What do You Risk Stealing a Bottle of Wine in a Airplane?

On my 3rd day working as a flight attendant, I had my first less than ideal passenger. I had just completed meal service and had returned to my galley and begin to tear down my cart and prepare for coffee and tea service. While doing this my cabin manager was answering to a “FA call” button that had been pushed. Shortly she returned, looked at my cart, and then asked me “Are you aware the passenger in (seat number) stole a bottle of wine off your cart?” Another passenger had witnessed this and just let her know.

My jaw dropped! I was speechless. “What? Uh.. no!” I just stood there. Stunned! She replied “You need to be more aware of your cart.” I couldn’t believe it! I never left my cart. I never even took my eyes off it. For now that was the end of it. I felt terrible that I let the wine be stolen, but I had to finish service.

After completing coffee and tea, I set up an empty cart and returned to the aisle for meal tray collection. I was finishing my section, bent down putting the last tray in the cart. On top of my cart is an extra bin for garbage that doesn’t fit on the trays, as I stood up I look in the bin and THERE’S THE WINE BOTTLE! I look up from the cart and the offending passenger is standing there smiling at me. He’s in the row just behind my section. I was stunned! I turn around, bring the cart back to my galley, and hand my manager the bottle. “Found it.” I said. “Empty.”

She. Was. Mad! Not at me, though. She made that clear that it wasn’t my fault, although I need to be more diligent. She made her way back to the passenger and made it very clear how serious it is to steal anything aboard an aircraft. It’s a federal offence. Once alcohol is discovered to be stolen (and this theft is proven), we are required to cut off the whole cabin at the discretion of the captain. That’s just what happened. Luckily by this time we weren’t too far off from landing, so we didn’t need to deny too many drink requests. Those who did want something were upset that I couldn’t provide, however I was very open about the situation, there’s no sense in lying about why they aren’t being served. I’m just glad they were very understanding.

Personally, I was more concerned that this passenger had consumed the entire bottle, rather than that he’d stolen it. As the server, I’m personally liable for the alcohol consumed off my cart. He something happens after he gets off the aircraft it’s my fault.

In the end, we didn’t press charges against the pax. He was, however given a very stern warning. I wasn’t there for that part, but apparently members in his party were crying. They claim they will never fly with our airline again. I hate to cause or be part of this sort of negativity. These people are heading on vacation and all they want is to have a little fun. Still, safety and security is my prime concern. I don’t know how this passenger is going to behave when intoxicated, and he can’t be allowed to just take wine off the cart. Not to mention, if he’s been caught doing this at any other airline he’d see the same consequences. As a minimum.

Later as I thought about it, I suspect he didn’t know he was stealing. I imagine he figured I was done with my section and had extra wine. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t mind him taking it since I was finished. His open attitude about it (dropping the empty into my cart) certainly suggests he thought he was in the right. But I have to stress: It is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be okay to take something (especially alcohol) off of a flight attendant’s cart without permission. Always ask! Always!

Now the rest of the flight went smoothly. After our first two flights we’d gotten faster at service. We ran out of time to do duty free, but that was more because during the entire flight our passengers constantly needed to use the washroom. (Not that I blame them. If you gotta go, you gotta go!) We had to keep moving out of the way and that took up a lot of time.

After landing we turned around and went back up to Winnipeg.  That flight was a red eye, and was about half full. We completed all services in about an hour, since most people went right to sleep. We landed and were back in our hotel by 6:00am the next day. 8 hours later I’d wake up and get ready for another red eye turn.

4 thoughts on “What do You Risk Stealing a Bottle of Wine in a Airplane?”

  1. Thanks for an interesting post, Jet. This is real stuff. You and your cabin chief handled it perfectly, but… I thinnk it would have been great fun to get on the PA, “Ladies and geltlemen, we apologize for having to close the bar this early, but we have experienced an alcohol theft. (Long pause…) The gentleman in seat 26C was observed removing a bottle of wine from the FA’s service cart, which is a federal offense. We apologize for an inconvenience and suggest that you direct any questions for the gentleman in 26C.”
    Love the blog!
    -Craig

  2. I love when people say they’ll never fly with us again, when THEY are in the wrong. Good, I don’t want them flying with me again either!!! 😛

    Lucky he wasn’t met by the cops.

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