Heather Poole, a veteran flight attendant for a major U.S. carrier, said it doesn’t happen often, but she has been tipped on flights.
She sees the practice most frequently on Las Vegas routes. Most passengers who try to tip are in economy class, she said.
“It’s company policy not to accept tips. That said, it’s always appreciated when a passenger makes such a nice gesture,” said Poole, the author of “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet.”
“Normally, I’ll turn it down at least three times, but if someone continues to insist that I accept a tip and then shoves it in my hand or pocket, I might take it. At this point, I feel like it’s almost rude not to.”
A regular passenger on the New York-Los Angeles route once gave the crew gold hoop earrings during Christmas, Poole recalled. Most tips consist of “a couple of singles,” but there’s been a time when a passenger presented $50, she added. Many people might be shocked at how little some of her colleagues make, Poole noted.
The median annual salary for a flight attendant was $37,740 in 2010, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though an entry-level position might start at $16,000.
“A nice letter means more than a lot to a flight attendant,” Poole agreed. “In (the) airline world people are quick to complain, so a few kind words really do go far. Sometimes those letters actually affect our careers.”
Saying “please” and “thank you” also makes an immediate difference because flight attendants don’t hear those words very often these days, Poole added.
“You wouldn’t believe how much a passenger with nice manners stands out on a plane,” she said.