American FedEx Pilot Jailed In Singapore For Violating Quarantine

Filed Under: Misc.

A 44 year old FedEx pilot from Alaska has become the first foreigner to be jailed in Singapore for violating quarantine orders.

Three FedEx pilots arrived from Sydney on April 3, and were supposed to fly back to the US on April 6. The pilots stayed at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport and were serving a mandatory quarantine because they stated in their health declarations that they visited China, Macau, Japan, or the United States in the past 14 days.

On April 5 health officials checked up on the pilots, and found that one of the pilots wasn’t in his room. It was later determined that he had taken the metro downtown to buy a thermometer and some masks before flying home.

The pilot claimed he needed the items because they were in short supply back in Alaska, and his wife was ill. While she had tested negative for coronavirus, she had breathing difficulties. Furthermore, the pilot said he had lost his daughter four years before, and he couldn’t handle the thought of anything happening to his wife.

This past week the pilot was sentenced — while prosecutors sought an eight week jail term, he ended up “only” getting four weeks in jail, and could be released after three weeks for good behavior. In his address to the court he acknowledged that he used poor judgment and shouldn’t have gone out, and said he has the highest regard for Singapore people and its law.

Interestingly all of this was before Singapore even went into partial lockdown, which only happened on April 7.

Bottom line

It’s not surprising to see something like this happen in Singapore, given that it’s a country where the rules are the rules, and one shouldn’t expect much leniency. After all, this is the same country that has arrested dozens of people for misusing boarding passes.

Obviously the pilot was exercising poor judgment, though there’s an irony to spending nearly a month in jail for trying to buy equipment to protect yourself and your family during a virus.

What do you guys think — was the punishment deserved?

  1. Singapore beat a teenager about 10-15 years ago for dropping gum he was chewing on the ground. I think this is excessive especially considering he was leaving anyways but Singapore don’t play.

  2. Sounds like he couldnt voluntarily quarantine himself so the government decided to to it for him. Honestly, we need some of that here in the states. I bet people would actually follow the CDC guidelines if we attached fines and/or jail time to them. People out here only thinking about themselves with no regard for the safety of others.

  3. Why did he need to go all the way downtown to get masks and thermometers? There are several pharmacies located at the airport… he deserves the punishment.. follow the rules of the country you’re visiting! Why should he be given leniency? His actions could cost lives.

  4. I think it just goes to show some people’s disregard for another country’s laws, and a general mindset that their way/methods/laws are what the universal standard should be. While it would seem unreasonable to jail someone for violating quarantine restrictions to buy protection equipment (if that were the case) by US/UK/etc standards, Singapore runs by having (what may be draconian) rules, and when you’re in someone else’s country, it’s just respectful to adhere to their standards–and I think that goes even if you’re a “diplomat” (*ahem* Anne Sacoolas)…

    So my point is, there shouldn’t even be the question of “What do you guys think — was the punishment deserved?”

  5. I don’t think it was excessive as it was consistent with how they treat their own citizens. Let’s be honest they stopped the virus in its tracks so their policies work.

  6. Singapore gave quarantine orders as of March 20th, for 14-days.
    You have to follow the rules of the country you are in, or take the consequences.
    It is a shame, but he should not have broken the rules.
    For me its common sense.
    I mean just think about it, breaking such a major current rule in a country where chewing gum is forbidden?
    Not smart.
    I would have thought he is smarter, since he is a pilot and all.

  7. @CRAIG, while the part about sentencing an American teenager to several lashings is certainly true, it WAS NOT for dropping chewing gum. It was for vandalizing property, cars, if I remember it right.

  8. @ Craig

    If you are referring to Michael Fay, he received 4 strokes of a cane for theft and vandalism that occurred when he was 18 years of age, not for dropping gum.

  9. The success of its policies definitely confirms that Singapore is right.

    It’s one of the richest, least corrupt nations, very safe, very clean and offers fair opportunities to its citizens.

    One interesting detail: Wannabe human rights activists who complain about public beatings are wrong. This punishment is not cruel because of the pain which is only moderate at best, but it is effective because of the public shame factor.

  10. I’m an expat living in Singapore and can confirm that most expats are very wary of breaking the laws. Singapore has been equally harsh on its own citizens and also on dual nationals: several permanent residents had their PR status revoked for breaching stay home notices.

