Flight Attendants Say They Don’t Want Tips – For Two Reasons

If you buy something from a food truck and pay with a credit card, chances are you’ll be presented with a tablet to sign your name — and you’ll be given the option to tip even though there was no server or service. Many fast casual restaurants follow this approach now, too. And so does Frontier Airlines.

There’s been a lot of media coverage of Frontier Airlines’ policy of soliciting flight attendant tips when making an on board purchase, set off by JT Genter’s New Year’s Eve post about the practice.

Frontier use to pool all the tips and split them evenly across the crew. Now individual flight attendants keep the tips they generate.

I wondered what other flight attendants think of the practice, and whether they’d want it to spread to their airline. The ‘AAStews’ Instagram account shared feedback on the idea from American Airlines crew.

Today American Airlines flight attendants aren’t permitted to accept tips. Indeed, though many passengers do tip (and there’s that weird bill-looking thing that’s been presented to customers at the end of a meal) according to American Airlines Senior Vice President Suzanne Boda tipping in Flagship Dining is not permitted. Jim Moses, now Vice President for Philadelphia, told me a year ago that the reason is that the dining concept is “an extension of the cabin.”

But should they get tips in the cabin?

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Whether it be serving buy on board food items, serving cocktails or serving up a little sass …(oh wait 😳), that cart can keep you busy. With the recent news of Frontier flight attendants accepting gratuity in flight (its a screen on their tablet with an option to leave gratuity when paying for food or drinks) , it’s opening up the big question::: should we all be getting tipped? My intention was to post the DM’s i received today from the posted poll about tipping, but I had far too many so I thought i would leave the comments open so you could share your thoughts below . (Keep it nice, please) 🙏🏼 This is my opinion on tipping flight attendants. First reaction: everyone else in the service industry is making tips. Why not flight attendants. After giving it some thought : We are here PRIMARILY for your safety. We have spent years gaining the respect in the industry as professionals. Furthermore, tipping would be income and income is taxed. I am not willing to take a pay cut to allow tipping. NOW…What one person said. We’re not going to turn down commission on food sales, gift cards, chocolates etc. I am not sure why we don’t earn commission on alcohol. Someone would have to set me straight on that one. Ok, your turn. Comment away … ….thanks to @jettingjulia for this pic that fell right in my lap for this subject 😘😘😘

A post shared by AASTEWS Living Life In The Sky (@aastews) on

Flight attendants were clearly split on the issue, some wanting more money and others offering two arguments against the practice. The analytical responses, as opposed to those merely voting yes/no, were strongly against tipping. There are two general reasons,

  • They don’t want the expectation of service that would come along with a tipping regime, they’re there primarily for your safety.

  • They realize that there’s no free money. More tipping means lower wages. That’s how it works in restaurants and indeed that’s how it works at Frontier and their flight attendant’s union opposes tipping as a result.

One Frontier flight attendant commented,

Hi guys! Frontier flight attendant here! So the reason that we have been allowed to receive tips (and have for some time) is because we are paid substantially lower. They tell us it’s to supplement our income. Just like we get a bonus when someone turns in on our credit card applications with our employee number on it. The option is there to tip or not isn’t actually something a lot of us care about. I know I personally will skip that screen for people sometimes because they really don’t owe me anything for doing my job. But yeah, overall, it’s to help with our lower income. Love this page and would love to hear y’all thoughts! Happy flying!

Tipping doesn’t necessarily increase wages for employees overall over time.

  • People are willing to take a job at a given wage
  • Tipping is just one source for funding that wage
  • More tipping means less pay

To be sure some employees will receive more tips than others, and a tipping regime where employees keep the individual tips they’re given will mean an unequal distribution of wages. It’s also possible that tipping plus a minimum wage (floor) could raise wages above their current level, which would also increase competition for jobs.

One comment I found interesting through is that flight attendants may feel they deserve commission not just on the credit card applications they collect that are approved but on their inflight alcohol sales.

I’d suggest they be careful what they wish for, Ryanair flight attendants were revealed to have inflight sales quotas:

Ryanair cabin crew are required to sell eight scratch cards each per day or face action, an internal staff memo shows….daily targets also include selling one bottle of perfume a day, one meal deal, and one item of fresh food.

