Just day’s after Cathay Pacific launched a crackdown on petty theft by light-fingered cabin crew, the Dubai-based Emirates has now also warned its crew not to remove onboard items belonging to the airline. The warning, which came in the form of an internal memo sent to Emirates’ entire workforce of over 24,000 cabin crew, explained that the airline had witnessed an “increase” in the amount of onboard property being taken by crew.
Emirates has become aware of the problem after customs officers carried out searches on cabin crew as they arrived back at Dubai International Airport. It’s not clear what sanctions crew will face if caught with onboard property but Emirates’ new vice president of in-flight service, Doreen Depastino said those who have been caught have suffered a “huge impact”.
Depastino, who has previously worked in similar positions at jetBlue, Hawaiian and Virgin America, warns cabin crew that the removal of property is also having a “huge impact” on the airline’s profitability and reputation. “Such cases reflect badly on you, our entire crew community, and our company,” she writes in the leaked memo.
As well as theft of onboard products, Depastino also claims that Emirates cabin crew have been stealing from hotels and each other. She writes:
“Please don’t risk your job because you took property from the aircraft, hotels or from others, accidentally or without permission. Theft is a criminal offence that can land you into serious legal trouble, even for things that may seem trivial.”
“We will deal with each incident firmly, so please make it a habit to check your belongings before leaving the aircraft to confirm you don’t have any company property in your possession.”
According to Article 388 of the UAE Criminal Code, “theft that takes place by a paid employee in the course of his or her employment” could result in a prison sentence of between five to seven years.
Emirates cabin crew have long faced random searches to prevent in-flight service items from going missing. Crew are regularly searched when they arrive back in Dubai and such is the fear of getting in trouble that staffers dump service items they’ve accidentally taken off the plane.
Items like little jars of olive oil, pens, unused cutlery, bottle openers and even paper coasters bearing the Emirates logo are thrown away by crew are quickly discarded by crew once they become aware of their mistake. Getting caught with these seemingly innocuous items could result in a crew member being fired or even arrested.
A couple of years ago, cabin crew faced a crackdown on the ‘theft’ of bottled water from aircraft – like Cathay’s flight attendants, many Emirates crew thought taking a bottle of water to drink on the crew bus or in a hotel was an unwritten perk. Apparently, that wasn’t the case and there were rumours (or should that be ‘crewmours’) that security officers were searching crew as they got off the aircraft on arrival at a foreign outpost.
The union that represents Cathay Pacific flight attendants said it was “furious” with the way they had been labelled as thieves by many media outlets after an anonymous source claimed petty theft had cost the airline “hundreds of millions”. Like Emirates, the head of in-flight service at Cathay warned crew in an email that the airline would take a “zero tolerance” approach to any in-flight items being taken by cabin crew.
Six members of Cathay cabin crew have been caught since a security team started randomly searching flight attendants at Hong Kong International Airport.
In an attempt to prevent a similar situation at Emirates, the airline has ordered pursers to make an announcement at the end of every flight. “Crew, remember to check your pockets and carry-on bag before you leave the aircraft,” the announcement reads.
“If you find anything that does not belong to you, please leave it on the aircraft.”