Delta Air Lines bankruptcy emergence Salt Lake City
“Flight attendant” Joan W. Vincenz, actually the Managing Director of Product Marketing who happens to possess her flight attendant certification, is all smiles as she relaxes near an open door at the left rear side of ship 638 shortly after landing at the airport in Salt Lake City. Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

Should Flight Attendants Receive Tips and Gratuities From Passengers?

Gratuities and tips have long been controversial with regards to travel and dining — to the point of contentiousness from all sides of the issue, as evidenced by the following articles which I wrote for The Gate over the years…

Should Flight Attendants Receive Tips and Gratuities From Passengers?

Frontier Airlines
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

…but flight attendants of Frontier Airlines have recently been spotlighted in the news, as the airline — which is based in Denver — is currently the only commercial carrier which permits passengers to give gratuities to members of the flight crew in return for them fulfilling an order. This policy has actually been in effect for three years; but all the gratuity money was placed in a pool for the approximately 2,200 flight attendants of Frontier Airlines.

Effective as of Tuesday, January 1, 2019, however, passengers have the option to tip individual flight attendants at their discretion — and this has caused consternation with the union which represents flight attendants.

Association of Flight Attendants Statement on Frontier Airlines Tipping Policy

A response to the change in the tipping policy of flight attendants by Frontier Airlines was released by Sara Nelson — who is the current president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International, which represents approximately 50,000 flight attendants at 20 different airlines — on Friday, January 4, 2019 with this statement:

Flight Attendants are certified for our safety, health, and security work. Safety is not variable and therefore base compensation for a safety job cannot be variable.

Tipping is not part of a Flight Attendant’s compensation for serving as aviation’s first responders. Over AFA objections when the function went onboard nearly three years ago, Management moved forward with a tipping option for passengers in hopes it would dissuade Flight Attendants from standing together for a fair contract — and in an effort to shift additional costs to passengers. The tactic failed as Flight Attendants recently voted 99% to authorize a strike and back up AFA contract demands.

Nothing will distract us from continuing to fight for a contract with increased wages and improved working conditions at Frontier.

Tipping has been onboard at Frontier Airlines for nearly three years. While AFA has objected in total to the concept, our union also ensures this management initiative is implemented fairly and fully. Recently, management failed to properly distribute the tips passengers intended to give to the crew. The new tipping distribution process will create better transparency to ensure Flight Attendant are receiving the tips passengers intended to give.

Regardless of the tip issue, Frontier Airlines needs to step up and pay aviation’s first responders a wage that recognizes their critical safety role onboard.

“We appreciate the great work of our flight attendants and know that our customers do as well, so [the payment tablet] gives passengers the option to tip,” Jonathan Freed — who is the director of corporate communications at Frontier Airlines — said, according to this article written by Justin Bachman of Bloomberg. “It’s entirely at the customer’s discretion, and many do it.”

Receiving gratuities from passengers is also at the discretion of the flight attendant at Frontier Airlines, as they can choose whether or not to trigger the tip option.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International has been trying to negotiate a new and improved contract with Frontier Airlines for approximately two years in order to secure better pay — but with no success as of yet, which prompted 99 percent of flight attendants to vote on authorizing a strike back in November of 2018. Mediators of the federal government have yet to declare the negotiations between flight attendants and Frontier Airlines at an impasse. Members of flight crews have picketed at hub airports of Frontier Airlines in recent months.


Airbus A350-900 Delta Air Lines
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

The controversy with giving flight attendants gratuities is that many people mistakenly believe that the primary purpose of members of the flight crew is to ensure customer service to passengers — but the first and foremost reason for flight attendants is ensuring safety at all times for all passengers aboard an airplane.

When a waitperson at a restaurant or a housekeeper at a hotel property is tipped, it is supposed to be in appreciation for good service when doing their jobs — and waiting on customers and cleaning and maintaining hotel rooms are respectively their primary jobs.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International is concerned that the revised gratuity policy which was recently implemented by Frontier Airlines is an attempt to keep the wages of members of flight crews low while simultaneously undermining their collective bargaining power in their quest for improved pay.

Flight attendants experience intensive and rigorous training for weeks to ensure that they are always ready in the unlikely event of an emergency. To encourage passengers to treat them as little more than waitpeople aboard airplanes during flights demeans their profession in the eyes of the public. Passenger safety should be the primary responsibility of flight attendants — and they should be compensated reasonably and accordingly.

I am personally against the practice of tipping flight attendants; and with some exceptions, I am against offering gratuities in general.

All photographs ©2007 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!