British Airways tail fins are pictured at Heathrow Airport in London
British Airways tail fins are pictured at Heathrow Airport in London

A British Airways pilot was reportedly kidnapped while shopping during a stopover in Johannesburg, South Africa. The incident took place in the Melrose Arch complex.

The pilot was reportedly tortured for hours for money before he was finally let go, according to local media reports. The man, a first officer with the airline, was approached by a woman near the parking lot of a supermarket.

She asked him to help her carry bags to a car, and before the pilot could understand what was going on, he was pushed inside it by a group of men who eventually took him to a remote location.

"It's staggering what happened to the pilot. It was like something out of the movies," The Sun quoted a source as saying. "He fell for the scam of agreeing to help a woman in need, and before he knew it was bundled in a vehicle and driven away.

"He then endured hours of torture and physical assaults. It only ended when he was left penniless. He is just happy to be alive". The airline had to find a replacement flight for their scheduled flight since the pilot could not fly back to London.

British Airways has also confirmed that one of their staff members was abducted and an investigation is being conducted by the local police. "We are supporting our colleague and the local authorities with their investigation," said an airline spokesperson.

"A crew member was abducted outside Checkers Bluebird [sic] supermarket just north of the Melrose Arch complex," the airline said in a statement.

This is the second assault on British Airways staff in Johannesburg in six months. The city is infamous for its crime record. In July last year, a British Airways pilot was stabbed in the leg when he had gone out for a run in Johannesburg. The pilot was staying at the same Melrose Arch compound.

The compound was thought to be highly secure, and the airline has strict rules for its employees to prevent them from stepping outside.

South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world. According to crime statistics from the South African Police Service (SAPS), kidnappings have also increased by 200 per cent in South Africa in the last 10 years.

Experts have attributed the trend to a surge in transnational organised crime syndicates operating in the country. Currently, the epicentre of these crimes is in Gauteng province. More than half of these kidnapping cases have been reported from Gauteng.

Nowhere is safe in the province. In 2017, armed thieves dressed as police officers managed to enter a restricted area at an airport in Johannesburg and took crates filled with money before fleeing in a car.