Service of When It’s OK to Steal

June 18th, 2018

Categories: Air Travel, Pilfering, Stealing, Travel


When smoking was in style, some restaurants and bars had fantastic looking ashtrays that found themselves in customers’ handbags. Many venues considered it a way to get their logos into homes–a reminder of a great meal or fun evening and the cost of inspiring future meals. Others would stop guests as they were leaving to ask if they wanted to pay for the ashtray. [I know someone who was stopped!]

Today airline passengers paying $thousands for a ticket in first or business class are snitching bigger souvenirs: blankets, pillows and duvets according to Alison Sider and Andrew Tangel. And they boast about it. “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,’” the reporters wrote in their Wall Street Journal article “‘Heck Yeah, we Took It.’ Fliers Are Swiping Airline Swag.”


They wrote about another passenger who “At home, sips brandy from his favorite British Airways glasses and his children curl up in premium Norwegian Air shuttle blankets. Last year, British Airways began offering a soft, satin-edged blanket from the White Company, an upscale brand. Mr. King has three of them.”

On the trinket side, passengers have taken 26,700 salt and pepper shaker sets from Virgin Atlantic that stamped them “pinched from Virgin Atlantic.” The company reports missing 1,700 lightweight blankets from its A330-200 aircraft.

“So far, airlines aren’t taking a heavy-handed approach to pilfering, hoping to keep things friendly. Premium cabins—first and business class—account for 5.5% of international passenger traffic, but more than 30% of revenue, according to the International Air Transport Association.”


United Airlines sells the Saks designed bedding it uses on its international business class flights because its customers like it so much. A Polaris duvet costs $59.99 and a memory foam pillow $27.99 at United’s online store which it encourages passengers to use.

Sider and Tangel report that Delta flights from LA to Dubai can run as high as $15,000. Surely there’s enough profit built in to cover the costs of the two duvets one passenger saw another stuff into a carryon bag.

Would you feel comfortable snitching something that costs more than a dollar or two? Is it considered OK these days to remove anything used during a flight? Passengers feel perfectly comfortable to brag to reporters about their take–is that normal? Unless encouraged to do so, should rule of thumb be “don’t take anything?”




8 Responses to “Service of When It’s OK to Steal”

  1. Martin Johnson Said:

    Soap, shampoo and toiletries seem OK to take since they may be construed as gifts in a way. Anything else seems a bit dishonest – like a duvet, pillow or something substantive. Some think that things in the room come with the room and since one pays for the room (as rental) the material items in the room a theirs. Bad thinking!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You bring up an excellent example–would the people who stuff duvets in carry-on luggage put hotel curtains and towels in their suitcases? If they did, I am sure that they would see on their next credit card bill the cost of replacing same.

    What about people who rent apartments. If there are built-ins, do they chop them out when they leave? Again, the deposit would take care of the cost one would hope.

    I can’t get over the people who boast to the press about their loot! I admit to taking leftover soap and shampoo from a hotel room when I love the brand, [once in Paris it was Hadrien by Annik Goutal], though there’s not enough shampoo in those tiny bottles to make snitching worthwhile especially if the liquid leaks in luggage during a flight.

  3. ASK Said:

    What hotel guests don’t take the toiletries with them if they really like them…the maids do throw out the unused portions. But stuffing duvets and pillows into carry-ons? If people can afford to buy business- and first-class tickets, they can afford to buy the duvets and pillows. Shame on the braggarts…it is still stealing. (Oh, and carry some plastic sandwich bags to keep contents from leaking in your suitcase!)

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m giggling because of your plastic sandwich bag suggestion though the memory it triggered has nothing to do with the topic of my post–just travel and cheating.

    I was prepared to sneak in a beautiful French saucisson from the Bon Marche in Paris having packed a ton of tin foil and baggies in my suitcase when leaving the States. I bought a few and lovingly wrapped them in laundry and sweaters besides.

    As we waited for Homer’s luggage at JFK International–we’d retrieved my suitcase–the cutest beagle was strolling by. He stopped at my suitcase and began to howl! Oh NO! He smelled my salami. I was escorted to customs, opened the suitcase, took out the offending salami while Homer pretended he didn’t know me. [He’d asked me not to do this.] When we got home and were unpacking he said, “I hope you didn’t give them ALL the saucisson!”

  5. Protius Said:

    This post of yours ginned up a jumble of disparate questions in my mind, aided and abetted by a creaking overdose of old age.

    Why do we have such a compulsion to accumulate freebies like airline travel toilet kits, which we don’t really need or want? I used to travel up to 100,000 miles a year on business, and after a decade or so I had a closet choker block of brand new, unused ones, some quite nice. What a waste!

    Instead of fancy blankets and pillows, why don’t they give us a little more room in business class overnight or special, check-in for their familiar frequent flier top regulars, or nap cots in roped business waiting areas?

    One of the best meals I ever had on an airplane was one of gazpacho, mostly cold “tapas,” delicious bread,seemingly freshly prepared and served, with sherry, sangria, wines, or the like, from a trolley going leisurely up and down the aisle onto tables between seats facing each other. It was an Iberia flight, early days after the war, 1953 or 4, and really quite civilized – probably too labor intensive for these “modern” days. Why not? It would be better than the cooked guck they usually throw at us.

    Souvenir ashtrays, purchased or pinched, always seemed to me to be almost as dumb as that chunk of carved marble I picked up on my first visit to Pompey at age 11, maybe more so? My mother was quick to point out that if every kid, who visited the place, “relieved” it of a piece of carved marble, after a couple of hundred years or so, there might not be anything left to look at.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    In the day I was fortunate to enjoy business class air travel I loved those travel kits, took mine and would give my return kit to someone who enjoyed having one as much as I did. Some were nicer than others.

    As for the food, the only really tasty parts of the business class meal were the wine and dessert, which was ice cream with a choice of sauce on it. True, vanilla is not my favorite–I NEVER EVER order it–but the idea of a mini ice cream smorgasbord appealed to me. Rolls on the France to NYC route were also OK.

    For years I had a giant ashtray from Luchow’s on 14th street, [a now defunct restaurant], that my host bought for me when I admired it. I see it in my mind’s eye though it broke and I tossed it years ago. If I liked the restaurant logo, I’d like the ashtray. I find that I am most fond of not necessarily the rarest or most expensive things I own, but those that mean something to me and remind me of somewhere or someone I’m fond of.

    My mother had a similar thing to say to me…”If you pick the flowers there will be none for others to enjoy.” She then pointed out the dandelions, if there were any, and said I could have those. I was overjoyed, even though they barely lived until we got home.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Stealing fun objects such as ashtrays, classy beer signs, etc. was fun, until realizing such items cost money, and that someone was going to be hit with the charge. The cost is irrelevant. Stealing is wrong.

    In contrast to the got rocks crowd flying to Dubai, a minuscule minority, are the millions starving and tempted to steal as little as a stale loaf of bread just to stay alive. This is the area in which moral and ethical issues, too weighty to take on in a couple of paragraphs, fester.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You touched on a point I neglected and should not have. When the wealthy steal for sport–or to show off that they were in First Class on Norwegian Airlines or wherever, it irritates me. They don’t need more stuff, can afford to buy or have made whatever they want. It makes no sense. At the same time the hungry often end up in jail for stealing just to survive. Thank goodness for organizations such as City Harvest that in NYC pick up food from restaurants–some I gather that cater to the first class flight crowd–to distribute to the poor. That’s a concept I applaud.

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