WATCH: Passengers In First Class Lounge Stuff 20 Cans of Beer and Chips in Their Bags

I always find it super cheap and off putting when a hotel club lounge has water to pour into cups, and no bottles you can take away, like at the Grand Hyatt New York.

The same is true of airport lounges: a proper premium class lounge should encourage you to take away a bottle for the flight like the United Polaris lounge in Chicago does.

Although as much of a hard time as I give travel providers for nickel and diming premium passengers, I also understand the conundrum when some of those passengers abuse the system. The Andaz 5th Avenue used to offer unlimited complimentary room service to top tier elites, until some people started ordering one of everything on the menu.

And passengers will even stuff copious amounts of packaged Tillamook cheese into their laptop bags in the airport lounge.

Even knowing this, I’m still surprised at the behavior of a couple of passengers visiting the British Airways Galleries First Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5 on Friday.

Discus shared on Flyertalk an incident that perfectly captures why we can’t have nice things.

We noticed two persons grabbing a lot of beer and putting it in their bags. They had some round trips to the bar and even stopped to get more when leaving (all within 3-4 minutes) They noticed me filming, but looked like they couldn’t care less. Guess they nicked 20+ cans and 5 bags of crisps.


What’s ok to take from the lounge, and where exactly is the line?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I saw an Indian woman and her young daughter ( probably around 9yo or 10yo ) stuffing small bottles of wine and soda and chips and peanuts into her bag at AMM last month while waiting for an RJ flight to DOH. I took her to task and old her to put it all back or I would call the manager and cause a scene. She put it all back of course. These people ruin it for all of us.

  2. I think it’s ok to take a few things for the flight (soft drinks, small snacks), but not for after. And that would exclude taking alcohol as you wouldn’t be allowed to drink it on the plane anyway.

  3. When BA stop serving snacks and drinks on their short flight,am i gonna bother taking drinks and crisps for the flight???of course not,a couple of soft drink and crisp for the flight.

  4. Perhaps they could just ban the people that cause the problem? Alcoholics cannot resist free alcohol.

  5. I saw a white British couple taking more than their fair share of bottled drinks and tidbits of snacks. I understand if you want a few snacks for your trip but oh dear, you don’t need to feed an entire family. Shame on them!

  6. A woman and her daughter….her race/ethnicity was not required as I’m sure you wouldn’t have pointed it out if she were white.

  7. I would’ve called them out to the staff in the lounge.
    It’s people like them that screw it up for everyone else.
    I’ll be in the BA First Lounge tomorrow morning and I will probably only have 30 mins between transit. I sure as hell won’t be trying to pack the beer into my luggage.

  8. Eventually, this is going to effect everyone, in a negative ways as it has with. So many things that are abused

  9. @Pam – don’t be so quick to impugn motive. Your “I’m sure” statement really puts you in the same bucket you’re accusing others of, no? “I’m sure” really means “I’m pre-judging”.

    In fact, take a look at the comment above yours, Are you “sure” about her motives, too?

  10. If you’re not a sworn etiquette officer, just record your own consumption.

  11. At the SQ lounge at SFO I once witnessed an older Asian gentleman stuff so many cans of soda (!) in his backpack that he could not stand up from the weight. He yelled for his wife to come over to help him up and off they went to the plane. The mind boggles.

  12. In economics, this type of self-serving behavior is results in the ‘tragedy of the commons’.

  13. (Correction) In economics, this type of self-serving behavior results in the ‘tragedy of the commons’.

  14. Lol, who cares. If this is pressing business I’m at a loss. As a member of such clubs, I know the money people spend to get these privileges. It’s definitely not okay behavior, but I don’t care in the least. Now that I’m aware I can do that, I might take a few for the ride.

  15. @Pam lol right on! We shouldn’t mention any ethnic info on any kind of violations so as not to let prejudice get in the way of our peace loving earth village. Let’s just say some human beings on 3rd satellite planet in solar system did it lol!!

  16. I saw a guy order four cocktails and pour them into a Yeti cup and then scoop snack mix into a Ziploc bag on Friday at the United Club at IAH Terminal E. It was so outrageous I took a pic.

