Couple Faces Jail Time After Trying To Buy iPhone At Airport Without Flying

Filed Under: Travel

I’ve long said that Singapore’s Changi Airport feels like a shopping mall that just happens to have planes that can take you anywhere in the world.

Changi Airport Terminal

Several days ago I wrote about the guy who was jailed after spending 18 days at the airport hopping between Priority Pass lounges. He was arrested because one of the Priority Pass lounge attendants caught onto what he was doing, as he had created fake boarding passes to stay in the airport, which is illegal.

SATS-Premier-Lounge-Singapore-Airport - 5
SATS Premier Lounge Singapore Airport

Well, it looks like you don’t have to create fake boarding passes to face jail time in Singapore. Just booking a refundable ticket without the intent of flying is enough to land you in jail, at least for one Singaporean couple.

With the popularity of the iPhone 7, the BBC has the story of a Singaporean couple who decided to book refundable tickets in order to access the airport so they could buy their iPhone there. I’m guessing they didn’t have to pay taxes there either.

Per the story:

They were arrested on 16 September for breaking airport laws.

Police said they had “no intention” of leaving Singapore so should not have been in the departure hall.

The two have been charged under the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act. They face a fine of up to 1,000 Singapore dollars ($735; £565) and a jail term of up to two years if convicted.

YOW! There are plenty of people out there who have booked refundable tickets without the intent of flying, like for the purpose of meeting a friend or loved one past security. I guess the moral of the story is not to do this in Singapore, because you could face up to two years jail time for it. I doubt they’ll be sentenced to that, but still…

(Tip of the hat to @jeanpauljh)

  1. they are very specific if they can even vaguely prove you did not intend to fly you are in trouble. Because you have to pass through immigration both ways, they can easily stop you and you better have a compelling reason that you did not fly and you would likely be tracked back on cctv etc

  2. OMG!! Do people really do that, i.e get refundable tickets to be with loved ones at the gate and then cancel? That’s freggin annoying, No wonder why these TSA lines are so long at the airports.

  3. Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore.
    Bad mouthing the government is illegal.
    Urinating in the Elevator is illegal.
    It’s a country you don’t want to step into those unknown airspace.

  4. Singaporean here. Singaporeans and Permanent Residents can enjoy tax exemptions on goods purchased including electronics, but only if they can show they are on an outbound flight. For Singaporeans and PRs returning on an inbound flight, the categories of goods they can enjoy tax exemptions are tighter.

    With the security climate,Singapore authorities take a dim view of those who enter the controlled airside without any intention to fly. Recently, some youngsters who purchased budget airline tickets in order to gain access to the controlled areas to catch their idols arriving into Singapore were found out that they had no intention to fly and given warnings.

  5. You know, I never thought of buying a refundable ticket to see a family member out to the gate. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Or they could’ve just flown to Kuala Lumpur an hour away for a small amount of money and flown back the same day.

  7. And in the USA if people are here illegally we can’t help but give them more rights than the legal residents.

    Land of laws. Sure!

  8. @Debit – I really, truly hope that was sarcasm…

    My sister got me a t-shirt from Singapore which says that “Singapore is a FINE country”, and has little graphics of many of the unexpected laws and associated fines.

  9. I dont know if the same applies in Singapore (due to the requirement of clearing immigration), but I know here in the States, particularly if you have family arriving at the airport, you can typically arrange through the airline family are flying on to get a “boarding pass” (not sure what the airline term is for it) at the ticket counter which allows you through security. This is especially handy if the family you are meeting is elderly, or an unaccompanied minor (niece, nephew, son, daughter, etc).

  10. Singapore is the classic example of what’s be called “no u-turn syndrome” – while in most Western countries everything that isn’t forbidden is permitted, in Singapore it’s the exact opposite.

    On the other hand, given that international airports have exit control outside of the sterile area, it may not have been a great idea.

  11. Singapore is a dictatorship and a police state. We tend to forget this, since it’s a benevolent dictatorship, for the most part, and is pro-Western and pro-capitalist. Most foreigners and most locals have no difficulty abiding by the myriad rules. But those who choose not to find out quickly enough what sort of country it is. Of course, to be political, we all agree that Singapore is not a free state, but it’s easy to make the argument that the USA isn”t either, has unbelievable numbers of petty regulations and has no sense of proportion when enforcing them.