    Honestly – Singapore is an amazing country and the crazy rules (I recently needed to seek a permit to remove an old mattress from my condo) make the country safe. There is such a low level of crime here I would say that everyone on every corner of the island feels safe. Who cares if the rules would be deemed as excessive back home. Plus, income taxes are like 75% lower. #SGUNITED

  11. @Mo I bet people are so glad that you have zero say on what happens here in the US. What a moronic thing to suggest. I’m not doubting the seriousness of the virus at all but it’s insane how everyone has been brainwashed to listen to every single thing the CDC says like it’s the law. 30+ million people are out of jobs including myself because of something that killed under 100k people in the US and has a 98% recovery rate. Stop the nonsense, use your brain.

  12. @Sayeed

    ‘while the part about sentencing an American teenager to several lashings is certainly true, it WAS NOT for dropping chewing gum. It was for vandalizing property, cars, if I remember it right.’

    Oh wow that changes ‘everything’, yes now I understand why they gave him those lashes…….

  13. This story is a few days old . Well the pilot was in Singapore . He got into trouble and his lawyer got him a reduced sentence.

    I’m surprised Ben didn’t want to write about Singapore Airlines record profit loss and not renewing their a330 leases in 12-14 months.

  14. @ALL thank you for pointing out the story of Michael Fay. I guess I did mix two stories in one. The Fay incident was in 1994 26 years ago! I guess I was thinking of something like this which I was aware of: I believe there was an incident with an American and gum. We might have mentioned in here on this blog at some point. One of those odd things about other countries we need to keep aware of. BTW, I am not necessarily against punishment for this after all whether we like it or not a law is a law.

  15. @Ross
    Jumpseat had award availability open up, so one of the cheapskates on this blog jumped on it.

  16. @D3KingAmerican-
    Many Airlines are not renewing their A330 leases. Many major Airlines say it‘s not profitable anymore, because of fuel expenses. Most want to start flying more 777/737.

  17. If his intention of going town is really for mask and thermometer then his wrong decision is very high cost. Post on online forum to pay extra $10-20 bucks for seller to deliver itesm to hotel can save him from jail. Maybe he really neglected this fine city’s law.

  18. Singapore has a patronising, paternalistic, controlling view of how a government ought to interact with its citizens. Part of that is a heavy-handed judicial system. When a British author published a book criticising the Singaporean judiciary, he was jailed in Singapore for contempt of court. So, while the Straits Times is an excellent newspaper, there is little press freedom there. The city wants the rest of the world to see it as world class, but its form of policing and prosecution suggests a certain narrow mindedness.

  19. I’m not a fan of Singapore, but it’s good they exercise these penalties without fear or favour. It’s a pity other countries don’t follow suit; it would be great to see the gun-toting rabble threatening a premature end to the US lockdown treated the same….round them all up and detain them in prison camps for the duration.

  20. I quote myself from another post a week ago.

    “It is pretty much expected from an authoritarian regime with draconian policies.
    But that’s what it takes to defend a tiny island from foreign powers.”

    And to the moron, Crosscourt, this is still a compliment to Singapore.

    No one from the US government or FedEx is condemning this punishment. You can call that foreign powers respect tiny island Singapore.

  21. It’s so interesting to me. For context I am a black man living in Utah. Various states have put in place health regulations that people appear to flaunt constantly. Enforcement is irregular at best and targeted to certain populations at worst. People in this country aren’t mad at the justice system here entirely. They are mad at inequitable justice. It’s refreshing to see a country who did not use the citizenship or occupation of the person to defer justice in relation to their own laws.

  22. Niels says:

    May 16, 2020 at 9:23 am

    @Niels, Singapore is not like China. That would be like saying America is like Russia, they even look alike.

    The kid (1st post) was not beaten for chewing gum. He was young but not a minor. He spray painted many cars over several days. Would you be happy if your expensive car was spray painted. Know that in Singapore, all cars are expensive. A new car that cost $30,000 in the US might cost $125,000 there.

    The pilot was given an individual lecture twice and rules explained. They told him not to go out, not even for food or exercise.

    Note that the prosecution did not ask for caning (whipping).

  23. Double standard post – That’s what happens when you don’t respect the laws in other countries.

  24. Americans just aren’t that great at following rules and regulations, eh? So much for complaining about the lack of rule of law in other places when Americans themselves can’t seemed to bring themselves to follow the rule of law…

  25. @Derek

    I’m a European who used to live in China, so I think I am able to compare both countries.

  26. @Chet

    Yes but Chet, Crazy Rich Asians showed us that Singapore is *perfect*! (even though most of the footage was shot in Malaysia haha)

  27. Yeah. Singapore is a great place to visit. But it’s absolutely not a place where you want to disregard government rules…

  28. Singapore has its rules and regulations, and American exceptionalism is no match for them. Americans cant follow the rules at home, nor can they abroad.

