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I'm very new to traveling in general. When I flew on a long flight, the airline gave us blankets and pillows. I, having no idea that I was supposed to leave the blanket behind, took it as I collected all my things, and left. I had assumed that since it was a somewhat cheap blanket they were part of the ticket cost or something. I didn't badly want to keep it, but I was half asleep and very cold and I just grabbed it with my other stuff. No one said anything to me as I did it.

It wasn't until I got home that I rediscovered the blanket and noticed a tiny tag that said 'do not remove from plane.' Naturally, I felt terrible about accidentally stealing the blanket. Obviously, I will never do this again, but I still feel really guilty for having done it this time. Is there a way I can return it to the airline? Or should I just forget about it, having learned my lesson?

Sorry if this is a silly question, I just kind of panicked when I realized I had stolen it on accident!!

Just for reference, the airline in particular was Aer Lingus.

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    Glad someone has a conscience. A person sitting next to me earlier this year took the blanket and when she saw that mine was left, took it too, plus the one of the seat on the other side. – Itai Oct 24 '17 at 19:26
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Oct 25 '17 at 10:02
  • bbc.co.uk/news/business-42499690 – Mawg Dec 28 '17 at 8:19

11 Answers 11

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To avoid any lingering feelings of guilt, you can call the airline and ask them what they'd like you to do with the blanket. Explain that you took it by mistake because you were not fully alert when you left the aircraft.

Most likely, they'll tell you to keep it, because it would cost more for them to receive it in the mail and return it to the blanket pool than it would simply to buy a new blanket. But if you have their explicit instructions to keep it then you won't have to worry about anything. Furthermore, in the (less likely) event that they do ask you to send it back, you can send it back, which will also relieve you of any lingering guilt.

You can find out how to get in touch with them at https://www.aerlingus.com/support/contact-us.

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    Most likely contacting them costs the airline more than the cost of the blanket. – Lassi Uosukainen Oct 24 '17 at 20:00
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tell-Tale_Heart But with blankets. – Valorum Oct 24 '17 at 21:46
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    And if they tell you to keep it, you can always go out and offer it to the first homeless person you see. I am sure it will be off your hands soon enough. That's what I do when I find money on the street: give it to someone who really needs it. – Kate Gregory Oct 24 '17 at 21:55
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    The downside to this is that probably the airline doesn't have procedure for returning lost blankets, so whomever answers your phone won't be able to just tell you to keep it, they would have to escalate issue to some supervisor, involve significant resources etc. In the end, you'll waste lots of time, both your time and airline time. – el.pescado Oct 25 '17 at 9:43
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    @ArrowCase - I think you mean lingering quilt... – Valorum Oct 25 '17 at 21:51
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We live in a strange world where manufactured goods (like blankets) are very cheap, and people's time is very expensive. Our moral (and legal) codes haven't caught up with this: so we feel bad at taking a blanket from an airline, but we don't feel bad about taking 15 minutes of their employees' time. But the 15 minutes costs the airline much more than the blanket. Don't compound your error by taking both.

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    @HankyPanky - make sure you check if the extra cash came out of your account! But that indicates a fault with the machine which the bank has to fix, so it's right you should let them know in that case. This is more like if you accidentally took a pen from the bank, and returning pens requires the cashier to spend an hour filling out paperwork. – colmde Oct 25 '17 at 9:22
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    I find it hard to believe that it would take fifteen minutes of an employee's time to deal with this. And certainly not an hour! (cc @colmde) – David Richerby Oct 25 '17 at 13:09
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    The best thing you can do is make sure the blanket does not go to waste. Just use it or give it to someone who needs it. -- From an environmental perspective wasting resources and wasting time may be different things, but in practice the mere logistics to get this blanket back into the airplane will offset any benefits, even without considering the time. -- The only exception I could think of is if you could actually smuggle it back in yourself during your next flight. – Dennis Jaheruddin Oct 25 '17 at 14:03
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    @DavidRicherby The world is made all the more stranger due to extreme division of labor: If you have ever had to manage any enterprise customer service you will quickly find that unless the point of contact actually has an explicitly indexed procedure they can reference to resolve a call like this, they will either have to make their own decision (often against corporate policy) or they will have to escalate it. In a large enterprise even trying to find the right person who might know what the correct procedure is could take hours/days. This is why we have IVR on top of Indian call centers. – cowbert Oct 25 '17 at 21:37
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    you are right, but there is a difference in both cases, the blanket is not meant to be taken, but the customer service agent time to answer customer calls is meant to be taken. – Muhammed Refaat Oct 29 '17 at 5:55
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Or should I just forget about it, having learned my lesson?

