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To tip or not to tip your flight attendant?

Airline travel often brings a common, yet hard to answer a question: “Should I tip the flight attendant?”

Those who tip argue that at a time when good services are on the decline, a particularly polite crew member deserves a dollar bill or more. Meanwhile, some airlines allow tipping, while others do not. For instance, at Southwest Airlines, flight attendants have to refuse a tip at first, but if a passenger insists, they are allowed to accept it, according to USA Today.

“The largest tip I ever received was left for me in an empty peanut bag,” Lauren Cashman, who used to work at Southwest, said. “The passenger came to the back galley and said he had won big in Vegas and wanted to share. The peanut bag contained $600. I split it with my crew, and we had a great dinner that night in Reno.”


“Flight attendants should not be tipped,” says Jo Jo Harder, a former flight attendant. She understands that clients might feel the need to tip for good service, but in her career, such a thing was not allowed.

Despite the good intentions behind the tipping, the action might doom the profession by creating an entire class of tip-dependent flight attendants. If tipping flight attendants persists, airlines might do what restaurant owners have already done – pay their employees the minimum wage and force them to depend on clients to make ends meet.

Some alternatives to tipping are: gift cards – unlike cash tips, they are never turned down, a letter of commendation that might help the employee in the future when the airline wants to offer a promotion or a bonus or a small present, like candies or snacks for hungry-looking flight attendants.

Dianne Gottsman, a national etiquette expert in the US, also offers some guidelines on her site for passengers, that might help them show their gratefulness to the flight attendants without tipping. They include:

  • Smiling and verbally thanking the flight attendant
  • Leaving positive feedback on an airline’s website, as people bother to write a review only when it refers to something negative
  • Being courteous and patient in stressful situations that are out of the flight attendant’s control
  • Listen attentively when the flight attendant goes over the pre-flight safety demonstration
  • Watch your liquor consumption
  • If travelling with a child, don’t make it the flight attendant’s job to act as a nanny

Daisy Wilder