  29. He couldn’t call down to the desk and have them send someone out for the thermometer and masks ?
    Sure they’d be willing, but probably shove it under the door.

  30. He has made his bed and must lie in it. Those things he bought he could have just ordered them from Amazon or other online retailers. There is no need to go out and possibly infect other people.

  31. @Cass

    also Singapore Airlines is in a unique position. They have no domestic market .

  32. Let’s say the pilot had the virus. He went on public transportation and then downtown to a store. Within this journey he could have infected one or more people that could have caused a new spread and possible deaths. It’s entirely understandable for the country to be strict about these things.

  33. As a foreigner learn to comply to local laws and customs. If you don’t like them then don’t travel to those countries. As a visitor be respectful of local customs and laws.

  34. Following the laws of a foreign country while traveling is one thing…but this praise of singapore is just knee jerk support of the laws of an authoritarian government while safely ensconced within the US.
    Here 2/3 of these laws wouldn’t catch a whiff of passing by dems or repubs alike pandemic or not.
    Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither (at least as long as you’re not in Singapore).

  35. As a convicted criminal, does that now destroy his internaional flying career?

    Will he be doomed to fly from Anchorage to Spokane for the rest of hs life?

  36. What a clown! Who would waste their time and money on pointless purchases like masks and thermometers?

  37. I’m just stuck on the commenter who thought 100,000 dead Americans is no big deal. If the death rate is, indeed, around 2% and everyone in the US got sick, there would be 6,560,000 dead people. We should absolutely do everything we can to minimize the economic impact on those unemployed during this crisis, but my goodness. I can’t imagine staring at 100k coffins much less 6.5 million.

  38. @Alonzo, 100K deaths is nothing to you??? All because you’re out of a job right now? Wow, poor baby!! The CDC is THE premier Public Health organization in the entire world, by the way, the one that all other countries model their Public Health agencies after and right now, it is being muzzled. So if you think their missives currently are strict and overreaching, they’re not. They have been highly diluted by a government that doesn’t believe in truth and have the same callous attitude towards life that you do. So, use both hands and pull your head out of your A$$, wipe the sh*t off of your eyes and SEE reality, because YOU are the MORON!!
    And yes, I am an ER doctor on the front lines so unless you’re willing to come and treat patients without a face mask or gown, you can STFU with your inane opinions, dumba$$!
    Whew! I feel better…..

  39. 1. On arriving in Singapore, Yeargan (the pilot) submitted a form stating he had visited China, Hong Kong, the USA and other countries in the past 14 days.
    2. A Singaporean immigration officer briefed Yeargan of the 14-day stay-at-home requirement.
    3. Yeargan was dropped off at his hotel, again with a reminder to remain in his residence.
    4. Yeargan left his hotel room on April 5 for about 3 hours and visited at least 4 shops, during which time authorities conducted a check and found he was not in his hotel room.

    Yeargan knew the rules and chose to violate them. He could/should have, but didn’t, inform or ask authorities re his (non-emergency) need for PPE. Seems Yeargan simply felt entitled to violate the rules for his own convenience. A few weeks of jail time seems appropriate for his intentional (and potentially life threatening) violation.

    A pilot who is unable/unwilling to follow regulations may be a higher-risk pilot.

  40. And guess what? This is why Singapore generally does not have the crime, graffiti, and BS that we have in the US. He very easily could have asked someone to get this delivered or whatever. Either way it sounds like he repented and good luck. At least he didn’t get caned… the rules are there for a reason and during a time like this, they needed to be taken seriously. How do we know he wasn’t carrying the virus and then go and affect 1-2-3 people and then it starts all over again

  41. @Andy 11235:

    Are you aware that ~65,000 die every year in the U.S. from the seasonal flu? We never hear much about that . . .

    The risk from COVID-19 is to the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, i.e., a compromised immune system.

    Instead of focusing on who is really at risk and isolating them [Sweden], they are locking down everyone and destroying the economy.

    And it hasn’t stopped the infections. Great solution, eh?

    The cure being implemented is worse than the disease.

  42. More and more, I’m getting the sense that this site is for voyeurs, not serious travelers.

    Years ago I was also a voyeur, just cuz I love airplanes. It was fun. I was a kid, and it was so much fun in the early days, and before the less stupid days of hiding behind internet fake names.

    Now….I actually travel all the best cabins, which I could never have dreamed of as a kid….and so annoys me to see so much nonsense amongst the comments, people who are obviously faking it.

