This article originally appeared on VICE India.
As convenient as taking a flight is, the journey isn’t always so smooth. Between overcrowded airports, never-ending security checks and the shitty legroom once you’ve finally boarded, travelling, especially as an economy-choosing citizen, can be pretty tiring. But one legend in Delhi figured out a way to make his regular jet-setting experience a whole lot better.
In a story that seems straight out of Steven Spielberg’s conman classic Catch Me If You Can, a 48-year-old man from Delhi named Raju Mahbubani came up with the plan to impersonate a pilot so he would be given preferential treatment every time he took a flight. Mahbubani put together a pretty plausible Lufthansa airlines’ pilot costume and acquired a fake ID card so he could pass off as a pilot every time he went to an airport in India. The get-up not only helped him skip queues and get free upgrades, but he also managed to film himself while at it for his YouTube and TikTok channels. The man managed to take at least 15 flights and got preferential treatment, even during security checks since most passengers and crew members mistook him for an actual pilot.
However, his high-flying plan crash-landed when on Monday, November 19, airport authorities at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in Delhi suspected something shady was going on and decided to check the situation out. Mahbubani was finally caught while trying to board an AirAsia flight to Kolkata by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and was later handed to the police for further probing.
“During interrogation, Mahbubani said that he is a frequent traveller and used to impersonate as a pilot of international airlines to gain easy access during security clearance and have preferential treatment from security agencies and airlines,” Sanjay Bhatia, the Deputy Commissioner of Police at the IGI Airport, told Hindustan Times.
While speaking to authorities, Mahbubani revealed that he indulged in this exercise because he was fond of dressing up in various get-ups, including one of an Indian Army personnel, and posting about it on his TikTok channel.
“The passenger disclosed that he used to shoot YouTube videos on aviation and had obtained the Lufthansa fake ID card in Bangkok,” a senior CISF officer told PTI.
Having successfully left airport authorities shook with his efforts to squeeze his way into first-class treatment, India's very own Frank Abagnale has been caught, and now it looks like he’s going to stay firmly grounded, at least for a while.
Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.