It pays to be mindful of your belongings during a flight. A family of four was forced to disembark a United Airlines flight bound for Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos (ATH) after their passports were reported missing.
Ali Blout, 34, told Newsweek that she believed her family’s passports were stolen just before the flight took off while her husband was “standing right there”.
Blount believed that the theft took place during the chaotic boarding period, when she took her daughter to the lavatory, and her husband was left with their son.
The family members’ passports were all contained in a travel pouch, which her husband momentarily placed on his seat to free up his hands to help his son settle down.
“Someone took it while he was standing right there, taking advantage of the chaos of boarding and him helping a young child.So many people walked by us on the way to their seats and could have easily swiped the case while walking by,” Blount said.
When Blount reported their passports missing, United cabin crew made a few announcements on board the aircraft, asking passengers if they had seen the bag.
After 30 minutes of searching, an officer from the Port Authority Police Department was called to the aircraft, who did a final search of passports.
After failing to locate the missing passports, the Blount family was asked to disembark the flight.
Passports stolen…and found?
However, the passports mysteriously showed up when the aircraft was mid-air and without the Blounts on board.
According to a passenger who remained on the flight and documented the moment police were called on board prior to takeoff, someone had dropped the passports by the aisle near the lavatory.
The passports were eventually returned to the Blount family.
According to the US Department of State, the US passport is one of the most valuable identity documents in the world. It can be used to provide proof of US citizenship and allows its bearer access to virtually every country in the world.
People who attempt to obtain a US passport illegally, or use stolen and altered passports, often seek to change their identities and conceal their illegal activities and movements.