  43. It’s interesting that you immediately jump to his defense about his story of needing masks for his wife back home, seriously he’s a pilot for a massive company like FEDEX I’m sure they provide them as part of this pandemic most airlines do for their staff, ( it’s called O.H& S ) in any case If that’s Singapore’s requirement and you didn’t adhere then sorry that’s your punishment – lesson learned. Most of the world understands that this is actually a deadly and serious problem, however some countries seem to just think it’s just a hoax and they thumb their nose at the rest of the world.

  44. I think the sentence was SO harsh and not proportional with the action. They could give him a citation or warning and let him go his way especially when he is a visitor. Now, everyone in the West knows about harsh rules and rulers in Singapore and would avoid that Country.

  45. The fact that this is a deliberate quarantine breach during a global pandemic makes it laughable that there’s any attempt, even by the convict’s compatriots, to query whether the punishment is deserved.

    A very simple and basic rule of travel: obey local laws or be prepared to face their justice. And yes, this even applies to Americans; except Anne Sacoolas obviously.

  46. Assuming airport pharmacies are running out PPE and downtown pharmacies still have them, is there any delivery service for PPE where the drivers are classified as essential worker to deliver it from downtown pharmacy to airport hotel?

  47. I love the comment of the doctor working on the front lines! It is sad when people undermine the value of human lives. It is of course great to have liberty and free speech but it is also equally important to have brains and ‘gumption’.

  48. @ RC “This is why Singapore generally does not have the crime, graffiti, and BS that we have in the US.”

    No, they just have a major scandal involving oil traders ripping off banks for a billion dollars or so. Turns out that you can mortgage your oil reserves in Singapore, then go ahead and sell them anyway without paying creditors. Government connections will probably help the thieves escape prosecution.

  49. @ Ross

    Which is why that company has been raided and under investigation by the authorities.

    It’s very easy for you to insinuate that Government connections will help them escape prosecution – all these without providing any evidence whatsoever.

    I get that everyone is entitled to free speech. But free speech without facts are just meaningless.

  50. @ Ben Kingsley

    Not sure where you’re from. But from where I’m from, laws are laws.

    You seem to think laws are for individuals to dictate as they choose. Such sense of self entitlement is exactly why crime rate in the West are never low.

    I hope you’re right on one thing though: those who plan on breaking laws ought to avoid travelling to Singapore. While those who do appreciate the safety of the country will continue to fly in.

  51. @jesusetc the comment re orchard towers (aka four floors of …..) is hysterical. Sadly though a massive loss of income for these “employees”.

  52. Yes- Singapore believes why have a small punishment when a larger one will deter the behavior. There’s a more celebrated case of a Singaporean who went out for pork rib soup, and got 6 weeks.

    As a result, other people didn’t violate quarantine. And the rate of community spread is low- outside of the foreign worker dorms, there have been 1-4 cases a day for the last few days.

    @Pete- the best comment I read recently was from a “lifelong libertarian” small business owner, when advocating the mandatory wearing of masks in the US – “This absence of restraint will result in a much longer term restriction of liberties, and therefore our freedoms”. All the Covidiots running around protesting their right to move freely are just going to result in a lot more cases, more deaths and a longer restriction of liberty…

  53. @Niels,

    I made no such judgement as to whether it makes “changes everything”. That was all you I’m afraid. I simply corrected a wrong statement, on which, even you seemed to agree.

    But in any case, why do they have to be like us anyway? Why judge them with our standard? For what it’s worth, talk to any Singaporian about it, and see how far you get. In the end, their country, their laws. You decide not to follow them at your own peril.

  54. @Sayeed

    ‘I made no such judgement as to whether it makes “changes everything”. ‘

    I know, it was sarcasm.

  55. @Kanz

    “I get that everyone is entitled to free speech. But free speech without facts are just meaningless.”

    Freedom of speech huh?
    This is coming from a country that has Press Freedom lower than Afghanistan, UAE, Russia, or Pakistan.
    laws are laws, but who wrote the law and where are the checks and balances to the law.

    My earlier post of Singapore is a compliment. This post isn’t. While Chinese propaganda can’t keep all their citizens in line. Singapore is small enough to do so, right up there with North Korea. But who cares, as long as you don’t live there you will be fine.

  56. @ Eskimo

    I never suggested that Singapore has full press freedom.

    All I’m suggesting is that comments ought to be sufficiently substantiated with some facts, right than just providing blanket statements.