Just forget about it. No one is going to come after you for stealing a 2-euro blanket. Keep it as a souvenir and don't steal any in the future.

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    I'd be damn surprised if it was a 2-euro blanket. They surely buy those cheap things by the tens of thousands. – davidbak Oct 25 '17 at 20:32
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    phoog's answer is a more honest way to handle this sort of thing. – Panzercrisis Oct 26 '17 at 19:16
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    @Panzercrisis Maybe (I’m not even convinced). But it definitely costs both the airline and OP more than just forgetting about it. There are costs involved in any course of action, and your proposed trade-off doesn’t make any sense here. – Konrad Rudolph Oct 27 '17 at 17:56
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    phoog's answer may be more strictly honest, but this is the correct answer in practice. The entire question is a massive overreaction to a complete triviality. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 29 '17 at 23:29
  • It probably varies by jurisdiction, but stealing usually requires intent to deprive the rightful owner... which seems to be lacking in this case. – Fizz Jul 14 '18 at 5:24
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Other then flying Aer Lingus again and leaving the blanket on board, 99.4% the airline has no procedure or ability to take it back.

If this was truly an oversight, forget about it. If the blanket is somewhat nice, use it. No sense it going to waste.

BTW, they really, really don't want people taking things but, they know people do and it's not worth bothering about. I've never seen an FA look for any missing item.

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    I do not think bringing the blanket back incognito is a good idea. Mostly because nowadays, if you are caught doing something like that the passenger next to you could begin to think something like "Maybe the blanket is full of virus" or other alarming theory. Of course, maybe the OP brings the blanket and the people around him do not notice/do not care, but why do something that can be misunderstood while in a context as sensitive as a commercial flight, just for the sake of a towel? – SJuan76 Oct 26 '17 at 9:06
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    If a plane lands with more blankets than they took off with, the crew is going to have a very bad day! "OK, let's go over this again - how many blankets did we have when we took off from Kennedy?" "54, captain". "OK, and how many blankets did we have when we landed here in Dublin?" "55, sir". "(sigh) OK, one more time...how many blankets did we take off with?" "54, sir". "And how many do we have on board RIGHT NOW?!?" (Grabs blanket, tosses it out door) "Uh...54, sir!" "RIGHT! Now that we've got THAT settled, let's go hit the bar - I need a shot or six...". – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Oct 27 '17 at 3:42
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    @SJuan76 No one will notice and 98%, the blanket OP brings back from home is cleaner than the seat. – Johns-305 Oct 27 '17 at 13:03
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    @BobJarvis Blankets are not counted. The cleaning contractor just dumps them in bags for delivery to the laundry. – Johns-305 Oct 27 '17 at 13:05
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    @Johns-305 - never let facts stand in the way of a good story. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Oct 27 '17 at 19:45
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Sorry if this is a silly question, I just kind of panicked

This is not a silly question.

This is also not a question about blankets, but about how to work out these situations where you did something wrong and then it "hits you" later, when it's much too late to change it. You are now carrying it around in your head, and that is the problem you have to solve.

I would not follow any suggestion that tells you to just forget about it. This does, usually, not work. The fact that you posted a question here on TSE means that it is very important to you, it is obviously nagging at your moral backbone, so to speak, and it will not go away.

Fortunately, in this case, you can do this quite easily as the entity you took the item from is still around. I would, in your case, simply call them or, if you wish to save them some time, write them a mail through their public contact address, shortly tell them the situation and ask them if they want the blanket back.

"After my flight XYZ I took the blanket with me at the end of the flight, and saw the sticker that tells us not to remove it from the plane too late. Do you wish me to return it to you? If so, please let me know how I can do that."

