Is It Appropriate To Share First Class Amenities With Economy Passengers?

A friend just sent me the following question by email, which I thought would be fun to pose here:

So I’m flying US Airways from Los Angeles to Phoenix with two employees. I’m in first class with one of them and the other is in coach. I gave the one flying coach my blanket that I would have otherwise put on the floor.

The flight attendant saw her with the blanket and took it from her. Told her “I don’t care who gave it to you or why I’m taking it. I don’t have 176 to give to everyone.”

Then my employee told the flight attendant to give it back to me if she can’t have it and she said she would. Then the flight attendant came up to me and asked “is there a John here?” I said “yes” and she said “blankets are not allowed in the main cabin,” and didn’t give me the blanket back.

Am I a horrible rule breaking jerk for offering her my blanket? WTF?

It’s an interesting question, as it relates not just to this specific blanket situation, but rather which resources it’s appropriate to share between cabins on a plane.

As a general rule of thumb, I think it’s okay to share “limited” resources between cabins, but not ones where you have access to as many as you’d like. For example, on Cathay Pacific I don’t see anything wrong with giving an economy passenger your pajamas or amenity kit, because you can do with them whatever you please. If you choose to give them to someone else, you can’t get another set.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-08

Meanwhile I don’t think it’s okay to share food or drinks with an economy passengers, since you can get as much of that as you’d like (in theory).

A blanket is a limited resource on a domestic flight. Each first class passenger is given one, and as far as I’m concerned, they can do with it what they’d like, as long as they don’t remove it from the plane.

US-Airways-First-Class

Personally I don’t think John did anything wrong. And even if he were off base, it’s utterly perplexing to me that this is a battle a flight attendant would choose to pick. Some flight attendants really don’t seem to understand that they work in a customer service role.

What do you think — is it okay for a first class passenger to share a blanket with an economy passenger? Under what circumstances is it okay to share resources between cabins?

Comments

  1. Wow! I think in this instance the passenger was correct – and the flight attendant was way off base. I think I would write a letter of complaint about it myself. I also agree with your overall assessment. If it’s a limited item, i.e. Blanket, pajamas, amenity kit then it is yours to use as you wish. And if you wish to share it with someone who is flying with you and they happen to be sitting in economy that is your business. Yep. Flight attendant was way off base on this one.

  2. I agree with you and because of the Patriot Act (which I favor) FA’s are abusing their position. If you disagree you can find yourself on the no fly list and you will never get off that. It is a very unfortunate circumstance of today’s world. Thx for the report Ben

  3. I don’t think there should be any sharing between the cabins. The “blanket” or other item in question will invariably be noticed by other passengers who might think they are also entitled to one. Can you imagine the FA trying to justify “it’s from his friend in first class?” The only exception to this rule is when flying Alaska. Coach passengers should be allowed to bring First passengers the AS cheeseburger to replace whatever boring “meal” AS is serving up front…

  4. Clearly the FA handled the situation poorly with both customers. Passengers can bring their own blankets on the plane, which would have been a sufficient response if another coach passenger had asked about it. Occasionally you see a coach passenger snag a pillow or blanket off an empty first class seat while boarding, and the FA’s aggressive approach may have been appropriate if a blanket was missing and the passenger entitled to it needed one. That was not the case here.

  5. Sounds like the FA was not diplomatic about the matter, but I would agree that the blanket should stay in the 1st class cabin. I agree that items which are given to passengers to keep (like amenity kits, pjs, etc) can be shared or given to somebody else. But the airline should be able to determine where items that remain the property of the airline are located.

    Without defending any rudeness exhibited by the FA, I can see that sending blankets, pillows and such back to the main cabin can cause problems. Blankets and pillows are scarce resources in the main cabin — and seeing one passenger with an “upgraded” blanket is sooner or later going to cause problems. In addition, there is the slippery slope problem. What if the first class passenger decided to share the noise cancelling headset with a friend in the main cabin?

  6. They can police the blankets but rarely keep coach passengers out of the F lavatories, or prevent some from putting their carry-on’s in F overhead bins?

