Cathay Pacific Cracking Down On Flight Attendant Theft (Including Of… Ice Cream?!?)

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

While Emirates is cracking down on passengers who are removing items from planes, Cathay Pacific is now reportedly doing the same for employees.

Danny Lee at the South China Morning Post reports that Cathay Pacific is newly cracking down on flight attendants who try to take anything with them off the aircraft.

Cathay Pacific’s manager of in-flight service has said that flight attendants would be inspected at random by security staff when leaving the aircraft, “for any items that you may have in your possession when you have been or are on company property.” According to the memo:

“Zero tolerance means you are not permitted to take off the aircraft any item other than what the company has authorised as per the policy. 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.”

As you can see, they aren’t just talking about high value items here. So they’re not just worried about crews taking bottles of champagne and caviar off the plane, but are even prohibiting removing pens, bags of peanuts, used or extra amenity kits, and even perishable food.

Rather shockingly, apparently one of the most common things removed from planes by crews was the small Haagen-Dazs ice containers they have for passengers. I don’t even get the logistics of that, but…

This past Saturday six employees were allegedly caught as part of the first round of this crackdown, and are awaiting discipline.

Cathay Pacific’s flight attendant union says that they support the approach that management is taking, though have concerns about how the searches are being carried out, and that they’d like an independent witness to observe the searches. The head of the union had the following to say:

“All staff understand there is a policy posted very clearly on the company intranet. You would be putting your career in a very risky position, just for water, bread or a pen.”

This seems like it’s becoming a hot topic of conversation at the airline, and I imagine this could have an impact on morale if employees feel like they’re constantly being watched in this way.

However, it seems that management is now crystal clear about the policy, and is showing that there are repercussions to violating the rules, so maybe this issue will solve itself soon.

  1. Reminds me of the Caine Mutiny and Lt. Commander Queeg’s obsession about the missing strawberries.

  2. Lucky, you know what? They only take bottle water and croissant from the cabin…… One of the flight attendants claim that the bottle of water is not taken onboard, and CX ask the flight attendant for the RECEIPT of A BOTTLE OF WATER…… How ridiculous it is……. Only flight attendants are checked, but not the pilots……..Wonder what the policy is

  3. I used to work for Delta in Europe at an airport..all the food leftovers got trashed. AT one point an airport employee went so far to collect the food that was supposed to be trashed (which was still in prime condition) and donated it to the local homeless shelter. This went on for a while until someone found out and they wanted to fire him. It made the local news because they have very good and strong unions in Europe.

    I can understand CX policy to some extent but this is more of overreach and will only demoralize the cabin crew. It can only backfire and makes not much sense, it’s not 1984 George Orwell Airlines, is it?!

  4. Hurts to see all that food go to waste. It would be nice to let passengers then have them if the crew can’t take it. But I also understand there are strict rules for taking food off planes as well… sigh.

  5. Given how solidly frozen that ice cream is I’d imagine they’d be safe getting it home before it thaws out. But I guess they’d need to declare it

  6. I used to date an FA (not from CX but another premium Asian airline) and it was quite commonplace for the staff to offload items. Business class amenities, post cards, pens. I didn’t observe much food being offloaded though. The girl’s flatmates (also FA’s for the same airline) acted in the same way; it does appear to be commonplace!

  7. It’s all about discipline, where do you draw a line? What is considered proper and not? I fully support Cathay Pacific on this stance, the staff are paid sufficient amounts of non taxable allowance during their stay and do not need to be benefiting additionally from what they perceive as contributing to wastage. That decision is CX’s management to make and not theirs.

  8. British Airways would soon have very few cabin crew if they sacked everyone who took stuff. I was amazed to overhear a crew member who had filled up empty mineral water bottles with gin.

  9. “I am sorry we have no more ice cream left” as response to the customer in order to leave it available for the staff to take off the plane. It is not a far fetched scenario.

    I am not saying I have any cases where I suspect this happened, but in the end, once it gets the norm to bring ice cream of the plane, it may very well.

    Where to draw the line? In the end the only reasonable place is at the zero line. It sounds unnecessarily tough, but it is the only practical way.

    The example of the Delta food going to a homeless shelter, while admirable in intention poses import restrictions, quarantine controls, food safety restrictions, etc. that are being circumvented. In all likelihood, there would be no issues in most or all rules had the appropriate checks been done, yet rules needs to be adhered to for a reason. And brutal as it might seem, the person should be fired for bringing Delta in to a potential liability.