No need to bother with explanations why you took it.

This will happen:

  • You got it out of your system. From thinking about it as theft, and eternally kicking it around in your mind, you turned it into a slightly embarrassing nuisance. This is the first and foremost intended result of your call/mail.
  • They may tell you that it's not a biggy, that this happens all the time and that you can just keep it. Problem solved. If you feel better now, you can actually keep it; or if seeing it reminds you of that embarrassment all the time, give it away or throw it away.
  • Or they may tell you to return it. I am pretty sure they will not set a deadline. But they may tell you just to deposit it when you happen to fly with them again. Then just do that, and be done with it.

You will most certainly not have to pay a fine or go to jail for it.

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    "From thinking about it as theft, which it objectively is" - no it isn't. Theft is "dishonestly permanently depriving an owner of property" (at least in England and Wales, and the Irish offence will be very similar - both being derived from the common law offence of "theft"). The OP didn't do this dishonestly. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 26 '17 at 9:45
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    @MartinBonner In fact, theft is more specific: not only must the action be dishonest but there must also be intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property. (This is why joyriding is a separate offence in English law: it's not theft because the criminal doesn't intend to keep the car.) As you say, the asker here wasn't acting dishonestly, but they also didn't have intent to permanently deprive the airline of their property, since they thought that the airline had gifted the blanket to them, so it was the asker's property. – David Richerby Oct 26 '17 at 14:40
  • @DavidRicherby : a) I did say "permanentl". b) I think you are mistaken. Their intention was to treat the blanket as their own; doing that would permanently deprive the actual owner - so that branch of the condition is met. It is the "dishonestly" that fails - because the OP believed the blanket had been given to them. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 26 '17 at 14:55
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    It is not objectively theft. This moralist view ignores the concept of mens rea, which I leave you to Google. This is very important, as it was the doom of Randal Schwarz. He was asked if he hacked his employer on purpose, he disregarded mens rea when giving an honest answer, boom, felony conviction. Picture postcard example of why talking to cops is BAD when you're innocent. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 26 '17 at 16:48
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    mens rea - /menz ˈrēə/ - noun LAW. The intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused. (@Harper David Richerby already mentioned it, you could've just said "intent is mens rea" instead of asking me & everyone else to google it...) – Xen2050 Oct 27 '17 at 16:25
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A relatively simple solution: the next time you are at the airport for any reason, bring the blanket to an Aer Lingus ticket agent, say "I accidentally took this off the plane", hand it to them, and walk away.

[Edited to add: @Xen2050 points out that airports are sufficiently paranoid environments that you shouldn't just drop the blanket and walk away -- it would be a lot less threatening to do something like walk up to the ticket agent with the blanket in your hands and say "I accidentally took this off the plane, can you please take care of it for me?"]

Relatively low admin overhead, you get to clear your conscience by getting the blanket back to the airline, and the ticket agent almost certainly can figure out the right way to get the blanket back into circulation.

Whether it takes a week or a month or several months the blanket is still equally valuable to the airline, after all.

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    Asking the agent if they waned the blanket back might be a little smarter, handing things in airports, or leaving them alone & walking away isn't very good airport etiquette, security might have some questions for you – Xen2050 Oct 27 '17 at 16:20
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I've been in this position myself: I accidentally took with me a small toy from a clothing store and didn't realise it until much much later.

I had intended to pay for it but my friends took a very long time shopping and at some point I forgot I had it in my hand and unconciously tucked it into a pocket. There was no security tag, no loss prevention took notice (or they didn't stop me), so I "got away".

I didn't notice until some days later that it was in my pocket. I was very far from the original store, they didn't have locations in my city, so it wasn't feasible to return in person. Returning it via post would have cost more than it was worth.

I came to view it as a simple mistake, not a theft. I forgave myself and moved on. This is what I recommend for you. Life happens, small mistakes occur, c'est la vie. Businesses budget indirectly for this sort of thing.

However, if you can't forgive yourself, call the airline. They'll probably tell you to keep it.

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The simple fact is that it is their property, and returning it is the right thing to do. That is the only moral burden you have to resolve.

