Should tipping flight attendants be the norm? We asked airline cabin crew for their opinion
Flight attendants not only keep everyone in the airplane cabin safe, they pour us drinks like bartenders, deliver meals like waiters, help with our luggage like bellhops, and tend to our every need like concierges. And while we willingly tip all of these hospitality professionals for their service, we rarely think of tipping our flight attendants who wear all these hats and more.
Whether or not travelers should tip flight crews often comes up during the holiday season – the tipping season, when we also give annual tips to other service professionals. Given that the majority of flight attendants are only paid for “flight hours,” meaning boarding and disembarking time goes unpaid for most airlines, and with year-end travel being so hectic, this could be a habit to break should we extend to flight crews during busy travel season or even year round?
New York-based flight attendant Sarah, who asked to be identified by only her first name, says she never received tips, but did receive chocolates, snacks, thank-you notes, and even gift cards “for places like Starbucks that most flight attendants are happy to receive.” She appreciates that thoughtfulness and saying, “It just makes me want to pass that same energy on.”
But she admits she wonders why she used to get tips as a bartender but never as a flight attendant. “I wish it was more customary and customary to tip in some way,” she says. “Think of how many flight attendants are missing out on these holidays at home with family to take passengers to their holiday celebrations. This job gets particularly lonely during the holidays, so yes, I think tipping should be more common at times like this.”
She adds that perhaps the practice should be even more common in premium cabins, where “the experience is exactly like a restaurant. If you think you should tip at a restaurant, you should also tip on the air.” But Sarah adds that overall, this should only be done if you feel you’ve received good service.
Shawn Kathleen, a former flight attendant who now runs the social media account Passenger Shaming, says she received “decent amounts” in tips during her flying years. One of the most memorable was when she chatted with a passenger during a flight and mentioned that she needed to get a manicure after landing. “As he got off the plane, he gave me $50 and was like, ‘This is for you to get your nails done,'” she recalls. “That was great.”
Another time, a couple who were frequent flyers on one of their routes came back from Mexico and gave her a small bobbing-head turtle as a souvenir on the return trip. “These people were on vacation thinking about the flight crew — that’s just so cute!” she says. “Stuff like that was just so nice.”