I’m not sure it would be a good idea for flight attendants to view themselves as selling alcohol inflight, incentivizing them to get passengers to drink more. That can’t end well. It can only end up making a carrier’s flights resemble Ryanair’s.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I’m no fan of tipping, but if I were a flight attendant, I’d be happy to receive tips. Customers over-value personal service. Restaurant waiters are over-paid as a result (compared to other low skill jobs). I don’t think unionized airline salaries would decline of flight attendants were allowed to receive tips. All that would happen is that flight attendants would earn more money for doing basically the same job. They might be then overpaid for that work, but that’s not their problem!

  2. OMG, not the “primarily for your safety” BS again. Who do they think they are kidding? Watch me roll my eyes.

    I thought it was a bad idea the instant I read about it for different reason. If the airline allows tipping, some yahoo is going to tip big, thinking it’s a prelude to hitting on the crew.

  3. If they want tips then they better be prepared to actually provide service, like pre departure drink service that is more than just warm water, or not scoffing when a pax presses the service button for a refill. It’s even hard to get the occasional smile out of some air-waitresses, err, flight attendants.

  4. In all European and Asian Airlines in which I have flown, tipping is not allowed

    I usually thank all Cabin Crew when I disembark the plane

    I know that they have probably had to deal with many situations that I may be not aware of

    A warm greeting to the Crew is a human contact that makes me feel good

  5. Does anyone know how much commission a flight attendant makes for each completed credit card application? I heard between $50.00 -$100.00?

  6. @Joseph N. —> I want to hear you say that’s it’s BS after you’ve been involved in an emergency landing or a mid-air emergency of some sort (hopefully not catastrophic). As for tipping being a prelude to getting hit on by passengers, those who try to “hit on” FAs are already doing so — and have for years! — without tips. that won’t change anything much if at all.,

  7. If I give the FA a big tip, she (not a he) better make sure my ass gets off first in an emergency. But seriously FA tipping is a horrible idea from so many standpoints they are too numerous to list. I won’t fly an airline that adopts that policy. (Airlines are shaking in their boots.) Just because some douchebag gives out a big tip and gets the FAs fawning all over him/her that means I and everyone else get less service. Maybe some dude will “make it rain” and have the FAs diving for bills in the aisle. Now that might be fun to see.

  8. Tipping on airline flights will eventually become a norm. And no, this is not a good thing. Tipping will give an excuse to the management to reduce the wages or cause them to get stagnant. America is absolutely and unequivocally nuts about tips and tipping. While tipping is not limited to the U.S., nowhere in the world is the tipping culture so out of whack.

  9. @Jason, on the topic of “primarily for your safety,” the problem is FAs usually forget the “primarily” part.

    Yes, if worse comes to worst, they’re there for our safety, it’s what they’re trained for. But what happens the remainder / most of the flight? Should they just sit and chat, waiting for disaster to strike, and only then do something of value to passengers?

    No.

    “Primarily” does not mean “exclusively.” Whether they want to accept it or not, FAs have other duties as well. Otherwise they could outright refuse to perform them. What some (very vocal) FAs do instead is complain about having to do anything other than the bare minimum and show a total lack of empathy to customers.

  10. We don’t need more tipping. We are already paying to be on board the plane. Employers should pay the appropriate wage and be done with it.

  11. “If you buy something from a food truck and pay with a credit card, chances are you’ll be presented with a tablet to sign your name — and you’ll be given the option to tip even though there was no server or service.” – I will never pay a tip for something like this. I don’t know why people insist on tipping everyone even when there is no service. In NYC things are already extremely expensive and then the taxes on top of that and they want me to pay more just for the hell of it? Enough is enough.

  12. Contrary to what Ms. Boda says, we always leave a tip in the Flagship Dining which is received with a polite thank you and never refused. That said, I have no problems with these employees accepting tips. The service is much better and more attentive than at most restaurants, and I feel they should be rewarded for that.

  13. I like the Alaska Airlines Lounge policy of no tipping. All of Japan has that rule. In England and Hong Kong, tipping is like loose change.

    I live in New York. Tipping is out of control here. It used to be double the tax, about 17.5%. Now, 20% or above is usual. I am guessing in 10 years, it will be 25% or above.

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