Indian businessman wore pilot disguise to get upgrades and special treatment

Ben Farmer
Rajan Mahbubani

An Indian businessman who posed as a Lufthansa pilot to jump airport queues, impress women and get flight upgrades, has been held by police.

Rajan Mahbubani admitted to taking at least 15 flights dressed as a pilot and often getting preferential treatment.

The businessman from Delhi was caught on Monday trying to board an AirAsia flight from the Indian capital to Kolkata.

His exploits have drawn comparisons with the 2002 Steven Spielberg film 'Catch Me If You Can', in which Leonardo DiCaprio played the real-life fugitive Frank Abnagale Jr, who also posed as a pilot.

Mr Mahbubani was said to have enjoyed the special attention he received wearing a uniform and also had a fake army colonel's outfit. He told police he had got hold of a fake identity card in Bangkok.

He masqueraded as a pilot to get seat upgrades and special treatment, and use fast-track airport queues reserved for airline staff. He even boasted of his exploits on social media.

He was caught out when suspicious staff checked his credentials as he boarded a flight to Kolkata. AirAsia staff asked Lufthansa to check he was a genuine pilot and then called the police.

"The individual in question was impersonating as an employee of Lufthansa airlines,” AirAsia India's chief of safety told The Times of India.

“He was handed over to the airport police and an investigation has been ordered. We would like to emphasise that we stand by all security policies and till the time the investigation is completed we would be unable to provide specific details with regards to this.”

Police are now investigating his travel record to see how many times he used his disguise.

“There are pictures in his phone of him posing as an Army Colonel,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Sanjay Bhatia. “The passenger had also posted videos wearing different uniforms on TikTok. He had travelled on various occasions using the same modus operandi. The travel history of the passenger is being scanned.”