  10. I totally support CX as long as the policy is clear and communicated. Everything on the plane is Company property. All the items are provisioned for Customers.
    It’s not about the food. It’s about fairness. CX cannot possibly manage onboard theft if taking some items off are ok, and then some items are not.
    Stealing is stealing, imagine one of the crews took 3 pens and the other one took two bottles of champagne. Both should be disciplined equally for the act of stealing and not the value of the item.
    Zero Tolerance is fair.

  11. Hope they don’t stop punishing passengers for stealing ice cream. I would be banned from all airlines.

  12. How does the airline handle the logistics for left over ice cream, drinks etc? I’d imagine by the time ice cream gets back to the catering facility it would have melted.

  13. @Dennis – ‘we have been donating surplus food and beverages from inbound flights to a local food bank, Feeding Hong Kong’ according to the airlines’ sustainability report.
    So at least not all of them are going to put to waste.
    Appropriation of duty free are the most vile apparently, mostly by ground staff, which make sense when you realise how much a La Mer is worth compared to Haagan Dazs (HD is a premium ice cream brand in Asia.)

  14. People do not understand…. Those ice cream containers have NO ice cream inside. It’s something else.

  15. Its another one of those things where people end up abusing it. We actually have signs up regarding people taking plastic utensils from our cafeteria. I doubt it is enforced much but its due to people not buying anything from the cafe but grabbing stacks of napkins, knives, forks, condiments, etc. Sure if one or two does it, it isn’t much in terms of costs but if you have a large facility with hundreds of people it adds up.

    As to the searches, yeah it doesn’t help morale. I’ve worked in high security jobs and we are randomly searched and it feels like they don’t trust you but at the same time, some people do some very malicious stuff.

    And sometimes you get some employees who are out to get revenge from their employer and will take anything they can regardless of its usefulness. We had one person who would stuff paper towels into the toilets to cause them to overflow. Apparently he thought he was getting “even”.

  16. The ice cream on CX is really ice minus the cream. Almost impossible to eat without biting into the frozen chunk.

  17. While I do not know all the facts, if the things taken really go to waste and could not/will not be reused, then I find this policy towards employees incredibly petty and rather sad.

  18. No joke but this is actually a problem. I’ve noticed on a couple of flights with Cathay that they seem to somehow always run out of Hagen dasz containers. One time I went into the galley for the restroom and saw a couple still in the frozen tray holder. Another time, I even saw a flight attendant eating one (which is fine, but they should double stick them if that’s the case).

  19. On a Singapore Airlines, the steward/FA told me near the end of the flight “eat as much as you want because we have to throw it away when we arrive”. Then I became a pig on the remainder of the flight.

  20. In Asia, Haagen Dazs ice cream is considered to be really fancy, and usually costs a lot, (~$10/pint in China/Taiwan/HK) so it makes sense why people are stealing it.

    What impresses me more is that Cathay Pacific is willing to pay to serve that to pretty much every passenger (Y and KA included) on every flight. (I got it in Y flying KA HKG-HGH)

    Maybe it’s the reason KA costs twice as much as HK Express.

  21. Dear Ben,

    Nothing new. Qatar Airways have done it for so many years. Poor crews who got terminated just because of one seal or company’s pen found in their pocket.

  22. what if FAs are telling paying customers they “ran out” of caviar (or anything else), when they are really keeping them for themselves? lol

  23. With the exception of the cavier, CX’s food is always less than desirable anyway, I don’t know who would want to eat it. Let them have it, I’d say.

  24. This is the definition of “penny wise, pound stupid.” Morale at CX is already so low, thanks to endless cost cutting, that service barely surpasses that of most American carriers. Searching FAs for unused ice cream, etc. is only going to make things worse, for both employees and passengers.

  25. It’s ok to steal from companys. They make a lot of money. Who cares if its ice cream or cash right out of the till. The company’s make millions let everyone steal all they want

  26. I know a ual FA who had mentioned the same policy to me several years ago.
    But I can understand why donating the food or items would be a problem. If the person receiving the food gets sick, guess who is liable. And you know there are people out there looking for those opportunities and lawyers willing to help out.

  27. So if another crew member doesn’t like you just stick something in their bag and hope they are searched. If I were a Flight attendant in this situation I would be searching my bag before I got off the plane to make sure someone didn’t put something in it to try to get me in trouble.

  28. CX had(has) a serious problem with flight attendants switching genuine name brand duty free perfume with counterfeit perfume. It is very lucrative as the fake perfume can be bought locally from HKG streets. There has been some success in stopping this in the past but crooks are always a step ahead no matter what.

  29. A company’s property can be wasted, inefficiently used but taken away by employee. This is not about a bottle of water or some ice cream but a start to take advantage on company’s property. Once started it is hard to halt and it will eventually ruin the company.

