Sunday musings: Tipping flight attendants, bringing souvenirs home, WiFi inflight concerns,


Today we can think about whether or not flight attendants should be tipped. If so, why? Read a piece that provides tips on how to carry more souvenirs home and learn about the safety questions recently raised about using personal electronic devices aboard aircraft.

Why shouldn’t we tip flight attendants?

I know that flight attendants look at themselves primarily as safety personnel, there to make sure that passengers are strapped in, terrorists lighting their shoes are stopped and that passengers can exit the plane in the event of emergency. But, let’s face it, on some planes they spend more time serving us sodas, snacks and meals. Those in first class fluff pillows and cater to many more whims. Flight attendants make our flights more enjoyable (and sometimes less so) just as a good waiter makes a meal a more pleasurable. So, why is it considered declassé to give flight attendants tips?

A poll on noted that more than 25 percent of passengers claim they have tipped flight attendants. I find that hard to believe. notes there isn’t much reason to tip a flight attendant.

There isn’t much of an economic foundation for tipping the person who gives the safety demonstration and distributes Terra Blues chips. Flight attendants aren’t dependent upon tip income in order to achieve a livable wage. (Still, their salary levels are by no means good rationale for withholding gratuities. Gadling says they make $35,000 to $40,000 annually, on average.) Further, most airlines discourage flight attendants from accepting tips.

ABC News notes that tipping isn’t suggested by normal etiquette as appropriate.

“Flight attendants are not in the group of people that we tip,” Lizzie Post, Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter and author on modern etiquette advice, told ABC News. “Even when you’re in the process of a transaction, buying beer or wine or alcohol, snacks or headsets, there is no reason to tip. It’s not appropriate to the situation.”

What do you think? Should flight attendants accept tips?

Bringing souvenirs home

Wendy Perin, traveler extraordinaire, provides some tips to get souvenirs home. She, evidently, is a heavy shopper, but her advice might help travelers planning a shopping spree. Among a few other tips she adds:

…when packing wine bottles — or other breakables — I never bother with bubble wrap; I simply wrap T-shirts around each bottle, make sure the bottles aren’t touching each other or the sides of the bag, use soft sweaters and other clothing to cushion them from every angle, and make sure they’re positioned so snugly and firmly within the wheelie that they won’t move in transit. Works every time.

What if the FAA’s WiFi concerns were real?

It’s hard to believe, but the FAA really has found possible interference between some of the airplane instrumentation and personal electronic devices. Rather than deny passengers the ability to use their PEDs, the FAA seems to be swapping out instruments that can be affected by passengers’ devices. That’s interesting — it seems that the FAA is putting passenger convenience first if they recommend allowing the use of PEDs! Their report is ready to be released and go through the rulemaking procedure.

Both Honeywell and Boeing previously acknowledged the potential interference problem, which hasn’t shown up during any flights. Last fall, the companies voluntarily switched to modified displays with enhanced shielding and upgraded software for new aircraft, and also urged carriers to voluntarily fix or swap out suspect parts on existing fleets. Foreign regulators are likely to follow the FAA and issue similar directives affecting hundreds of additional jetliners.

But only a portion of the targeted planes have been fixed so far, according to industry officials. Now, the FAA for the first time is explicitly citing the extent of the hazards and proposing to order U.S. airlines to replace or modify the older Honeywell units. The directive will become final after public comment.

  • Johnp

    As regards tipping flight attendants — when you encounter a thought to tip or compliment do the compliment but write it — send a note to the airline corporate office and mention the name of the flight attendant and “tip” them in words — they will be more grateful and much more appreciative. It works for them — then get recognized by the people in the upper office.

  • MikeABQ

    Absolutely right, Johnp! I’ve only been moved to write to corporate about exceptional cabin crews on a few occasions but each time my letter was acknowledged by non-form letter response. I learned the FAs — or any airline personnel — really appreciate this.

  • MikeABQ

    One of my aviation geek brethren in Europe routinely hands out chocolates to the cabin crews of the flights he finds himself on. I took his lead and I now make a habit of doing the same, offering chocolates, cookies, fruit or pastries — whatever is available in the airport and affordable. This gesture has always been accepted graciously and with great enthusiam every time it’s been extended. And I’ve made some nice new friends. (Note: cabin crews out of Las Vegas love Ethel M chocolates.)

  • Jonathan_G

    I’ve also given out chocolates. Not routinely, but when I’m traveling on a day when nobody wants to be at work, such as Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Eve. Then I make a point of having something special, maybe Swiss or Belgian truffles, to offer to airline staff. Also, I don’t limit this to the cabin crew, but also staff at the check in counter and at the gate.

  • Jonathan_G

    “Rather than deny passengers the ability to use their PEDs, the FAA seems to be swapping out instruments that can be affected by passengers’ devices.”

    Much as I’d like to give the FAA credit for doing something with passenger convenience in mind, there’s a much more practical motivation here. If they’ve identified a risk, that risk will exist whether they allow personal electronic devices or not. Even if devices are not allowed, there inevitably will be some passengers who will violate the rule (accidentally or otherwise). Worse still, if it becomes a known vulnerability, then someone with nefarious intent could deliberately target this weakness as an attack. It simply makes sense to harden flight systems against radio interference.

    Much as I appreciate my conveniences, the FAA’s first responsibility is flight safety. However, it is nice that in this case, the safety measures may also allow greater conveniences to us.