  17. I’d say those two look like football hooligans off to a sunny holiday in Majorca. I’m sure they were well-pissed by the time they arrived.

    Could have also been one guy had access and brought in a free guest. Now they’re packing up for all their mates waiting outside.

    I once watched a couple pushing a stroller take about 2 dozen freshly baked cookies (wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon) that United puts out in the lounges close to Christmastime. Maybe that was their gift-giving supplies!

    Whatever the reason they’re All dirtbags.

  18. Okay 20 cans of beer that’s what, $15? I mean I get them taking it was in poor form and if someone does this once an hour you’re quickly to have another lounge that finds it cheaper to put a person to serve all booze but countless times I go to the lounge to just do work and may only drink water so this kind of averages out in my mind.

  19. There taking a little something to tide you over….I was in a club lounge in Athens at an upscale property once and noticed a table of 4 Americans going back to get food quite frequently, and then I saw them putting bread, smoked salmon, cheese, cold meats into ziplock bags – obviously planning for the day ahead. I actually called them out as shameful and embarrasing. They stopped for a moment, only just, and were only shamed when the attendant came up to them and said that if they had asked politely, they would have been happy to pack them some sandwiches so they would not not empty out the trays of food at the incovenience of the other guests

  20. Aside from intent of the lounge/provider and good manners/common decency, to me the biggest concern is if this causes inconvenience to other patrons, such as no more beer or crisps available.

  21. I’ve noticed that the lounges of USA airlines these days almost never have items that are easily portable (like a bag of chips) while the lounges of foreign airlines often do. I assume this is because the USA airlines don’t serve free food in domestic coach, so pax using their lounges would be tempted to grab some stuff for the road.

    Obviously, Mr.. Ethics would say you should never remove food or drink from the lounge, but Mr. Practical would say you could take a couple items if you might need them later that day.

  22. Stuffing one’s pockets or bags full of food and drink is peasant behavior, so it’s expected for them to do this.

  23. I still laugh and grit my teeth about seeing a guy stuff as many danish as would fit into his briefcase at the UA Red Carpet Room in the 1980’s. I also was amazed that his destination was PA! Wonder if he ate all of those danish before arrival?!?

  24. I saw a white family (two white parents and 3 or 4 white teenagers) raiding a buffet at a hotel a few weeks ago. They even took silverware, and I wondered whether they were literally going to steal it, or whether they planned to bring it back later. Never did find out.

  25. I’m disappointed that the AMEX lounges don’t offer bottled water to take…I was surprised 2 weeks ago at the AMEX DFW lounge…no water anywhere in the lounge. All I wanted was to fill my personal bottle but they only had tea and flavored water available. Sure, I could have asked the bar to fill my bottle but they typically have sour faces there at a request like that…maybe it’s just time to drop my Plat card and use the money to buy a bottle of water…

  26. As for the folks judging others as lowlifes, they themselves probably congregate in grocery stores just to stuff the tiniest scrap of a sample into their mouths. But the airport lounge is different because it’s “classy” as opposed to a Publix. Let’s be honest here… given the opportunity, everyone is greedy as long as they don’t look bad doing it.

  27. An apple or a banana from a club, max.

    I am cheap, but will not impose that cheapness on others through theft. I recently experienced an apparent mother “teaching” her son how to fill 30 2 ounce condiment cups of salsa and pico de gallo with a burrito purchase at Baja Fresh. Sorry lady, but those condiments are for consumption with your meal of in reasonable quantities to go with leftovers. Bought even in large quantities, a 2 oz. condiment cup costs perhaps 10 cents, and 30 is not a negligible cost to a franchisee.

  28. Things like this happen in every corner of the world and it goes both ways. Corporations reap from these programs as well. A few drinks here and there. I’m sure they can handle it without people being threatening to those that are taking advantage of the situation. I never understood people who get all up in arms over what other people are doing in these lounges. I’m sure companies know and can handle whats going on. Mind your own business and enjoy your time there. Wouldn’t that be better time spent?
    Take a drink or a fruit but not a bunch. Stealing is stealing no matter small or large. I stole a bottle or water a couple times. I even took a glass of whisky because i was late to my gate and left the cup at the counter. I accidentally stole a magazine once. Not even one I read. I happened to put my laptop on it and bagged it on my way out. Stop acting like saints because you do small things and others do it large. Does not make you a better person by any means.
    As for those who have to add people’s ethnicity, what’s the point? Say out loud what you really want to say. Bigotry comes in many forms.
    My guess is most of you are all for gaming the system when it comes to points. Isn’t that a big reason why these rewards programs keep changing? Hypocrisy.

