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December 17, 2008

Flight Attendants: To Tip or Not to Tip?

This week, Daily Traveler reader j_goettel asked: How do you feel about tipping flight attendants?  They are so hassled (especially nowadays) and work so hard, I think it would help their spirits a lot.

Very thoughtful of you, j_goettel. This issue seems to pop up from time to time, but it comes as a surprise now, considering that even workers who traditionally get holiday tips are expecting less generous payouts this year.

Here's something from "Confessions Of...A Flight Attendant" that ran two years ago in Budget Travel:

Tipping is not encouraged by the airlines, but greatly appreciated by the staff. The key is insisting that we take the money; we're not allowed to accept it on the first attempt. I make doubly sure to attend to the needs of anyone who has tipped me, sometimes throwing in a free round--and the drinks are always strong. Another way to the crew's heart is to give them snacks. Day in, day out, we stare at the same dull airline food. So we're overjoyed when a passenger treats us with fancy chocolates or even packaged trail mix. Simply wait until boarding is complete, hand the gift to a flight attendant, and say, "This is a little something for your crew."

Its author chose to remain anonymous, which should tell us something. The DT's airline industry expert, Barbara S. Peterson, says she has heard of fliers bringing gifts of candy and cookies to the gate in a somewhat transparent ploy to get a better seat, but she has rarely observed passengers doing so in flight.

Another thought, this time from a Condé Nast Traveler editor: "This may be old-fashioned, but I think the best thing to do is ask for their names and then write letters to the customer service department of the airline praising them; I think the letter goes in their files."

When the New York Times posted this column asking why flight attendants aren't tipped, it sparked a lively debate. Reader comments were varied, running the gamut from some flight attendants who didn't like the idea and found it demeaning to those who thought, "Why not?"  That was two years ago, though. What do you think, readers?

Comments

I'm a former flight attendant and the airlines (I flew for two) that I worked for did not allow tipping. It is unprofessional for people that are highly trained safety personnel. That is the primary reason for flight attendants.

I have tipped flight attendants and
they were very pleased--it made their day, and seeing their reaction made mine (after a long, tiring flight). Generally, I gave flowers or jewelry to stewardesses, not money, so it is more like a gift than a tip. Anyway, barbers and tour guides are trained, but we tip them. Police officers and some other public officials involved in safety should never be tipped, because it looks like a bribe, but you are not bribing a flight attendant. Also, public employees have pensions and such.

We are considering a trip to southern France this May and are thinking about attending the Grand Prix de Monte Carlo. We understand that tickets are required. Any suggestions about the best and easiest way to get tickets? Thanks!

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