Have you ever tipped (or seen someone tip) a flight attendant?

USA Today had an interesting article on Wednesday about whether you should tip a flight attendant. What shocked me was this figure:

Savvy travelers know to tip the taxi driver, the airport skycap, the hotel bellman and the restaurant’s waiter. But what about the flight attendant?

A surprising 27% of some 900 respondents to a poll posted by Airfarewatchdog, said they give gratuities, 20% as thanks for a job well-done and 7% as a reward for being made more comfortable.

27% of respondents say they give gratuities to flight attendants?! Now, merits of tipping flight attendants aside (and as much as my wallet wants to deny it, I do see some merit to it), I’ve never seen anyone attempt to tip a flight attendant. Ever. I know many flight attendants that say they’ve been tipped once or twice on flights to/from Vegas, but the 27% figure seems totally off.

Have you ever tipped a flight attendant, or seen anyone else try to tip a flight attendant?

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Never. I know you fly a LOT more than I do but I’ve flown over 125 flights every year for the past 10 years and I’ve never seen this. I think 27% of the respondents thought it would sound good if they said they did this.

  2. I’ve never seen anyone try to tip a flight attendant, nor have I ever tipped a flight attendant. The closest I’ve ever come was taking a flight attendant to dinner and drinks during the FA’s layover in HNL.

    But this was a LONG time ago (the FA was the purser working the First Class cabin of an America West 747 from PHX-HNL – does that tell you how long ago!!!)

  3. I had only 300 flights in my life and once I actually did tip a flight attendant because her service was phenomenal but guess what?
    She looked at me and said – what is this? And told me they have a charity, I should donate there!
    I felt awkward… Since then I never tip them!

  4. I don’t tip with cash but everytime I fly AA domestic I buy roughly half a dozen donuts/bagels/muffins for the crew and leave them with the FA as I board. Since I use BA Avios that means economy flights and I’m not EXP but I haven’t paid for a drink on AA in years 😉 (free snacks too!)

  5. @ Jason h — Given that most airlines are cashless nowadays and only take credit card, even that doesn’t add up.

  6. Maybe 27% of their respondents were FA’s – trying to star a trend 😉

    I’ve never seen anyone tip them.

  7. I’ve never seen it, nor have I done it. I definitely find that number weird as well!

  8. Never. Similar to Willy though I have brought pastries/bagels as a gift to crews on routes I fly regularly, and they have definitely appreciated it.

  9. PLEASE!!! do not start , we Americans “think” we MUST tip for people to do a good job — be more European

  10. I was on a AA flight some time ago where at the end of the flight the Purser said jokingly” If you have enjoyed the flight, you should tip the crew, but only $100s would be accepted. I had a old Brazilian 100 in my briefcase, handed it to the Purser. She looked shocked and then looked at the bill and laughed.

  11. Does handing out customer appreciation coupons count? I give those out all the time when I feel a particular flight attendant or crew were great! Now they come from the airline itself – but could be considered a tip…

  12. I’ve also handed out the UA coupons, and also commented to them above the call of duty moments. But would never tip a FA. Mention it to RyanAir and maybe they’ll pass around a tip jar before landing.

  13. I’ve never seen it happen.I might believe 2.7 %. Maybe they put the decimal point in the wrong place.

  14. I think it’s kind of like the mailman. I’d never give him (or her) cash, but a little token of my appreciation is fine. I’ve given bags of those little Ghirardelli chocolate squares several times. I’m usually in business so it’s not like I expect extra free drinks or anything from them. I did it once on Christmas Eve and they thought I was a god.

  15. I’ve experienced exceptional and tip-worthy service from flight attendants, but have never tipped. I once met a man who flew LAX-LHR on UA every few weeks (so he saw the same flight attendants all the time). He would bring them a box of chocolates and they’d hook him up in E+ with food and drinks from First.

  16. I knew flight attendants from now defuct Air Southwest in UK, who received cash tips from passangers for amazing influght service and cheerful attitude. It was mainly Newquay based crew!

