Just over a month ago a controversial article emerged. At the forefront of it was Frontier Airlines, an ultra-low-cost carrier based in Denver, Colorado. The American airline recently was critiqued by various aviation industry experts on their policy of encouraging passengers to tip flight attendants.
The process is simple – you purchase a beverage, a snack or any other item from their menu and get a tablet from the Cabin Crew. On it, you see the usual things you should see – the total sum and your balance for the whole flight. However, there are 5 extra options for you to choose from. A 15%, 20% and 25% tip from your sum, an option not to leave a tip or a custom tip.
Now, the option not to leave a gratuity is presented in a very interesting way. “I prefer not to leave a gratuity” – reminding us of the South Park episode where Randy did not donate to charity when paying for his groceries at Whole Foods and being shamed for it. While passengers are not shamed publicly, the phrasing of it seems a bit aggressive. On the other hand, forceful wording is probably the lesser of two evils.
Getting back to the point, let’s ask ourselves the big question that surfaced after Frontier’s policies were revealed.
Frontier Flight Attendants Tipping. Source
Tipping is nothing unusual in the service sphere. Tipping your server at a restaurant or your local barista is nothing out of the norm. Some people tip taxi drivers, barbers or hairdressers even cashiers at a supermarket. While these cases are rarer, they are not something that would be frowned upon.
So what’s the difference between those professions and a Flight Attendant?
I have heard people say that Cabin Crew members are just a “glorified waitress”. To be honest, that made my blood boil a little bit. Not to disrespect any servants - their job is very hard, but there is a huge difference between the two.
Firstly, flight attendants are the people that are responsible for your safety. Their main priority is to work together with the pilots to assure that you get from point A to point B in a safe and comfortable manner. That is no easy task, taking into account what kind of dangers a flight can encounter. From terrifying landings and delivering babies mid-air to worst case scenarios, the risks are high. Nevertheless, do not be scared – flying is one of the safest ways to travel around the world!
In a similar way, they have to go through a long training period to step their foot on an airplane as an attendant. You can‘t just simply turn up to an airport and tell people that you are the flight attendant now. Serving their customers, simulating extreme situations and giving first-aid are just small examples of the daily lives of Flight Attendants. Again, you won‘t come face to face with such requirements when applying for any job in the service industry.
To answer the question of whether you should – you can. Though do not go overboard with it. Flight attendants have strict wage structures with unions helping them fight corporate greed from the airlines.
One argument why you should not “give gratuities” is that airlines, especially low-cost carriers, are running on very tight profit margins. Because of this, they might argue that flight attendants can earn money from tips as well and reduce their wages. Waiters at restaurants, notably in the United States, have suffered massively from this.
Similarly, as mentioned previously, flight attendants are not there to serve you. I cannot stress this enough. They are here to make sure you reach your family, make your business meeting or travel around the world safely. Even then, if you do not tip them the first time a trolley rolls past you, will you receive worse service the second time or when you leave the plane?
Controversially, Frontier Airlines had a policy that all the tips collected on a flight were split evenly between all the attendants on the flight. However, after a very negative outlook for the airline, Frontier changed the policy. The new rules went into effect after the 1st of January, 2019. The new rules indicate that tips are allocated to the person who sold the item off the menu.
To play the devil’s advocate here, at least Frontier does not take any cut from the tips. And it did start providing with the option to tip when they switched their business model to an ultra-low-cost one. The switch meant pay cuts to its staff, in order to reduce the ticket prices on their flights. To help their crew earn a little more, especially flight attendants, Frontier introduced tipping.
Well, not so much. Different airlines have different policies around the world. That’s why you would be able to tip the flight attendants on one flight, yet be unable to on another flight. And that would be down purely to company policy, as some airlines disallow flight attendants to take tips from passengers. Whatever the reason might be, it might be for the best in the long-term.
I love tipping probably as much as you do and I can empathize with the people that work grueling hours. On the other hand, earnings made from tipping can put a dent into the wage of the people you are actually tipping. Since everybody tips differently, their monthly earnings can fluctuate to the better or worse side. And I can confidently say that none of us love a lower wage compared to the last month.
By way of contrast, that might motivate the flight attendants to step their game up in the service department. But, as I have already talked about this – their main duty is to make sure you get safely to your destination. And when I think about it, nobody loves an obnoxious sales person that is trying too much to pitch in the product he’s selling.
In all, would you be able to tip Flight Attendants? Not everywhere, unfortunately.
Therefore, if we have covered the Should and Would parts, I ask You the question – will You tip the cabin crew?