The Transportation Ministry has revoked its suspension of ground handling operations by low-cost carriers Lion Air and Indonesia AirAsia for five days and instead converted the punishment to a 30-day probationary period for both airlines, a ministry official announced on Wednesday (25/05).(Reuters Photo/Olivia Harris)

Lion Air Luggage Theft Reveals Bigger Threat to Aviation Industry, Experts Say

BY :EDO KARENSA & ALIN ALMANAR

JANUARY 05, 2016

Jakarta. The arrest of four Lion Air employees for allegedly stealing items from checked bags at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport has revealed serious security and safety threats to the aviation industry, an aviation expert said.

“If air carrier workers can steal something from a passenger's bag, then it's fair to assume that they can also put something into the bag – which is a terrifying thought and could be disastrous for the industry,” aviation expert Alvin Lie told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

The government has mainly focused its efforts on implementing strict screenings practices on airplane passengers, Alvin said, but the recent case involving Lion Air has called for the same level of scrutiny on airports and air carrier staff.

“Airline workers are screened at a special gate as they enter the airport. If they can bring something [prohibited] in or out freely... that's very dangerous,” Alvin said.

The former lawmaker called on airlines to implement stricter recruitment methods and avoid hiring temporary staffers, including as baggage handlers.

“Considering that [baggage handlers] work near the airplane, they could affect the flight's safety and security,” he explained.

University of Indonesia criminologist Adrianus Meliala said this type of crime is not hard to curb.

"[These thefts] take place at the airport. As such, even though they keep recurring, the persons behind [the thefts] wouldn't change; it would be the same group of people who have access to the area," Adrianus told the Globe.

"It all depends on the willingness of airport authorities in cracking down on insiders."

Police on Sunday arrested four Lion Air employees for allegedly stealing items from checked bags at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. The arrests stemmed from a complaint filed on Nov. 16, 2015, with the airport police.

Airport Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Roycke Harry Langie said his office, working together with airport operator Angkasa Pura II, set up CCTV cameras in the airport’s baggage-handling area. The cameras later recorded a group of baggage handlers opening luggage, rifling through the contents and stealing items.

Police did not identify the four suspects arrested, revealing only that they all worked for Lion Air. One of the suspects, identified only by the initial S., claimed the airline’s security guards were also in on the racket.

Andy Saladin, a PR officer at Lion Air, said the airline was working with the police and airport authorities on the investigation and had also launched its own internal probe.

Soekarno-Hatta general manager Zulfahmi said the airport operator would step up its monitoring of the baggage-handling process with a 24-hour CCTV setup. He also said the company would work more closely with airport police and all airlines to boost security.

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