  17. I am a former flight attendant…and I got tipped on alcohol once in a blue moon. And that was it. There were always people who would bring in the chocolates, the bagels, the specialty coffee etc.. and that was always appreciated. 27%? Not even close!!

  18. Maybe they’re counting the service people at the club. I always tip $1/drink when I’m at the club.

  19. Fly almost exclusively on AA. As my former next-door neighbor said (he built flight simulators, etc. for AA)– all the AA flight attendants have to take and pass the “surly advanced class” to become an actual flight attendant.
    Have only had one AA flight attendant that was worth tipping!

  20. No cash tips, but I do like the point certificates that DL gives out to elites that allows us to reward their employees who give great service. I have no idea what is does for the FA on the back-end, but it is always a feel-good moment for both of us when I’m able to handover the certificate and say, “Thank you for the exceptional service that you provided on our flight today.”

  21. When I was on a flight to Europe and getting my 1 millionth mile, we were upstairs in a 747. I brought boxes of Godiva for the pilots and FAs. In retrospect, I wonder if they ever got eaten. How would they know that I wasn’t trying to poison them all! I bet they had to toss them. I have never tipped nor seen anyone do it.

  22. I’ve never tipped an FA, but like others, i routinely give recognition (‘Expression of Thanks’) certificates to FAs and for international flights have always started the journey by bringing on a couple boxes of Godiva Truffles for the crew. I’ve yet to see a crew not be appreciative of this gesture.

  23. I was a flight attendant for SQ and I’ve experienced it once… It was a sweet old couple from New Zealand.. I was just so shocked didn’t know how to react. It is definitely not expected though 😛

  24. Why do I need to tip flight attendants? Are they working on measly hourly wage like waiters/waitresses? A praise or thank you is more than sufficient if they do their jobs outstandingly well? Do you tip your librarian? or travel agent? This American tipping culture need to severely toned down a few notch,…

  25. My friend tipped a flight attendant during his flight to his bachelor party at New Orlean from Chicago. It was a southwest flight, he chatted up the flight attendant and the flight attendant and he asked the flight attendant to give us those SW plastic flight pins. He was pretty loud too. So he slipped the flight attendant a 20 dollar tips before he gets off the plane

  26. I’ve done US Airway certs once or twice, I have a stash of them and Delta recognition cards sitting at home.

    A Delta FA once told me that the surveys you get via e-mail after upgrades and certain flights, are the BEST way to say thanks. Those actually impact their review directly.

  27. Survey sure sounds inaccurate to me. Can anyone find any original source link to info about the actual survey? I see lots of reports about it – but having difficulty actually finding the survey. I’m guessing that if you had the original data, it would be pretty easy to debunk.

  28. my better half has been with ANA and they are told to “politely accept” and throw away food when out of view. usually towards the end of the flight. Go back to customer and say thank you. Dont have to bullsh*t and say it was yummy. When it is money, they refuse it right there. alot of times, kids will give them small trinkets and they leave it on the plane for catering etc. once she got a nice bottle of vino a dude bought in DFS. she thanked him for it and we both drank it. some of the passengers will start asking for hotel names etc (which they never give out) but alas, most of the times, its futile. most of the asian flight attendants arent impressed with $$ since they seen alot over the years and in her case, she clears $100k easy with her per diem and duty adjustments.

  29. Yep I tip them occasionally on my private jet, of course I pay them to be there in the first place, but if they do a little extra work on the mid-cabin stripper pole, I throw some $20’s at them…..lol jk….no I haven’t and I’ve never seen anyone do it, it is a thankless job.

  30. No, have never seen this although agree with either certificates or an email to customer services about especially good service (BA have ba.com/welldone for this reason!)

    I’d also challenge the underlying premise re tipping and what ‘savvy travellers’ know – I’m afraid in my view the USA has gone way too far down the tipping road, with an expectation of close to 15-20% as routine.