  29. 20 cans of beer in the UK is a lot more than £11.50 (US$15.00), especially when purchased from a pub or restaurant–and must be consumed there.
    Even at an off-license it ain’t cheap, £2.50 or £3 each.

    Why pay at all when you can steal?

  30. While I would take one for the road or couple of bottle of water especially if I will be doing a lot of driving in a hot climate. This is a many have pointed out just wrong

  31. And at the market, the manager of the bank kiosk was finally forced to move the bowl of lollipops from the front counter because it became “ridiculous'”

  32. First world problems – this is what happens when we deserving one percenters let those feces-caked nonrev peasants across the drawbridge. Where’s the boiling oil and packs of snarling dogs when you need them.

  33. Gary, congrats on posting a piece that garnered so many responses. All seem to recognize hoarding behavior when they see it, and with good reason especially when it comes to food (and beverage). This instinctive response has survival value so the human race has inculcated it over millennia.
    Now that we find ourselves in a radically different environment, individuals show differing adaptability towards curbing that basic instinct.
    Since an airport lounge is still an anonymous place, there is no sense of community and folks adopt an “every man for himself” attitude. It’s this stance that’s drawn so many comments.
    Personally, I agree with the majority that this is unacceptable; however, who among us is willing to go the extra mile by confronting the perps, calling for backup from other lounge attendees, and recruiting the authorities for definitive action?
    Anonymity has its own attractions, so unless there is a willingness on the part of others to come together and stop the excesses, it will continue. Some will never be properly socialized and should be individually banned from the lounge. Some, like 2 year olds, can be disciplined and put on notice; once they realize the grown ups are watching, the bad behavior will change.

  34. It just goes to show you that the amount of class a person has is not determined by the price of their ticket.

  35. I was in the BA F lounge at T5 last weekend. I was with my 5 year old daughter who has food allergies. Thus, I put a few extra pieces of bacon and some potato cakes into a ziplock bag. This makes for a much happier 5 year old in CW for the 10 hour flight. But this is the only time I take more than a bottle of water and bag of chips.

    When we left TLV the night bedore, someone in CW had brought on a 1.5L Perrier glass bottle of sparkling water from the Dan lounge. Odd.

  36. “20 cans of beer in the UK is a lot more than £11.50 (US$15.00), especially when purchased from a pub or restaurant–and must be consumed there. Even at an off-license it ain’t cheap, £2.50 or £3 each.”

    You must be shopping in some really expensive places! I can’t get the video to load so am assuming it’s Heineken. You can get 24 330ml cans for £18 from supermarkets and you can bet BA aren’t paying anywhere near that! (Still doesn’t make it right, of course)

  37. @ Loralu, John and most others.
    Yep. I kept waiting for John Quinones (What Would You Do) to show up with cameras.
    On 19 JUN 2017 we watched a middle age woman, who was very thin and rather small in stature, make multiple trips, and by that I mean constantly, to the food and beverage tables at the LHR Terminal 3 AA Lounge. I was astounded how many baggies she was able to “secretly” pack away in her carry-on bag at her lounge chair. Chips, cheese, crackers, popcorn, trail mix, vegetables, cookies, several bags of hard candies and lots of cold cuts. (I would think unrefrigerated meat to be a really bad idea.) She must have anticipated that she was packing dehydrating food because she also took no less than 15-20 cans of Coke Light, numerous Sprites and bottles of juice. It may have been more Cokes because she also opened and poured numerous Coke Lights into plastic bottles. She did have several cups of soup that she consumed while seated. (Guessing soup doesn’t do well in baggies.) Unfortunately, I guess the need to horde was overpowering. The woman continued with her behavior in front of her teenage daughter and husband. Her bad behavior did not change even though I’m positive that we were noticed by her and we were not the only ones that observed. In retrospect perhaps I should have said something to her rather than be entertained for an hour or so. After all, as we know from our hobby, Milton Friedman is right, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

  38. I took a China Drink can from the lounge at PEK, started to board FC, a Chinese inspector took it..

  39. AA Lounge in Miami last year. Two guys took ziplock bags and filled them up with all the cheese cubes, cookies (only the dark chocolate ones) and the crackers. He even had the attendant help him! She held the trays up over the ziplock bags as he took his hands and raked the trays clean. I could not believe it.