  7. I don’t see a problem with sharing an amenity like a blanket with someone in economy if you aren’t going to use it. I agree there should be limits, so no sending food/drinks back since you can run out of that stuff for the rest of the first class cabin. I can see why the FA would have approached the passenger initially, because sometimes people help themselves to first class items (in which case it should be taken away), but there is no need to be rude and it turns out that wasn’t even the case. I suspect the FA didn’t want other passengers in economy to start pressing the call button asking for a blanket like the one that passenger had as well.

  8. Last week I was travelling on a Delta flight in Fisrt class and many of us in the cabin didn’t use our blankets and the FAs kindly asked if we were going to use them, since in the main cabin they didn’t have enough for everyone that’s asking. That’s real service.

  9. Typical American flight attendant service. Its all about her. She does not want to deal with others asking for a blanket, so she punishes the one person that has one. Oh, and the other person for sharing too. All so she can go back to galley area and sit on her butt. Anyone complains about this, and it becomes a matter of national security. Ridiculous.

  10. When our family of three travel my wife and I trade upgrades. She will send drinks or food back to me and I do the same. The FAs seem not to mind and actually get a kick out of it (I am a DL plat).

  11. That flight attendant was rude period. Regardless of whether or not sharing should be allowed, she handled that situation completely unprofessionally.

    I was on an international American flight earlier this year that required all the passengers to deplane after waiting for 2 hours on board and switch equipment. When coach passengers walked through the business cabin to switch aircraft, many picked up amenity kits, blankets, pillows to bring to the next plane. No one said anything and many coach passengers were more comfortable for our very delayed flight. New amenities were provided to the business class passengers on the new aircraft. I don’t see how it’s a big deal.

  12. @Martin,
    Great observation but not surprising. There’s no free lunch – you can have lousy customer service and a good FF program, or the reverse – but not both. You choose. I rarely fly Delta any more as my partner is Lifetime Platinum, but I sure miss the nice service, and the on-time performance, and the newer planes, and the……. We were in the SkyClub in SLC last year (courtesy of Amex) and they could not have been nicer helping with the slight chance of a misconnect at JFK even though we had zero status. It was a world of difference from the typical reaction from an Admirals Club employee even with Platinum status.

  13. And to follow up on the Delta story, what’s really behind the difference in FA attitude? Is it a corporate culture thing? Would a Delta FA actually get in trouble for such bad customer service whereas AA/US management tolerates it? Why the disparity?

  14. By your policy, which seems sensible as a general rule, the blanket clearly should not have been shared between cabins and I don’t blame the airline for discouraging this. Unlike amenity kits or pajamas, the blanket on a first-class domestic flight is not yours to keep–it stays with the airline when you leave–and having the blankets spread around the plane makes cleaning up during the turnaround more complicated.

    How much better, though, if the flight attendant had simply smiled and said, “I’m so sorry–We have a policy that I’m afraid I need to follow.”

    The rudeness of many flight personnel, even on international premium cabins, is distressingly widespread.

  15. Agreed–as a former Delta Diamond who is now United Global Services, the difference in service culture between the two airlines could not be more drastic. It will be interesting to see whether new CEO Oscar Munoz can revive this United from the numerous hard- and soft-product ailments from which this once-proud airline is suffering.

  16. Either right or wrong on the amenity sharing, flight crews are becoming arrogant and are soon worthy of our calling these Stews or Waiters again. They want respect then earn it.

  17. I’ve twice flown on business transpacific in United BusinessFirst with my spouse tagging along in Economy, and both times asked a flight attendant if it would be OK to give her my ice cream sundae. They had no problem with it either time, and one of them even pushed me to take a sundae as well.

    Apparently when she handed over the dish one of the economy flight attendants raised an eyebrow though.

  18. Last year I was flying from MAD to DFW on AA with a friend. There was one upgrade left. My friend said I should take the upgrade (I was EXP, she was non-status). After settling in I asked the FA if I could give my PDB to my friend. No problem and I still got a PDB. This FA and the others on the flight could not have been nicer about looking out for my friend.

    I see no reason why an unused blanket from first class could not be sent back to a friend in coach.

  19. I think the FA was in the wrong — I can see the FA asking the Y pax (nicely) to keep the airline logo hidden on the blanket so others didn’t think the airline was handing them out, but to take it from the pax is borderline theft.

