What do passengers steal from planes? Anything that isn’t bolted down.
Among the items snatched from commercial flights: coffee mugs, cutlery, blankets and life jackets.
Life jackets? Yes, life jackets.
When Joyce Kirby worked as a flight attendant, she says, passengers routinely grabbed the emergency flotation devices under their seats before exiting the aircraft. “We had to check each seat after each flight to make sure each one had a vest,” recalls Kirby, who now runs a tour operation in Palm Coast, Florida.
But the “what” isn’t as interesting as the “why.” If passengers are taking everything they can carry when they leave planes, it may say more about the airline industry than it does about them.
Not long ago, I took a hard look at the problem of disappearing hotel amenities. Experts suggested that hotel resort fees — which leave guests with the impression that everything is included — may be to blame for a rise in thefts. The airline problem is similar. Fees are everywhere, and travelers don’t always have a choice about paying them. They’re stealing stuff because they’re angry.
How much do passengers steal from planes? No one knows. There are no recent surveys on airline theft, and airlines don’t publicly report thefts. But there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from my readers and from colleagues like Brian Sumers, a writer for the online trade publication Skift, who recently observed that passengers were stealing upgraded amenities such as pillows and blankets from first class.
United Airlines last year reportedly sent a memo to flight attendants noting “some confusion about which amenities may be taken off the plane at the end of the flight.” The pillows and blankets in first class, it said, don’t come with the flight. “Even if only a small number of these items are taken off each flight, that can quickly add up to millions of dollars across our network over the course of a year,” the memo warned.
Let’s quickly review the items people normally lift from planes.
— Airsickness bags: Travelers like Clemens Sehi collect them. “It’s kind of a tradition for me to take the bags with me as a souvenir,” he says. He has collected 250 bags from 50 countries, including some from airlines that now are defunct. His most prized barf bag is from Aero Lloyd, a German airline that shut down in 2003. Sehi, a creative director and writer from Berlin, doesn’t consider taking these bags to …read more