  30. The quality of dining on is revolting, including the caviar. I guess now we know why – reuse and recycle.

  31. I believe that due to over stressed and long hauled travel, some flight attendants. don’t bother serving food to pax anymore because of addional work load for them.

  32. Stealing anything from an employer should be discouraged and I applaud the CX management for publising the issue . Other airlines should follow . A small ice cream today may evolve into a large bottles of wine and champagne tomorrow .
    CX has been making losses and this is one reminder to staff not to steal .
    If stealing is a big problem , tighter controls will save the company money which translates into either better food and service, or to more profit , and a better dividend for shareholders.
    People who invest in stock market companies do not expect employees to steal and reduce their dividends. Do employees in Silicone Valley steal from Google and others ?

  33. On my flight (CX135)from Hong Kong to Melbourne last November, I was so tired and I skipped all the inflight meals. When I woke up and asked for a bottle of water during the flight, the flight attendant told me they were running out of bottled water. I was so shocked! Now after reading the news, makes me wondering if the flight attendants were keeping the bottled water for themselves.

  34. Cathay officially donates their leftover to the homeless. No need for their employees to take them away.

  35. Now CX can blame shortage of food inflight is caused by crew stealing. Great way to cut cost! How smart!

  36. SAFETY FIRST!!! How is anybody relating this to be a safety of the FA’s …? They have just arrivied everyone to there destination and most of the time it’s after hours and hours has been spent attending to the guests on the aircraft .. well after a five day pairing the FA’s would be starving due to how much food as one individual can pack for one pairing! SAFETY FIRST, is for everyone… including ice cream after hours where nothing is available for purchase!!

  37. @Experienced traveller

    I hope you didn’t invest in Google. It is very common that some of their employees feed their entire family (parents spouse siblings uncles children nephews) from Google’s free food canteen. You can see boxes of ‘leftovers’ that they take home.

    Now stealing is wrong and FA deserves to be punished. Big or small doesn’t matter as it all adds up. Remember the mythical story of how AA saved $40k by removing 1 olive in every serving. No it isn’t pennies anymore.

    Now the easy way out that would make every party happy is to treat it as a customs search. FA declare everything he or she took (stole) from the plane. CX keeps track and give a notice once it’s getting too much or too often. Random check to see if FA is lying. If caught lying, terminate immediately.

  38. Certain countries including Australia and New Zealand have extremely strict quarantine laws. No food is allowed off aircraft and has to be destroyed after arrival. Can understand Cathay being tough but they also need to be aware of people being set up by others. Common sense should apply to removing items.

  39. CX staff are very hardworking and flight crews are provided with no out port meals but an allowance. Water taken in consumable quantities (no more than 2L should be included in the policy but is not. Crew don’t always have time to eat on busy flights and once again should be allowed to take a consumable amount at outports. Flights deplaning in Hong Kong for HK based crew should not have no allowance for consumables as staff will be going home.

    People often believe crew have ample time to eat their own meals and rest but my personal observations are that this is often not the case.

  40. @Anthony

    The CX crews I know had ample time to eat and rest and even go out shopping and sightseeing.

    I pretty sure crews have to than enough time to eat between outport flights. If not, I would doubt all CX crew have had enough rest.

    Given a meal allowance isn’t inteded for crews the cheap out and get extra cash. It’s for meals. Bad personal time and financial management is their own problem.

    Ever heard of words other than stealing office supplies? Because that is the only word. I never heard of any office gives you supplies to take home everytime you work late. Don’t have time to buy pen and paper for the kids, here take some. 2L of water is office supplies. CX just chose to enforce it.

    I can’t believe how messed up many people’s logic is.

  41. Imagine you have an outbuilding next to your house.
    You set up a small hotel in it, where you provide toiletries in small bottles for guests.
    You have people who service the rooms.
    It seems a shame to throw away the almost-unused shampoos and half-used soaps.
    So do you allow the servicing staff to take the leftovers?

    If you do, then how do you distinguish that they have opened a new one, poured a little away, and claim it is “used”? Or “accidentally overstocked” etc
    The only feasible answers are:
    a) ban anything being taken
    b) Eskimo’s idea of detailed declaration, with checks – rare or not depending on estimated extent of abuse.

  42. I work with a reputed hotel chain and we have employees wearing suits and uniforms. While the guys in suits are rarely checked while leaving, the guys in uniforms are regularly checked. You’ll often see them reprimanded for simple things like a hotel branded matchbox or just a bottle of drinking water. We follow strict inventory for pretty much everything in the hotel and discrepancies are heavily feared by the staff and intensely investigated by management. I can’t imagine an airline behaving differently in a cut-throat market.

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