    Attitude and approach of the FA makes a huge difference here. I seriously think the US airlines need to send their flight crews to hospitality school. They are providing a SERVICE. We’ve heard them say they’re here for our safety, well so are hotel staff at any decent hotel! Without staff, these organizations wouldn’t work. BUT without paying pax, these staffers are out of jobs, and some of them have no business being in the service industry with selfish attitudes. Both the selfish staffer and any customers they interact with will be unhappy.

    I’m the one who books all of the travel arrangements for my office. As a general rule, we will pay just about anything to get our employees off USA metal & carriers as fast as possible. Airline employees with pissy, selfish attitudes can make or break a flight more than on-time performance or a good hard product. Case in point: A couple of years back JFK was all fouled up due to wx. Our guys were flying out on B6 and B6 had rightfully decided NOT to board the aircraft until there was an open landing slot at JFK. This of course dragged on for awhile. FAs started serving pax drinks & snacks in the terminal. The captain would come up to the podium periodically and give updates over the PA. The flight crew (and cockpit crew) started to mingle with the pax and let their hair down. One of our guys flying was retired Air Force and had a great time chatting with the First Officer. Things got late and the captain ordered pizza and even a few salads for everyone. What did I get in the trip feedback form from our employees? How great their flight was!

    B6 & DL are the only domestic airlines we’ll fly…despite the costs and poor frequent flyer programs. Why? Excellent customer service. I wish these two would put more of an emphasis on marketing themselves as a premium product, charge a little more and provide an even higher level of service, like airlines did ~15 years ago. You’d scare off the kettles, which is fine by me. B6’s Y is better than many US airlines’ F/J.

  20. This really only happens in the US. Air travel is perhaps the best place for power abusers to thrive because it’s always in the name of safety. I’ve travelled in, within, and outside of the US for countless times, and only here it is such a big problem. It doesn’t hurt to be pleasant, but they seem to be allergic to that.

    I feel that the tipping culture contributes not in an insignificant way to this. The attitude of customer service in the US is the worst. Everyone wants a tip to be nicer to each other.

  21. I don’t see any problem with this one Y passenger getting better treatment. On almost every flight I take, there is a passenger who is discretely getting better service: snacks on a short no food/drink service flight, a power converter from the J cabin, being invited to move to a better seat, etc.
    Flight attendants treat some passengers better on many flights. I’m sure this is usually because of status, but perhaps sometimes they are someone “famous”, they had trouble on a previous flight, or the passenger was extra nice and the FA was returning the favor etc.
    There is nothing unique about one person having a blanket on this flight.

  22. This is an interesting an question for me because I am occasionally in almost the exact same situation. I usually fly in first on AA/US but for times when I have to fly coach, and I shouldn’t admit this publicly, I bring an AA blanket with me that I took after a flight a while back. I’ve never once had an FA question me about it. I also never make the AA tag visible.

  23. Lucky,
    I have a related question.if one passenger is booked in international business or first and the other in economy, can we alternate seats during the flight if we are family members? Any input would be helpful

  24. Question:

    What would happen if the FA saw a blanket from the economy cabin on the first class cabin?

    I am 100% sure she wouldn’t take it away from the first class passenger hands. Ergo, using the same logic, she should have taken it from the other passenger hands either.

  25. The argument that some are putting forward that the blanket shouldn’t be shared because other passengers may “notice” is laughable. Who cares?! If you get that bothered that another pax has something that you don’t have (and that, clearly most of the rest of the cabin doesn’t have either) then you have bigger issues than just the lack of blanket.

  26. I mostly agree Lucky, I think the problem here is that blankets are an amenity that some people still think you are entitled to in coach (and sometimes still are available for coach passengers). I could see the flight attendant not wanting to deal with explaining to coach passengers why this person has a blanket and why she can’t get one for them, especially when she has to do drinks service on what was likely a full A321 flying a route that is less than an hour long. I think the FA could have just ignored it unless people had already started asking for blankets as well, but who knows maybe people already had. It puts the FA in a hard position where she has to tell other passengers no, so she made the decision to piss off a couple passengers instead of potentially pissing off everyone sitting around this woman.

    Could she have handled the situation more delicately? Sure. Was it the best decision? Probably not. But I don’t think she was necessarily wrong to take it away.

  27. You mentioned something like, “…so long as they don’t remove it from the plane.” I’m curious what your thoughts are on this: I’m an AA EXP and only fly AA/US domestically. I have a fleece AA blanket that I keep and travel with exclusively for use on the plane. This way, I can wash it myself and always know it’s clean and where it’s been. Plus, I know I’ll always have a blanket even if I don’t get upgraded. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it; it is used on their planes and I get to make sure it’s washed and clean. In the past when they’ve gotten new blankets or mine gets worn out, I’ll leave “mine” on a plane a take a new one.

  28. No you shouldn’t share stuff with a lower cabin class passengers.
    Economy passengers shouldn’t use the F class lav’s and the FA’s should enforce this. (Yes I fly economy much of the time).
    Yes the FA in this case was rude and should have handled it better.

  29. Why US airlines never stop surprising me in the most terrible way
    Cool… blanket not allowed in main cabin and what about main cabin passengers using FIRST lavatory??????

  30. We live In a world where everyone expects the same treatment.

    You had no business showing off..,and looking down on the other in Y.

    The blanket is for FC passengers, and it is the airlines property to control.

    I think the FA is right, maybe a little pushy but she deal with the public..

  31. Lucky, glad you brought this up.

    I agree with most and toss my vote in with the “it’s okay” lot. On a recent mileage run I was upgraded, but my companion was not. Since they rarely get to fly up front I decided to give up my seat and sit in back. Being nice, they walked back after we had reached cruising altitude with a blanket. It was a nice gesture considering I get cold on most flights. The only caveat was that they asked prior to doing so and the FA did not care whatsoever.

    It was also a good time to test my 25% discount using my co-branded card on an in-flight food purchase. Now when it comes to food, I would also agree. Taking food from FC and moving it back seems a bit much. Of course, just recently, from DFW-HKG in business class, the gentleman in front of me completely emptied the galley of packaged snacks and stuffed them in his travel bag. Popcorn, chips, peanuts, flavored fig bars, biscotti…gone.

    I have also witnessed others who have snatched up others amenity kits upon boarding the plane. At a minimum, at least wait until we are exiting, that way you know who cares and doesn’t care about the amenity kit.

    Speaking of FC, I have seen about 70% of my flights where someone from economy goes all the way up to the front and uses the front lavatory. The other 30%, the FA is very adamant. On BA and FY flights, I would say about 95% of the time when that curtain is pulled, it becomes a fabric incarnation of Gandalf: “you shall not pass!”

    In all, there are definite inconsistencies in service and while we should not feel entitled, FA are there for safety first, a little kindness to customers goes a long way.

    But this is real life so YMMV. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  32. In response to the corporate culture thing, I remarked to a Delta FA while I was thanking her for exemplary service about her stellar attitude. She replied, “Any of us would do that for you. Without you, the passenger, none of us would have a job.” The AA flight attendants have it the other way — they are doing YOU a favor. And I base that upon 25 years of living in the Caribbean and having to fly literally everywhere.

  33. This incredibly rude & unprofessional comment from an American Airlines flight attendant does not surprise me in the least…and I am not talking about the flight attendants from TWA & US Air who are now part of the American cabin team due to merger or acquisition. They are the ones who are still good and professional.
    The blanket could have been obtained by the friend on another flight when they were traveling in
    I was traveling with two friends on an American flight from Chicago to Rome. We were sitter apart in economy. During the in the middle of the night after the meal service was finished,the cabin was dark and most of the passengers were asleep. The flight attendants were long gone and one of my friends who was sitting in a window seat with two other passengers next to her in the middle & aisle seats were asleep, was thirsty. She did not want to disturb them and after a long time of seeing no flight attendants pass by she finally rang her call bell. Eventually a flight attendant showed & said with obvious annoyance ” why did you ring your call bell?”
    My friend asked for water and here is the amazing response from the annoyed flight attendant: “we’re doing a water service in a half hour.” And left. No water till then.
    Unbelievable!
    But No Surprise, these flight attendants believe they are doing you a favor just to show up, they don’t get that you pay their salary.

  34. I think it also has to be due to a catering issue. – Not all stations provide blankets. Many times the flight only has the amount of blankets that are equal to the amount of seats. What if the passenger took the blanket home and the next flight left without one? I can understand wanting all of the blankets in the same cabin. F/A just went a little overboard. Glad I work for DL and we have blankets in coach. 🙂

  35. Breathingly poor attitude towards those customers. A supreme effort at alienating the hi yield first class customer. If one of my staff EVER behaved in a manner as disrespectful to a customer as this example, they would be in my office in a NANOSECOND for an earnest discussion as to their role within the company and who we are all there to serve:

    THE PAYING CUSTOMERS!

    In a previous business i had a sign up in our back-of-house area which said:

    ” this business is run for the satisfaction of its customers, not for its convenience for the owners, management, or team members”

    That’s all there is to know.

  36. How about people switching mid way in the flight, two people switching between economy and first. Or you sharing your meal with the economy passenger without ordering extra.

    People can rationalize anything they want depending on which role they are in.

    Do you have an obligation to rat on welfare abusers, workers compensation abusers etc. They abuse the system, not your resources. Some people take it personally and report them, and some see no problem in it.

  37. Lucky, Rob raises a good discussion topic that merits an item of its own…

    “I’ve twice flown on business transpacific in United BusinessFirst with my spouse tagging along in Economy…”

    My first reaction was, “Dude–that is soon to be your ex-spouse.” On the other hand, if his company is paying for business–and he no doubt has to work soon upon landing, while his spouse can go to the hotel and rest–and together they are getting time away that they would not otherwise enjoy, who’s to criticize….

    I have faced the issue when traveling with my family–I get upgraded because I have status but it’s still bad form to leave them in back so I’ve turned down premium cabins. But I’m not so sure it would be wrong to take it because I get cramped and claustrophobic on flights in ways they don’t.

    I’d be curious what people think about traveling parties going to different cabins….?

  38. I would love to get opinions on Rob’s question about a spouse/partner traveling with you when on a business trip. I have had the same issue and it led to many discussions.

    I was going to do work, so needed to get sleep and be rested. My wife was coming along to enjoy some time away from home – a bonus trip with a nice hotel paid for by my company.

    I fly business class LA-NYC for work… and we can’t afford to buy her a biz class seat. And upgrades weren’t an option. At times we would switch halfway – after clearing it with the flight attendants. On one flight we were told we could not do that as it was a safety issue. Whatever. Other times the FAs were very understanding and willing to do whatever to keep marital harmony.

    I didn’t want to downgrade and fly coach as I would lose out on the extra miles. And my company did not incentivize us at all to downgrade – I asked several times. Never really found a perfect solution.

    Would love opinions/solutions. Lately if she’s coming along I just fly coach…it’s not worth the stress.

  39. I’ve done it myself, just last month a young girl walking through noticed the blankets on the empty chairs in first and exclaimed delight that a blanket would be there at her seat … Her mother tried to tell her that it wouldn’t be that way and explained the differences between cabins quietly. I told the girl she could have mine, it was still in plastic. The girl was very happy, but the thank you came from the FA. I have seen FAs hand out FC blankets from the overhead on a first come first serve basis when they’re found.

    If this FA had been on my flight I would have asked for the blanket back, put it in my chair, then swapped seats with the coach bound employee just to make the point. I would also expect my employee to sneak me the free beer and pretzel roll inflight of course.

  40. It’s US Airways…what do you expect.

    I remember flying in Cathay Pacific and Singapore in economy while my dad was in business/first, the crew often invited me to the galley and offered me snacks/drinks that were meant for business passengers. And they had no problem with me going up to visit him periodically.

  41. This isn’t really a first class service, it’s just their brand for premium economy on internal flights, as such, you shouldn’t expect such a high class of service, especially considering how cheap flights are internally.

    I can see the problem the airline would face here, that blanket would potentially be left in the wrong cabin, they need to turn the plane around quickly and get it back out, whilst keeping costs low (it’s why the flights are so cheap). As such, I think the cabin crew would be quite right to ask it stay in the correct cabin, but word it better and explain why.

