SINGAPORE - A Chinese national was jailed for 12 months on Thursday for stealing $1,663 from a passenger on board a Tigerair flight last month.
Qi Shanying, 36, pleaded guilty to taking US$800 (S$1,109) and RMB2,500 (S$554) from Indian national Vellaichamy Saravanan, 36, on Tigerair flight from Shenzhen, China, to Singapore on March 11.
The victim had placed his black sling bag containing the cash in the overhead compartment above his seat.
Qi, a Henan native, was on the same flight, sitting two rows behind the victim.
After several minutes, when the flight was in mid-air, Ms Lin Lian Zhi, 32, who was seated behind the victim, saw Qi walk over to the overhead compartment above her seat and open it.
Qi started searching through some of the other passengers' belongings before going back to his seat.
At about 12.30am, Ms Lin saw him walk over to the overhead compartment above the victim's seat and open it. He took the black sling bag and went back to his seat with it. Mr Saravanan was asleep at the time.
Qi then took out the cash and put it in a black plastic bag, before putting the sling bag back into the overhead compartment.
Ms Lin later asked the victim whether anything was missing from his bag.
When he confirmed that cash was missing, the matter was reported to the cabin crew, the missing money was found after a search, and Qi was detained.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Houston Johannus said that theft on board an airplane is a serious offence due to the difficulty in detection and prosecution, and because offenders take advantage of the inherently vulnerable position which passengers are placed in.
He said Qi had brazenly and systematically tried to search for carry-on luggage to steal. He had also tried to conceal the relatively large amount of money inside a trash bag so as to avoid being caught.
Qi could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined.