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I understand the this is normal practice for Airlines. It certainly is with BA.
We are allowed to take off any item that has been specifically put on as Crew food + crew allocated small water bottles. A small amount of economy wine, beer can, mixers or spit miniatures can be purchased. There is a matrix of the amount and prices. Anything else is strictly forbidden.
Regardless of whether there are 50 untouched trays in economy with sandwiches or a biscuit etc, we can consume onboard, but must not remove from the aircraft. This ruling has been in place for about 20 years.
This does make me chuckle.
In the heady days of the 80s when working in aviation was fun, ‘liberating’ untouched food from the galley at the end of the day or a terminating sector by the red caps and engineers was accepted as the norm. Dry stores, alcohol, soft dinks were not touched as they were reusable, however anything that was going to be ‘thrown’ was fair game. I have often stood amazed at the speed at which a seasoned red cap could clear the galley of unused hot meals / crew sandwiches / crew meals / tea bags / milk etc. I often asked why, and most explained they were so busy they did not have time to visit the staff canteen for a break, and the cost was always too high.
As a steward (yep steward, not politically correct CA of FA) terminating at a UK outstation for the minimum rest turnaround we would ensure that any unused hot meals or food was left for the night shift ground crew. We of course would have our own supplies to take to the hotel as our rest time was short and the allowances did not cover hotel food prices.
It was accepted as the ‘norm’, of course those were the days when there was no onboard computerisation, security checks at the airport were minimal and consisted of showing your airside pass, so taking food to the hotel / office was relatively easy. And of course in those days airlines were generally run by airline people who may have ascended through the ranks and had done this sort of thing in the past. It was also standard practice that generous hot meal ‘buffers’ were carried and rarely used.
I remember a friend of mine who was a turn around despatcher at LGW and could relate to which airline had the best pickings of left over untouched food. (hot breakfasts and crew sandwich trays from Air Europe, hot meals from DAN AIR, American goodies from People Express, the list is endless).
I wonder if Air India are being too draconian unless there is reason to believe that certain items are being pilfered for selling on.