    Once, again, for the price of those internal flights, you can’t really moan. If you want better service, just book a jet with in-flight service.

  42. That is just one example of why I avoid flying US carriers. They treat passenger like cargo no matter the class they fly in. I have flown Emirates business class several times with colleagues in economy. On all occasion I was saying to the attendant at the bar I felt sorry for my colleagues. She sent word downstairs and they were invited upntonthe bar for a few hours.

    And Qatar has allowed me to give pillows and other stuff to colleagues in economy.

    I think it is rude and uncalled for, the way passengers are treated by Airlines. And I do not understand why you put up with it. I avoid US carriers at all cost.

    I was in United Business and economy. Delta economy this year and a still prefer Middle Eastern economy over American Business class.

  43. Wow. What a first class b*tch this flight attendant that was. I hope your friend had a chat with a supervisor. Even if what he did was criminal (it was not) her attitude is simply inexcusable! Wow, just wow.

  44. It’s sort of sad that blankets on a US domestic flight have become such a big deal, but that’s the price we pay for low fares, I guess. I can understand the FA wanting to avoid other Y customers asking “where’s my blanket?”, but there’s no need to be rude about it. A gentle smile and something along the lines of “sorry, but they have to stay in F for inventory control” or something like that would smooth the matter over without being rude.

    On the question of the mid-flight switch: you (or an employer) have paid for one person to sit in the premium cabin with all the perquisite amenities, and one person to sit in Y. If one person uses the premium seat, eats the premium meals, etc. half the time and the other uses them the other half of the time, I don’t really see a problem, except maybe with alcohol, since one person could tank up before switching off, then the other could go to town on the champagne supply, so the two would consume more than either would individually. But in the grand overall scheme of things, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

    And on the premium lavatories, sometimes if you have carts in the aisle for a service run or the coach facilities have a long line, and the need is urgent, I don’t see anything wrong with a coach passenger slipping up front, especially on planes that have a particularly bad passenger/toilet ratio in coach (only thing I hate about most 757s.) In my experience, FAs are generally good about using discretion as to when to let things go and when to enforce it. (Although, strangely, I did have a CO BusinessFirst FA throw an absolute hissy when I tried to slip into a front-end lavvy on the ground, even though both aisles in the back were jammed. Overheard her talking quite rudely to some BF customers later, too.)

    @Natalie – many companies have travel policies where higher ranking employees get to fly in a higher-level cabin. It’s particularly common in companies in the financial sector where you have a title that functions like a “rank” (managing director, director, vice-president, etc.) as well as a functional title. At both securities firms I’ve worked at, managing directors were always one cabin up from lower staff, allowed the upgrade on shorter flights where lower ranks had to fly coach (most companies put the cutoff at either 4 or 5 hours), or both.

    (Had a MD actually call me out on the plane once because he and I were in first class on AA JFK-LHR. When I told him it was because AA was trying to get a bigger share of our business and my flight was at the J price, he got even madder but couldn’t say anything. A friend told me later the same MD had a meltdown on a US domestic flight a few months before because a lower-ranking employee had used FF miles to upgrade herself on a US transcon, which was none of his business. Between crap like this and a natural aversion to talking business on planes, I always tried to avoid being on the same flight as co-workers.)

  45. According to the question it was the questioner’s employee who was rude and arguing with the FA. She was caught with a FC item in economy and instead of saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize blankets are for the exclusive use of passengers in the FC cabin”, she argued and made a scene, If she was my employee, I would have terminated her upon return to her duty station. John’s employee was sulking over being relegated to the back of the plane, and created a scene to get attention.

  46. @Dimples, read the first sentence of paragraph 3. She was creating a scene with “then you return it to John,” John by his account didn’t want the blanket, but the employe reminds me of a little child running to her daddy. But for the employe making a scene, the FA would not have even been aware of John nor involved him. Neither of us was ther to witness the incident, but the facts as stated are that the woman had FC equipment in economy and instead of just turning it over to the FA she insisted that the rules apply to everyone but her.

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