Despite the frustration or unpredictability of air travel, the one inflight perk that all travelers can count on is in-flight beverage service. Whether you’re traveling first or economy class, passing the beverage cart is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a nice, relaxing libation miles above the daily distractions on the ground. But according to flight attendants, there’s one mistake you should never make when ordering a drink on a plane. Read on to see what could be a major mid-flight misstep.
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After more than two years of living under the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an understatement to say that waves of change have hit the airline industry lately. Many of them involve tightening and relaxing certain onboard health protocols, including when flight attendants advocated for reduced drink and meal services to reduce their interaction time with passengers during the surge of Omicron.
And besides safety-related issues, others are the result of changes made by airline employee unions advocating for better working conditions. Currently, Alaska Airlines pilots are voting on whether to strike or not as negotiations continue and flight delays and cancellations loom, Seattle weather reports. And recently, a company memo obtained by CNBC announced that Delta Air Lines would begin paying flight attendants during the boarding hour, changing a longstanding policy of only starting the payment clock. after closing the cabin doors.
Even though working conditions continue to change for cabin and cockpit crew, there are still specific rules about working in the sky that are not exactly known to everyone. A notable difference is the custom of tipping a bartender or waiter after receiving a drink, coffee or refreshment on the ground, but not extending the same courtesy to flight attendants who pour your drinks during your flight. However, while offering a few dollars to show appreciation may seem harmless, you should never assume cabin crew are allowed to accept cash tips. Unfortunately, on some airlines, the law can even get them in trouble with their employer if they do, southern life reports.
According to Bloomberg, some carriers such as Spirit and Allegiant have even gone so far as to remove a tip option from their tablet payment systems used for in-flight purchases. And Allegiant has even gone so far as to outright ban tipping on their flights with official policy.
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Confusingly, what is acceptable in terms of in-flight tipping can vary from airline to airline. For example, on Southwest Airlines, cabin crew initially refuses any cash tips but are allowed to accept them graciously if the passenger insists on passing them on, USA today reports. On the other hand, some airlines, including Frontier, have recently added complimentary options to payment tablets when customers purchase in-flight drinks, for Bloomberg.
Despite confusing or contradictory policies, industry veterans say it’s mostly airlines that don’t want to appear as if they’re outright encouraging tipping, even if pandemic-era policies are lifted. . “Although we resumed regular beverage service about six months ago, only last month we started serving alcoholic beverages again in the main cabin,” says Steffanie, a flight attendant with a large airline with nine years of experience. “Some passengers are very happy about it and have started offering tips to show their appreciation!”
While some flyers have been happy enough to leave substantial cash tips, she adds that many still prefer discretion. “Some passengers pass the tip to the flight attendants upon departure so as not to draw attention to the exchange,” she explains. “If they ask me if I can tip, I tell them it’s not necessary, but it’s their choice.”
Even if you forgot your money, there are other ways to show your appreciation that can sometimes go even further. For example, some airlines, such as Southwest and American, offer frequent flyers the opportunity to recognize exemplary service with special programs that earn them gift cards, merchandise, and more. Travel + Leisure reports. But in most cases, just contacting the carrier to praise good service can be a great gesture.
“We very rarely get positive feedback. I’ve been managing for over 12 years, and unfortunately you’ll hear a lot more complaints than compliments,” says Heidi Ferguson, a flight attendant with 20 years of experience in the commercial and private aviation industry. “The best way to get in touch with most airlines now is via social media, surprisingly. Email is also effective, but [direct messages] or by contacting them via Twitter, we get answers very quickly.”
And at the very least, the most important way to thank a flight attendant is to be as patient, kind, and courteous to them as you would be to any other employee, especially after two years of uncertainty. “I want passengers to realize that my job is just as important as the job of a pilot,” Lorrie Meterjean, a flight attendant, told Insider. “Flight attendants are responsible for the safety of the entire aircraft. Ultimately, we are there in the event of an emergency, whether it is a medical or safety issue or there’s a problem with the plane and we’ve got to evacuate the plane and get everyone off safely.”
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