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Airlines Know You're Stealing Their Salt and Pepper Shakers

Jan. 08, 2017
4 min read
Airlines Know You're Stealing Their Salt and Pepper Shakers
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There’s something about a change of scenery that seems to bring out the sticky fingers in a lot of travelers — the American Hotel & Lodging Association once estimated that theft costs hotels a mind-boggling $100 million per year. In a 2013 UK poll, 69 percent of respondents admitted to stealing items from a hotel while on vacation. No matter where you are, or where you’re from, towels and batteries (yes, batteries) seem to be among the most irresistible items to pack away into your suitcase. But holiday thieving isn’t just confined to hotel rooms; airplanes, too, seem to offer a treasure trove of goodies for flyers. There must be something in the air. And the airlines know it.

The travel pros over at Runway Girl decided to delve deeper into the inflight plundering phenomenon and got the goods on some of the most “popular” items to pinch. Surprisingly — or maybe not, if you’ve got your own set of them stashed away — salt and pepper shakers are a hot (hot) commodity. Up until 2013, individuals seated in Cathay Pacific’s business-class section had a thing for the airline’s pebble-shaped salt and pepper pots, so much so that the airline had to replace them with boring old plastic ones because of how much it cost to keep replacing them. “They were the most frequently pilfered items in the history of Cathay Pacific, by a huge margin,” airline chairman John Slosar told the South China Morning Post at the time, joking that they should have either come with a gift box or the words “Stolen from Cathay Pacific” stamped on the bottom.

In 2011, Virgin Atlantic had to yank its iconic airplane-shaped salt and pepper shakers — known to frequent flyers as Wilbur and Orville — because of how often they, too, were finding their way into travelers’ pockets. But in 2012, the carrier brought them back, this time with a very pointed message printed on the bottom, “Pinched From Virgin Atlantic,” although, let’s face it, that may have only increased their value to grabby guests.

Over at Finnair, it’s the airlines collaboration with design house Marimekko that gets travelers’ attention. Though the airline sells a collection of branded tableware and accessories through its online shop, the zero dollar price tag that passengers find when they see the brand’s brightly colored tableware right on the tray in front of them is just too good a deal to pass up.

Finnair's Marimekko tableware is so bright. So pretty. So ripe for stealing? Image courtesy of Finnair.
Finnair's Marimekko tableware is so bright, so pretty, so ripe for stealing? Image courtesy of Finnair.

Etihad's business-class passengers, on the other hand, are more interested in the duvets keeping them warm and cozy throughout their flights. If passengers aren’t complimenting the flight crew on their comfort, they’re shoving them into their carry-ons — the duvets often make their way to eBay, too, where they’ve been known to sell for about $130 apiece.

Even more strange? The number of passengers who steal the life vests from underneath the seats. “People take those life jackets, located under or between your seat, as souvenirs,” founder George Hobica told Huffington Post. “It’s a vile and punishable offense, and while airlines do check each seat at the start of every day, a plane could make several trips in a day, during any one of which a passenger could steal a life vest. So, I learned, it’s a good idea to check if the life jacket is indeed there.” Good advice!

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Stealing right below the noses of the friendly flight attendants who are there to make your flight better is a bold move to be sure. But apparently, not an unexpected one. You’ll never get an extra serving of pretzels with that kind of behavior.

H/T: Runway Girl

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