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SAA crew members return following contraband found in London

JOHANNESBURG. 18 February 2009

South African Airways can confirm that 12 of the 15 crew members detained by British authorities on Monday after contraband was found in an item of hand luggage on the crew bus at Heathrow Airport have returned to South Africa. The crew members are being interviewed by the SAPS and SAA’s Security division. The three cockpit crew members will return from London later in the week. The group who operated flight SA234 from Johannesburg to London were detained by authorities in London on Monday after the contraband was found. Following investigations by British authorities they were released yesterday (Tuesday, 17 February) on their own cognisance, and will be required to appear back in London on 6th April 2009.

SAA, together with the Airports Company SA (Acsa), customs and the South African Police Service (SAPS) yesterday announced the formation of a special task team to tackle trafficking of contraband through airports. The task team has been tasked to identify immediate additional measures aimed at curbing drug traffic through SAA and any other carriers that operate at SA airports. The team will review the additional interventions implemented by SAA since the first incident in January 2009 and manage the urgent implementation of additional security measures. The team will also identify potential risk areas involving the trafficking of contraband across airport operations.

SAA has committed to step up security following the arrests in January. The measures introduced by SAA included changing security systems, physical searches of bags and using dogs airside. These and other measures will now be extended across all SAA international flights. This week’s incident comes after SAA crew members were arrested in London in January 2009 following the discovery of illegal contraband on a crew bus. SAA co-operated closely with authorities in that investigation which resulted in the speedy arrest of an SAA crew member and a security guard employed by the company contracted by SAA to screen crew members’ luggage. SAA remains committed to a zero tolerance approach towards the use of the airline’s services for any criminal activity and will continue to closely monitor the situation going forward.

Issued by: Robyn Chalmers

SAA Head: Group Corporate Affairs