Should You Tip Your Flight Attendant?

Photo (cc) by georgeparrilla

In an industry that constantly seems to be aiming for our last nickel and dime, it seems weird to ask whether flight attendants should be tipped.

Especially to me, since I’ve never heard of such a thing. But Airfarewatchdog recently asked whether people do, SmarterTravel says, and 30 percent of the more than 500 respondents said yes. I guess it is a thing.

But flight attendants aren’t like waitstaff, starting at a $2.13 minimum wage and relying on tips to make at least the federal minimum wage. The median annual salary for a flight attendant was $37,740 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the median annual pay for waiters and waitresses was $18,330 that year.

For that matter, even though they bring us drinks and snacks and deal with our complaints, their primary job isn’t customer service. It’s to keep us safe. Their job is required by law, and every flight attendant is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, the BLS says.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents nearly 60,000 employees at 19 airlines, says its members don’t accept tips, according to NBC News. On the other hand, a discussion about tipping attendants over at BudgetTravel.com was sparked by an anonymous attendant who gave this confession:

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.

Some readers were offended by the idea, while others supported it. BudgetTravel’s own poll on the question found that 34 percent of more than 1,000 respondents believed attendants deserved tips for exceptional service. Another 11 percent said they “absolutely” deserve tips.

Have you ever heard of tipping flight attendants? Have you done it? Let us know what you think on Facebook.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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