Airport officials predict that if this growth continues throughout the summer months of January through to March the airport will surpass the 9.5 million passenger mark. Picture: Courtney Africa

Cape Town - When a video emerged on Youtube this weekend, showing an official at Cape Town International Airport rummaging through luggage as it was loaded on to a plane, users were outraged.

Many pointed fingers at what they called a long-running problem of baggage theft that has plagued South Africa’s airports. The man in the video was labelled as the face of this crime.

But as it turns out, the airport official was just doing his job.

On Monday, Comair – which operates the British Airways flight shown in the video – said the staff member was a security officer with BidAir, which manages aviation services at South Africa’s airports.

“The security officer legitimately handled the bag which had opened while being loaded, which is a common occurrence,” said the operator’s spokeswoman Lindsay van Duuren.

“He was called to check and place the contents of the bag as well as seal the bag.”

She said he could be identified as part of the security team by the bright orange band on his yellow reflector.

“It is evident in the video that the BidAir loading supervisor takes the bag from the officer and brings to the forward hold to avoid the bag from sustaining any further damages.”

The operator said there was no evidence of criminal activity, nor had there been any reports from customers of stolen luggage.

The video appeared on YouTube over the weekend, and the person who loaded the video on to the site claimed it was shot on Friday.

It seems to have been filmed from a gate at the airport.

The footage followed the release of a press statement by Airports Company SA addressing the issue of baggage theft.

The company, which manages all of South Africa’s major airports, said that in Cape Town only four bags per 1 000 passengers had been tampered with in 2012.

This was compared to OR Tambo International Airport where more than double that amount were mishandled for the same number of passengers.

“Our stance is that one bag mishandled is one bag too many,” said Acsa spokeswoman Unathi Batyashe-Fillis.

Various improvements, including a redesigning of the baggage sorting area’s entrance to accommodate fully-automated screening and reverse screening, have been lauded by the company as being effective in the fight against luggage tampering.

“While some say it’s impossible to get to zero, with our stakeholders we will continually strive to reduce the number of mishandled bags,” said Batyashe-Fillis. - Cape Argus