Fact Check

Is the 'Never Touch Anyone's Luggage' on Airplane Story Real?

We looked for the origins of a story that Facebook users had copied and pasted, which often began with the words, "Beware as the sky’s open for travel."

Published Jun 21, 2022

overhead locker on airplane,Passenger put cabin bag cabin on the top shelf. Travel concept (Jacky Enjoy Photography (Getty Images))
overhead locker on airplane,Passenger put cabin bag cabin on the top shelf. Travel concept (Image Via Jacky Enjoy Photography (Getty Images))
Claim:
A story about an older woman who flew with drugs and got caught after landing at Dubai International Airport (DXB) cautions travelers to not touch and leave fingerprints on other people's luggage, for fear of being implicated in their crimes.
Context

This story had all the makings of being fabricated. However, before rushing to judgement, we contacted the airport in Dubai to ask if any such incident had occurred. This story's rating will be updated soon.

Fact Check

In June 2022, readers inquired about Facebook posts that told the story of an "older lady" who asked a female traveler for help to load her luggage in an overhead storage compartment while boarding an airplane headed for Dubai International Airport (DXB). The story, which had been copied and pasted numerous times on Facebook since at least August 2021, sometimes began with the words, "Beware as the sky’s open for travel." Older posts that shared the same story started with the sentence, "Luggage experience in a plane."

Basically, the story's purpose was that of a cautionary tale to warn travelers against touching other people's luggage in airports and on airplanes. Fingerprints left on baggage could supposedly implicate travelers in other people's crimes, the posts claimed.

According to the story, which was told from the young female traveler's perspective, a "gentleman" was the person who helped the "older lady" load her bag in overhead storage. Later, after landing in Dubai, it was revealed that the "older lady" had brought drugs in her luggage. The "older lady" claimed to airport police that the female traveler was her daughter, supposedly as a way of implicating her in the crime, as if the younger woman had stashed her own drugs in her "mother's" baggage. The "gentleman" from earlier then stepped forward to defend the female traveler from the "older lady," the story said.

This story bore striking similarities to other purported schemes we reported on from past decades, which we ended up tagging with our "Legend" rating. Such ruses often supposedly involved a kind stranger purportedly taking advantage of the person telling the story.

This claim may also end up with a "Legend" rating. However, first, in order to cover all of our bases, we reached out to the media contacts at the Dubai International Airport. We asked if the story of the "older lady" with drugs in her luggage who claimed the illegal items belonged to her "daughter" happened to ring any bells. We await their response and will update this story's rating soon.

The earliest posting of the story that we could find was from Aug. 26, 2021. It was posted on the Inspiration life quotes, sayings, and lessons Facebook page. The story also previously went viral as a Twitter thread in October 2021.

The cautionary tale about touching other people's luggage on airplanes and in airports went like this:

luggage experience in a plane.

The older lady comes and sits next to me inside the plane. She asked me to help her put her bag in the overhead luggage compartment. But a gentleman sitting across quickly came through. (I am not very tall and the overhead luggage compartment is something I try to avoid at all costs.

Immediately she sits down strikes up a conversation. She was very pleasant and well spoken. So we chatted all through the flight to Dubai.

Suddenly, when the pilot announced that we were now proceeding to begin our descent into DXB, my good friend 'developed' stomach pains. Me with my good heart, I pressed the stewards button, and the stewardess came to find out what the problem was. I told her my seat mate was not feeling well. And this lady, she suddenly began to address me as 'my daughter'. The stewardess told me that there was nothing they could do except give her some painkillers and wait until we landed. The pilot announced that we had a medical emergency on board and advised us all to stay calm. My new friend was crying and sweating like crazy. And she refused to let go of my hand… everyone assumed we knew each other.

So we land at DXB and the same gentleman who helped remove her luggage from the overhead compartment removed her luggage. But as he removed the luggage, he advised me to distance myself from this lady and make it clear to the cabin crew that we were NOT travelling together. He was a godsend!

So indeed, the cabin crew came and asked me if we were related, I categorically told them we had met on the plane. I didn't know her at all. So we began to deplane and as I said goodbye she kept begging me to carry her handbag. I was so torn… but the gentleman looked me in the eye and emphatically shook his head. He passed me a note telling me to let the cabin crew handle her.

So I exit the aircraft and leave my 'new friend' to wait for the wheelchair and be handled by the cabin crew feeling very guilty.

As we waited for our luggage to come through, I hear this commotion. My 'new friend' was running, trying to escape the cabin crew, having gotten out of the wheelchair! She left the stewardess with her handbag and just ran towards the exit with the rest of her hand luggage! Luckily the airport police were faster than her. They got hold of her and brought her back in handcuffs.

This lady starts calling out to me.. my daughter… my daughter!.. how could you do this to me….. that's when I caught on. She was carrying drugs and she was trying to implicate me!

Luckily for me, the gentleman who had helped her with her luggage came forward and told the airport police that me and her had just met on the plane. The police took my passport and asked her to reveal my full names if it was true we were travelling together. By God's grace, I had not even told her my first name! I was still asked to follow the police to a little room where I was questioned extensively. Where did I meet her?… where did I board… where did she board. Etc… And my luggage was extensively searched and dusted for fingerprints.

They dusted all her luggage and my fingerprints were not found anywhere on her luggage or on her handbag!

I was let go with advice never ever to get touch anyone's luggage either in flight or at the airport. So from that day, I don't care how much luggage you have, you will deal with it yourself. I will not even offer you a trolley to put your luggage on! Your luggage… your problem…. is my policy. And if you can't reach the overhead compartment, and I am the nearest person, please call the cabin crew because all I will do is give you a blank stare and then look away!

Air travelers who frequently fly the friendly skies have likely heard many times various airport announcements that ask passengers to not agree to watch or handle other people's luggage. The official @AskTSA Twitter account for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration once tweeted, "Passengers should maintain control over their own items and property at all times." We were unable to find any specific advice regarding helping other passengers to load their luggage in overhead storage compartments.

This story will soon be updated with a more firm rating.

Sources:

“Drug Laws in the UAE: What Travelers Need to Know.” World Nomads, https://www.worldnomads.com/travel-safety/middle-east/united-arab-emirates/drugs-in-the-united-arab-emirates-dont-even-think-about-it.

Joseph, Jisha. “Twitter User Warns People to Beware of ‘over-Friendly, Chatty Seat Neighbors’ on Flights in Viral Thread.” Upworthy, 24 Nov. 2021, https://scoop.upworthy.com/twitter-user-warns-people-beware-over-friendly-seat-neighbors-on-flights.

U.S. Transportation Security Authority. “@AskTSA.” Twitter, 13 Apr. 2018, https://twitter.com/asktsa/status/984808815127384066.

Jordan Liles is a Snopes reporter with expertise in investigating misinformation, inauthentic social media activity, and scams.

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