Published: 09 November 2016
Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs with regard to the recent case of a man who stayed in Changi Airport's departure lounge for 18 days (a) how did the overstayer escape detection for so long; and (b) whether there are measures in place to ensure that this will not recur.
1. On 21 August 2016, a Malaysian, Raejali Buntut, entered the airport transit areas after clearing departure immigration. He checked into Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 using a valid boarding pass and a Priority Pass card, which allows the card holder access to various airport lounges at Changi Airport. He was due to depart for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 7.05am on the same day.
2. Raejali overslept in the lounge and missed his flight. Instead of informing the airline, which would have assisted to book him onto another flight, he remained in the airport transit areas for 18 days. He visited various transit lounges using his Priority Pass and forged electronic boarding passes.
3. On 7 September 2016, Raejali re-entered the Dnata transit lounge at Terminal 1. Dnata lounge staff became suspicious after seeing his visits to the lounge and alerted the police. He was then arrested.
4. Police investigations revealed that Raejali had come to Singapore for job interviews. After missing his return flight to Kuala Lumpur, he decided to stay on in the transit lounges as he waited for the result of his job interviews. Raejali was charged in court for forging boarding passes to cheat the airport lounges and was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment.
5. Madam Speaker, this year, about 4.85 million passengers passed through the transit areas every month (more than 160,000 passengers per day) in Changi Airport. Our security agencies conduct regular patrols and checks on persons, and identify those who do not have a valid reason to remain within the transit areas. Every day, on an average, about eight passengers are escorted out of the transit areas because they do not have a valid reason to be in the transit areas. These include passengers who arrived in Singapore at the early hours of the morning and choose to stay in the transit areas until public transportation is available; or passengers who have missed their flight.
6. The Airport Police also partners with the airport community to keep a lookout on the ground, exercise vigilance against suspicious behaviour or objects, which may pose a threat to our Airport. The airport community including staff working at the transit lounges are trained by our security agencies to detect and report suspicious people and articles so that further checks can be conducted.
7. Madam Speaker, the Airport Police has engaged the transit lounge operators, advising them to be vigilant against possible abuses of boarding passes and to promptly report any suspicious cases. The Airport Police is also working with the transit lounge operators to review the process of screening travellers entering the transit lounges.
8. The Airport Police is also liaising with airlines. Airlines need to assist by alerting when passengers do not turn up for a flight.
9. In this case, it was the vigilance of four airport staff that had led to the detection and arrest of Raejali. Police has also recognised them by commending them with the Public Spiritedness Award on 20 September 2016.