This is independent of the supposed cost on their end. The person you contact will not have to work an extra 15 minutes, because of you.

Options

email ccu@aerlingus.com and wait for answer.

Drop it off at a ticket or baggage claim office, if you will be flying soon.

Or the quickest is to mail the blanket to:

Headquarters North America
Aer Lingus 300 Jericho Quadrangle, Suite 130 Jericho, NY 11753

Or find your country here:

Or https://www.aerlingus.com/support/contact-us/#/tab-0-ireland

Mailing it involves some time and cost to you, but zero frustration. It does not require interactions with customer support people, who won't be able to help.

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    Mailing it also has the benefit that OP can simply add a small note saying "I took this by mistake from flight XXX on date YYY, not realizing in time that doing so was prohibited. Sorry." No need for OP to give their name or other identifying information, and the airline will have some idea why a blanket suddenly showed up in the mail. This may be an advantage for some people. – a CVn Nov 1 '17 at 9:58
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One way you can help the industry, the environment, and potentially this specific airline is to bring this with you as part of your travel kit.

So when the attendants come around, passing out blankets, instead refuse and pull out your own. This will benefit you also as not all flights have this luxury, or even enough blankets.

Both my wife and I carry blankets (and often pillows) in our carry on bags even for relatively short domestic US flights. It just makes life more comfortable.

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    When I've flown intercontinentally, there's already been a small package with blankets on every seat when I boarded ... – Henning Makholm Oct 30 '17 at 12:44
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    You can still put that packet into the overhead bin unused. Same effect. – Pete B. Oct 30 '17 at 13:07
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You should probably just keep it and move on. Is this morally correct? Probably not. But life isn't fair.

The damage that you have done to the airline is rather neglegible. I've intentionally (assuming they'd throw them away after one use anyway just like they throw away perfectly good food) taken those blankets with me for about 25 years before realizing that they actually want them back. Well guess what, I've not gone to jail, nobody (not even cabin crew watching me openly taking the blankets off the plane) ever told me to stop stealing their stuff, and none of the airlines I've travelled with has gone bankrupt. So that's that.

On the other hand, those blankets are -- despite being ultra low-cost -- of a surprisingly good quality with very desirable properties that makes the one you took away a most valuable possession of yours. If nothing else, it's quite warm and comfortable, and fire retardant, something you can't say about any blanket that you can buy in a store.

If your bad conscience wouldn't allow you to keep the blanket, you can just hand it back to cabin crew without comment (so it's less embarrassing) on your next flight. That will probably be the only practical way of getting rid of the blanket.

I very much doubt the airline would like to deal with the excessive cost of returning a mostly worthless item otherwise, the effort outweights the gains.
If you call them, the phone operator will probably tell you to just keep it (and you should be prepared that the operator laughs at you). Not only does the guy on the phone line care crap, but also it's much better in the company's point of view to let you do free advertising (carrying a blanket with the airline's logo) than have someone whom they're actually paying to do something useful waste 15 minutes of his time to reclaim a mostly worthless item.
As long as not every passenger steals the blanket (and the seat!) that's not a real problem, even more so as the maximum number of blankets that can be stolen is limited.

  • Please read existing answers before you write one, especially when there are so many answers already. You did not add anything new, you just said the same as several of the answers already there. – Willeke Nov 2 '17 at 16:52
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Look, first of all, they will not even notice that, they will not wonder, they have tons of extra blankets available in their warehouses, a lot of passengers everyday take small plane stuff with them like blankets and the airlines are not feeling frustrated about that, as the cost of sanitizing a blanket would be slight less than the cost of using a new one.

On the other hand, YES this is "somehow" considered as stealing, this consideration is not coming from the airline but from the standards of the human manners, what to do the best, give it to any homeless person or keep it with you till the next flight and leave it in the plane (but please don't take the new one with you), whatever you will decide do, just leave the airline a gentle email to relieve any guilt from your shoulders, and believe me they will not even pay an attention to that.

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    This does not add much, or maybe anything at all, to the answers already posted. – Willeke Oct 29 '17 at 11:20

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