Etiquette Expert Advises Against Tipping Flight Attendants

Despite the cabin crews' many responsibilities, gratuities are frowned upon.

ByABC News
September 22, 2013, 5:50 PM
Tipping flight attendants isn't usually expected, but is it taboo?
Tipping flight attendants isn't usually expected, but is it taboo?
Getty Images

Sept. 22, 2013— -- They serve meals, bring extra blankets, assist with cumbersome bags and sometimes even babysit small children. But do services provided by flight attendants merit tipping? The question is a divisive one.

A recent column on Business Insider posited that due to the many responsibilities juggled by members of the cabin crew, expressing appreciation of flight attendants in the form of a few extra bills is understandable.

"Your flight attendant is busy," wrote Caroline Costello in SmarterTravel. "He's running up and down serving drinks, comforting children, disarming disgruntled passengers. Arguably the fastest and easiest way to communicate some appreciation is to hand him a gratuity on the way off the plane."

But etiquette experts say the practice is inappropriate.

"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."

Airlines contacted did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment on company policies toward tipping. But most job descriptions listed for flight attendants state that the attendants' primary responsibility is to maintain passenger safety, a role not generally tipped in other fields. Flight attendants also earn livable wages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the median salary of flight attendants in 2013 as $37,740.

Even if a customer feels he or she has received phenomenal service while flying, Post recommends against reaching inside one's wallet.

"Rather than tip them -- and I'm sorry to all of the flight attendants out there who would like to be tipped! -- I think the best thing you could do would be to write a good review: Remember your flight number, take down the name of the flight attendant and write to the airline to let them know they have a great employee," said Post.