    @RT Bones. The USA has the same rules regarding meeting people off arriving flights from abroad as Singapore does. It’s forbidden.

  12. @The Lost Boy Lloyd
    Then that would’ve cancelled what little savings buying an iPhone at the airport would’ve given them

  13. I think most people now buy refundable tickets to go into the lounges and eat for free, once they have had enough they leave.

    It would have made more sense to buy the cheapest possible non-refundable economy ticket one way out, and then buy the phone, say you were not feeling well and that you are returning home.

  14. @W: If the savings were less than the cost of a round trip Singapore-KL ticket, which can be as low as about 50 USD, then I don’t think it’s wise to even go through the hassle and risk for a crime. Couldn’t have they bought the iPhones in the airport coz they’re hard to come by in the city?

  15. “here are plenty of people out there who have booked refundable tickets without the intent of flying, like for the purpose of meeting a friend or loved one past security”

    Or for the purpose of using premium lounges so they get access to in order to work or when flying economy…

  16. had never set my foot in Singapore before. from what I read in news, I love the strict rules implemented in the country, those are their culture and for the greater good of people rather than the prevailing individualism in this country. I recalled there was a white kid breaking a local law & sentenced to public spanking. It caused a stir in media, but the country went ahead & executed it.
    In this country, the criminal must have be protected for their ‘rights’ & ‘respect’, while that’s not the case for the victim when theirs got infringed by the criminals – what a crooked mindset.

  17. It sounds like this is also a case of attempted sales tax/VAT dodging, plus the immigration thing.

    BTW, Is gum still sold only behind the counter at pharmacies in Singapore? Last I heard they allowed “beneficial” type chewing gum and not candy type. Think like Trident Whitening and not Juicy Fruit.

    That white kid breaking the law vandalized something, so he got a caning.

  18. @ktc @aaron
    The kid spray painted a sign and received 4 months in jail and a certain number of lashes with a cane.
    POTUS tried to intervene but Singapore was having none of it.

    I’ll never visit Singapore again, even to fly through the airport, just as I won’t fly through Dubai, Qatar, or Abu Dhabi.

    Here’s an example of Singaporean law: Get caught with a kilo of weed , you are presumed guilty, and the punishment is death by hanging.

    Abu Dhabi–even a minute amount of drugs on the bottom of your shoe carries a 4 year sentence

  19. Was in singapore this past winter. Loved the city. Strict laws yes and maybe it sucks to live there under those laws but as a tourist I loved how clean and orderly the city was. I didn’t plan on defacing another country’s city so I really didn’t have much to worry about. I’m sure we have freaky laws in this country too. And like them we generally don’t enforce ours as well unless its a case with an enterprising lawyer who wants to impress the boss.

    Oh and you can get permission to see your relatives off at the gate provided you have a good reason. They always let me through when I escort my elderly mother to the gates. And I’ve certainly read plenty of times about booking a refundable business class tix to use the lounge. Thats why the damn lounges are so crowded.

  20. The “kid” was 18 and he spray painted cars as well as stealing signs. He lived and attended school in Singapore and was well acquainted with Singapore’s laws and knew that their legal system was harsher than ours. He was sentenced to 6 lashes with a cane but, after our government intervened in another nation’s legal matters, that was reduced to 4 lashes with a cane. I have no problem with that.

  21. @losingtader

    Gee, I remember your from another pointless discussion a while back. Are you not going to or through those countries because you are a pothead, because you have something to hide, or is it because you are just plain ignorant?

    In Singapore you mess up and you are caned or hung. In the ME you mess up and you are screwed. So? Those are their laws, period. Bottom line: be a normal human being and nothing will happen to you.

    I respect your decision of not wanting to go to or through anywhere you choose, but reasoning is completely wrong.

  22. @dunno

    All countries have incongruent laws, including our beautiful US of A. We actually have countless of those.

    So what’s your point?

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