging in counties like Singapore and Malaysia. They is no debate in court, so long as you are the owner of the check in luggage tag under your name is consider the owner . The price of a few hundred dollars is just too heavy a price to pay. But the temptation are great, it may not be for money, but out of sympathy of being asked to help out by a old lady or old man or a handicap or even a child is just too great, which is a commonly tactics used by the touts all over the world work on our emotion and sympathy. And all it take is just one unlucky chance, one mistake and it could be a mistake you live to regret it for the rest of your life.
However, the relevant authority should also look into this matter quickly and address it before it get out of hand. Passengers service officer checking in the passenger should also be monitor of their service, after all they own a duties of care to every passenger that are checking in their luggage. And terminate those who abuse their duty as an office just to pocket a few dollars to provide lead to the touts. This issue is a serious matter which can’t be taken lightly, if Singapore want to stay as one of the safes place to visit.
Credit goes to: BBC News