  31. I think once or twice I’ve seen people tip when paying cash for a drink in coach. Much the same as one would when getting a drink in a bar. I’ve never done it personally, though, and agree 27% is not even close.

  32. I have never tipped any FA nor seen anyone else do it. I do give AA certs to FAs who provide exceptional service on my flights/ or on the phone. The American practice of tipping is way out of control! We tip practically everyone, and everyone practically expects a tip — it’s crazy now. And I’ve seen Americans try to tip in countries where it’s not the norm (Japan, China). Please Americans, stop it!

  33. What kind of envoy suite class on usairway.com is bookable with Dividend miles and be able to mixed with other carriers? For example, if I sea one seat of envoy suite NYC-LHR costing 100K or 162.5K round trip, can I book U.S airway NYC-LHR and EVA LHR-TPE by 90K dividend miles?

  34. @ Shannon – Yes, that should work. You’d want to look at “low” level flights, which should be those at 100k for the round trip.

  35. Stan, Alan, Dude26, Collector, & Flysalot all bashed the “out of control” tipping culture in America and several posters suggested we adopt a more European attitude toward tipping. Not even one single person bothered to acknowledge that UNLIKE Western Europe the US still has no universal health care system, or that we are in the process of shutting down our national government in order to prevent tens of millions of Americans who have no health insurance from receiving a reduced rate option that’s not tied to their employer. There’s a lot more to America’s tipping culture than first meets the eye, but you’ll probably never learn anything about it reading a soft news outlet like USA Today.

    sam said,
    “Some of the passengers will start asking for hotel names etc (which they never give out) but alas, most of the times, its futile. most of the asian flight attendants arent impressed with $$ since they seen alot over the years and in her case, she clears $100k easy with her per diem and duty adjustments.”

    FA’s are like any other group of people. They’ll do what they’re supposed to do most of the time, but if they’re genuinely interested they’ll break protocol on occasion. Also, Asia is a big place my friend. Many Asian FA’s don’t make much money at all, especially those who work for Asian LCC’s. Some Asia FA’s come from poor backgrounds where virtually anything is an improvement while others are merely using the job as a stepping stone to something better. Not to mention that USD $100K for someone living in place like Japan or Singapore or Hong Kong is not exactly a lot of money.

  36. I’ve given a little gift as a token of my appreciation. And they turned around brought me a few drinks and few more drink coupons for future flights.

  37. Hmmm… It seems like the article should have had a clear definition of tipping – is it cash or are small token gifts counted as well? It sounds like many commenters have given small gifts to crew members so perhaps that’s the explanation behind such huge numbers.

    With regards to American tipping culture — some positions are allowed to make below minimum wage with an expectation that they will get tips (waiters & food delivery drivers among them, IIRC). And at restaurants, waiters split tips with other staff so they aren’t exactly getting rich on tips.

  38. Good point, Ivan re the survey and token gifts.

    On the minimum wage part, the bit I still don’t get is that this is roughly $5, $7.5 or $9.40/h in the UK (under 18, 18-21 and >21yo respectively) – even if US employers are a bit below these rates with a 15-20% tip as some places are now advocating they’re going to end up way above that minimum rate.

    I take the point re. health cover, some really good coverage on this recently, the sooner some decent cover is made available the better but I don’t see how this is relevant to a tip, I thought it was meant to be for excellence in service? Instead it seems to have become an expected tax that folk will willingly be pay (and be given dark looks is lower amounts are paid!) – I must say I still like this approach to things… 😛


  39. What?! You guys must be tourists not business travelers. I’ve seen many people tip, at least one per flight.

    Personally I tip the flight attendant, between $50 and $100 (depending on length of flight). Also dress nice (business like) and have a pre hand written letter addressed to their supervisor, explaining how great they are at their job. If possible get this to them before the door closes (when they seat you is best).

    By doing this, you get perks. I have received: upgrades to first class, free alcohol, second/third meal.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *