Petty Theft by Cabin Crew Cost Cathay Pacific ‘Untold Hundreds of Millions’

Apr 22, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Cathay Pacific is laying down the law on flight attendants who help themselves to cabin amenities after at least six crew members were caught red-handed this past weekend.

The half dozen employees, which included both junior and senior cabin crew members, were placed under investigation Saturday after professional security teams at Hong Kong International Airport conducted spot checks and found airline belongings in their possession.

“In view of an increasing number of reported losses of company property, we have informed our cabin crew that random inspections will be carried out,” a Cathay Pacific spokesperson stated.

Many airline employees have long considered cabin “freebies” to be an unofficial perk of the job, according to the South China Morning Post. But pilfered cutlery, wine glasses, wet wipes, Cathay-branded pens, bottles of champagne and even personal-sized Häagen-Dazs ice cream containers has cost Hong Kong’s flagship carrier “untold hundreds of millions” of Hong Kong dollars over the years, the airline said.

Saturday’s crackdown took place after Cathay issued a memo to staff members in January about the “unfortunate increasing trend of company property discrepancies.” Employees were warned that security teams would be authorized to inspect crew members upon leaving the aircraft “for any items that you may have in your possession when you have been or are on company property.” The only items crew members are allowed to keep are crew-designated catering such as water, fruit and film-wrapped sandwiches. Even packaged peanuts and perishable goods are off-limits to flight attendants.

“Zero tolerance means you are not permitted to take off the aircraft any item other than what the company has authorized as per the policy,” said Ed Higgs, Cathay’s general manager of inflight services. “If anyone removes company property, irrespective of the value or if you believe it will be thrown away, you will be subject to discipline which may include termination.”

Vera Wu Yee-Mei, chairperson of the Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union representing 7,000 of Cathay’s 10,000 staff members, said she supported the airline’s decision. “All staff understand there is a policy posted very clearly on the company intranet,” she said. “You would be putting your career in a very risky position, just for water, bread or a pen.”

However, Wu raised concerns about how searches would be conducted by the airline’s security teams. The union is pursuing legal guidance on the issue, and has suggested that independent witnesses be present during the search process.

Wu also hinted that the airline’s new stringent policies may be due to cost concerns. “The company always talks about costs, and maybe lately they find the discrepancies are increasing,” she said.

Featured photo courtesy of Cathay Pacific. 

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.