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Tipping Cabin Crew: What Do Airlines & Flight Attendants Themselves Think?

Date: December 19, 2022

By Justin Surette, Simple Flying

If you’re a frequent flyer, you may have seen the occasional passenger give their flight attendant wrapped treats or perhaps even a gift card. For readers who’ve traveled with Frontier Airlines within the last few years, you would have been presented with a tablet asking for a cash tip when purchasing an in-flight beverage. But how do industry professionals feel about it, and how far should this culture be pushed?

What are the rules?

As you might know, nearly all airlines restrict their cabin crew from receiving tips. Some carriers, such as Southwest Airlines, discourage flight attendants from accepting when first offered, but if the passenger continually offers, crew members are allowed to receive a tip.

Interestingly, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) agrees with this idea, saying flight attendants are “aviation’s first responders” rather than service workers. Ultimately, crew members are certified health and safety professionals that play secondary customer service roles when pouring drinks, serving food, or solving problems throughout the cabin.

When all systems are functioning normally, the only glimpse passengers typically see of the safety role is a brief speech before takeoff. While rare, flight attendants are always ready for the situation to break down. Money has the potential to sabotage efforts in case of emergency, and under no circumstance could a passenger expect the crew to act with more haste when medical treatment is needed or to be placed in a more advantageous seat in case evacuation is necessary.

What would a flight attendant say?

Perhaps the duality of being trained to handle countless emergencies while providing extraordinary customer service makes this issue a hot topic. At best, tipping could prompt some flight attendants to check if passengers need any extra food or beverages while in the air. However, the consequences of introducing this culture to aviation on a large scale would undermine campaigns to increase wages and improve working conditions.

Although average salaries are notoriously low, flight attendants will never expect anything other than passenger cooperation. A cabin crew member who worked between major airlines in Europe and the Middle East told Simple Flying that a smile and thank you can go a long way, and when a passenger gives the crew a bag of chocolates to split, it’s a cause for celebration.

How to say thank you

Regardless of where you’re flying from or to, the safest option is not to tip. If you’d like to show appreciation to a flight attendant who provided excellent service, a non-cash gift is acceptable and will certainly be cherished (though we suggest any chocolates or treats be properly sealed). Another idea for the extra keen passenger is to write a positive note to the airline about your experience by email, LinkedIn, or an alternative social media platform and tag the company. If airline management takes notice, there’s a chance your flight attendant could receive company recognition or even a promotion.

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