    Back on the law topic, it’s often extremely easy to criticise aspects when one doesn’t agree on. You can argue your points sure, but if everyone gets to have their say on how laws should be applied, then how many standards and ways of interpretation should a court have or allow?

    Granted, laws should not apply blindly without due process. But regulations were explained, due process was accorded, and law applied fairly. Not even the US government is wading into this, cause they recognised this judicial process.

    Your comparison of Singapore to North Korea is farfetched to say the least. If North Korea were anything like Singapore, the Korean peninsula would be prosperous and there will be little need for US presence. South Koreans would probably rejoiced if it had been.

  57. @Kanz

    You are really under the influence of propaganda.
    You ask for comments to sufficiently substantiated with some facts but you might not realize facts can be twisted and fabricated.
    Without press freedom how can you expect checks and balances.

    “Your comparison” is far fetched. Beyond the propaganda brainwash, all similarities end. If the Kims had such a strategic location, they could also make the puny island thrive. On the other hand, I doubt Lee Kuan-Yew can do much better on the Korean peninsula. (To his credit, he definitely still do a better job than the Kims)
    Your arguments shows you obviously know nothing about geopolitics. (do you even know that word?)
    I do love to debate with people who mindlessly defend what they are told, it brings out some of the best illogical reasoning. I might hit the trifecta here if you’re also a Flat earth and a Scientologist.

  58. Look at America, man arrested, too.

    Man violated 14 day quarantine in Hawaii (yes, USA), got caught after posting selfies on the beach. He wasn’t on an important errand like the FedEx pilot. Arrested. We’ll see if he gets the maximum one year in prison and a fine. Maybe he can plead not guilty by reason of insanity, needed an ocean breeze or he’d “go crazy “?

  59. The case in which the American teenager received a few (I think 4) “strokes of the cane”. Happened in the early 90s.
    We had just moved back to the States after living in Singapore and Korea and knew of the family. The young man (18 or 19 at the time) had caused many tens of thousands of dollars in damage to automobiles in Singapore. If I remember correctly he “keyed” them. He was living there and not a tourist.
    Due to extremely high and uniformly applied import taxes ANY automobile in Singapore is very expensive. When we lived there import duties were at least 100% of the import value of the auto and only brand new ones could be imported. This was fairly applied and since no autos were manufactured in Singapore there was no local favoritism.
    The government of Singapore is extremely sensitive to equal application of the law with very good reason. Any Singaporean who did the same acts would have gotten at least as much punishment and quite possibly more.
    I am quite sure that the government did not want to cane him but knew that the population was waiting to see if the foreigner was treated as a local would be. He was.
    My wife and I had the same immediate reaction upon hearing of the case and punishmet. “If the Singaporeans did that then he must have deserved it.”
    I am not a Singapore apologist. For example I legally own and carry a firearm here. That could never happen in Singapore. In addition when we lived there you could fairly criticize Singapore for lack of free speech.
    But if you want to live somewhere that the rules are clearly published and apply to everyone then Singapore is the place to be.

  60. @Kanz

    Completely nailed it!
    @Ben Kingsley:
    I hope you’re right on one thing though: those who plan on breaking laws ought to avoid travelling to Singapore. While those who do appreciate the safety of the country will continue to fly in.

    1. Singapore is safe, clean, hygienic and the population are stylish and courteous. If you don’t like that much direction, please don’t go there. You won’t be welcome anyway. Sorry if that happens to apply to 90% of USA citizens.
    2. The pilot had just flown in from Sydney. Knowing he would be 14 day quarantined at Changi, he should have bought the goods he “needed” there.

    Respect the country you’re visiting. This man’s behaviour is disgraceful. I don’t believe for one moment he had any remorse at all for his actions, no more than he was out to buy masks and a thermometer. Just an advocate’s ruses to the court.

  61. @ Kanz “Which is why that company has been raided and under investigation by the authorities.”

    And why the day after the raid, they decided to handle it as a civil case, putting it “under administration” like our bankruptcy system.

    There might be prosecutions if HSBC Bank has more political clout than the locals.

  62. “Obviously the pilot was exercising poor judgment, though there’s an irony to spending nearly a month in jail for trying to buy equipment to protect yourself and your family during a virus.” Nooo. He is spending nearly a month in jail because he intentionally violated a quarantine after being warned. It doesn’t matter what he was going to buy. If people are going to leave the US then it might be wise for them to know something about the countries they are going to, instead of thinking laws don’t apply to them. The guy took mass transit for goodness sake. How selfish.

  63. Exactly why Americans are considered bad tourists by the world. The people who don’t understand science and want to get a haircut during a pandemic. Not surprised.

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