Tipping is a complex world. Once confined to receiving good service in bars and restaurants, the rise of tipping culture in many industries has seen tips expected by everyone from your hairdresser to the clothes store clerk you’ve just bought a t-shirt from.
The role of cabin crew straddles both safety, and customer service, so it’s understandable that passengers may wonder if it’s appropriate to tip their flight attendant. Let’s take a closer look at the issue.
Recently, a self-checkout kiosk at an airport asked me if I wanted to tip 25 percent for a coconut water, even though I hadn’t interacted with anyone.Tipping Is Weird Now — The Atlantic
Yes, flight attendants do occasionally get gifts and tips, although it is not as commonplace as jobs working in the service industry.
In my experience, flight attendants at airlines that sell food and drink typically earn more tips. It makes sense, customers are physically handing over money for food and drink, and have an opportunity to tip for good service.
It’s worth noting that tipping culture is most common in the United States. In other parts of the world, tipping flight attendants is not expected or sometimes even prohibited. So, if you’re flying internationally, it’s a good idea to do a little research beforehand to determine whether tipping is appropriate on the airline you are flying on.
One exception to this rule, where flight attendants see a large amount of tipping, is onboard bars. In the latest generation of aircraft, some operators — including Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Korean Air and Qantas — have outfitted their aircraft with dedicated sky bar areas. Like in a traditional bar, flight attendants, even at full-service carriers, typically receive numerous tips.
In contrast, on luxury or full-service airlines where food and drink are free, passengers feel they have already paid for all of their food and drinks in the ticket price. With no transactions taking place onboard, tipping is significantly rarer.
Small gifts, such as a box of chocolates or snacks, are frequently received by flight attendants. While some are from passengers, more typically, gifts are given by other airline staff travelling on their free tickets, who appreciate their flight attendants!
Gifting flight attendants large or expensive gifts are rarely given on commercial flights. After all, for safety and security reasons, flight attendants are advised not to share their rosters online, so customers do not know who will be on their flight before boarding the aircraft.
However, having spent a period of time working in the private jet industry, large and expensive gifts were a lot more common. A combination of wealthy owners, a close-knit team, and the rapport built up by flying with the same passengers for several years changes the dynamic. This means, at the end of the year or during special occasions, it was not uncommon for private flight attendants to receive large gifts.
Should you tip your flight attendant?
First, it’s important to note that while tipping flight attendants is not common practice, it is generally appreciated. While trained for safety, the majority of a flight attendant’s working day is similar to any other service-based industry — serving customers food and drink and sorting out problems! And like most customer service roles, it’s nice to appreciate recognition for a job well done.
That being said, tipping is not required or expected, and it’s ultimately up to the individual passenger to decide whether to leave a tip.
I would also add, while tipping may be appreciated, there are also some downsides to consider.
Additionally, although it’s sweet to show your appreciation for a job well done, it’s important to remember that flight attendants are primarily there to ensure your safety — and we are paid accordingly.
OK, we might employ some creative side hustles to make additional cash, but most flight attendants are paid well above the minimum wage. Unlike customer service roles where rules allow a low base pay if tipping is expected to form a large portion of the salary, tips do not play any part of our salary expectations.
Finally, because financial transactions often aren’t taking place, sometimes tips and gifts can make things a bit awkward.
I’ve personally seen some interesting exchanges between crew and passengers who have tried to tip large amounts of money before demanding upgrades.
This is not appropriate and could potentially result in disciplinary action if the flight attendant is deemed to have been giving upgrades for personal gain.
As a result, if you do decide to leave a tip, it’s generally best to do so at the end of the flight. This ensures that the flight attendant is not distracted during the flight and can focus on their duties. It’s also a good idea to keep the amount of the tip reasonable – a few dollars is typically sufficient.
As a role that straddles passenger safety alongside customer service, it can be difficult to know where it stands when it comes to tipping cabin crew.
To summarise, tipping flight attendants is not yet a common practice, although if you’ve felt you’ve had a particularly great flight and want to tip, it is appreciated.
However, it’s important to remember that some flight attendants are not allowed to accept tips while on duty, and expecting upgrades or special treatments in exchange for tips and gifts is not appropriate.
Finally, as an international industry, expectations around tipping will vary depending on where you board the plane! Like all travel plans, it’s best to have a quick google ahead of time to find out the local customs, before deciding on tipping!