WSJ: Business- & First Class Passengers Make It A Sport To Steal Inventory From Their Flights


There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today about passengers flying in premium class who like to steal things like pillows, blankets and other inventory off the plane.

Items that are allowed to be taken off the aircraft are usually limited to the amenity kit and the pyjamas but items such as blankets, pillows and headphones are supposed to remain on board.

With many airlines now adding signature items such as duvets from famous brands this makes the items automatically more attractive to be pinched off the flight.

You can find the original Wall Street Journal article here.

Fliers have for years walked off airplanes with items provided to premium customers. The fancier the amenities get in business and first class, the harder it is becoming for airlines to overlook all the filching.

The cost of replacing high-quality duvets, memory-foam pillows and plates, glasses and silverware can add up. Yet airlines hardly want to embarrass their most lucrative customers.

So some have started dropping gentle hints. United Airlines’ in-flight menus advise passengers which items are free to take and steer them to an online store where they can buy everything else. …

United Airlines wanted to upgrade the mattress pads, pillows and blankets on its new sleep-focused, long-haul international business class, Polaris. The carrier needs to be able to wash and reuse the items to make the economics work, says Tarek Abdel-Halim, managing director of onboard products. “We’re not going to chase them down or stop them,” he says of pilferers, “but the idea is to make it clear to the customer.” …

As nice as these items might be but one has to keep in mind that even though the airline cleans them regularly (hopefully) they have been used over and over again by strangers. Do I really have to take such a used item home, especially when I fly in premium class?

And then there is a certain entitlement attitude of some passengers such as the following quoted by the WSJ:

Danny Kashou, 53, a business owner in San Diego, was impressed by the soft fabrics and Saks monograms on the blankets on an international trip earlier this year. “Heck, yeah, we took it,” Mr. Kashou says. “We didn’t ask. We just stuck it in our carry-ons and walked off.”

“I’ve been flying this airline long enough,” he says. “I deserve it.”

Stealing items from the plane is one thing but to justify it in this way, saying that I’m entitled to it because I’m a frequent flier I can take whatever I want and that’s my rightful thing to do… that’s somewhat demented in my eyes.

The article notes how some airlines such as Virgin Atlantic started to actually produce salt and pepper shaker en masse and made it a collectors items, knowing they would be taken away by many passengers but those are likely produced for pennies. Expensive duvets and pillows are a different matter and can also create inventory problems at some point.


Where is the line in what I’m allowed to take if I think being a premium customer entitles me to pick the cabin bare at my convenience? I’m also spending a good amount of money annually at certain hotel chains but that doesn’t mean I can steal the tv or telephone. Short answer is: People take stuff from airlines because they won’t be charged for it and most likely they can get away with it, opposite the hotel which has the credit card on file and will charge guests with sticky fingers.

Theft of safety relevant items such as a life vest usually does land people in hot water though as that’s dangerous and cases such as the Chinese woman who stole a life jacket from Cathay Pacific in 2015 shows that authorities and airlines do clamp hard down on it if a passenger can be identified.