  40. Gary’s account and much of what others have reported remind me of the behavior of otherwise civilised people during and after World War II. When any food or other item that was or had been rationed became unexpectedly available, like shoppers in Filene’s Basement people fought over whatever there was whether they needed it or not. Only when rules were clearly set out and distribution was monitored — usually politely, btw — did people act reasonably.

    Unless stopped, these super-greedy will convince United, and any other airline offering anything that people believe is worth filching and stowing, to discontinue to provide what is intended as a nice perk.

    My wife and I have reached the age and station where we no longer refrain from calling down the petty thieves whom one sometimes encounters in airline lounges and in hotel hospitality suites that are run on an honor system. Such people are without honor and deserve to be called down and perhaps embarrassed, especially if they accompany minor children whose upbringing has apparently lacked lessons in proper etiquette.

    Of course, if one is going to interfere, one must handle such situations with tact. Developing that skill and perhaps gaining some experience is one of the unadvertised benefits of military service. A British accent is also helpful.

  41. Oh go find something useful to do, like calling out BA for charging 5-6-700 dollars for fuel surcharge. I don’t need to fill up my bags with food from the lounge as most airlines serve plenty of food in premium cabins, but if some people are taking extra food why should I worry when the airline has stolen real cash (as fuel surcharges) from me and all other flyers? Your priorities are out of whack.

    And these ‘holier than thou’ people who are in high morality ‘stations of their lives’ and feel comfortable calling out ‘petty thieves’ need to have their heads examined. Call out the high value real thieves like the thug airlines, not the petty thieves.

  42. I remember touring Austria with a symphony orchestra. At breakfast a few low life’s thought stealing extra food for later was just fine. I cringed at the thought, this is why we get reputations as ugly Americans. One lady decided to take a couple of eggs. They were raw, and were provided for boiling. I told her that they were not hard boiled, but she didn’t believe me. She found out later that I was right. She had to throw the jacket out that the eggs were in. Have a happy 4th of July, Gary.

  43. I am not the morality police the ethics enforcer or guardian of the airlines snacks. Like the pope says :who am I to judge?
    Seems like confronting people and calling them out on their behavior is pretty bad behavior
    Do you really think they are so impressed by your words they immediately make a change?
    These are people who just grabbed all they could without regard for you or me
    Now they should care about your disapproval ? Dream on

  44. I must be living under a mushroom. It has never occurred to me to take anything from an airline lounge. Reading this article and the responses has been a real eye opener. The next time I am in a lounge, I will be more observant.

  45. As crappy as BA treats their customers, I wish they had emptied the entire lounge.
    Normally I think taking one or two items for the flight is certainly not a problem, but in this case I wish they had taken more.

  46. I understand and sympathise with those who dislike certain airlines so thoroughly they’d like other travellers in the premium lounge to make off with as much of the complimentary goodies as they can. Still, such behavior hurts other travellers as well as perhaps exacting revenge on the airline for its lousy service, and it irritates me that some people lack the courtesy (were we living in the nineteenth century, I could have said ‘breeding’, but that’d probably be considered a micro-aggression nowadays) to consider their fellow travellers (whatever their political persuasion). Offhand, I can’t think of a more inisidious or craftier way to get back at BA, United, or whomever, so I hope your wish comes true.

  47. Supposed you are settling in for a 10 hour flight and dont like the menu. What on earth is wrong with making a couple of small sandwiches to have during tue flight? The idea is to make your flight experience more pleasant and taking something from the lounge might do that. You are paying for use of that lounge and it is an extension of your flight. Nothing wrong with taking food for the flight in my opinion.

    Frankly – many of the comments sound quite snobbish to me.

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