has a survey on its website asking, “Have you ever tipped a flight attendant?” It’s only adding to online chatter on the subject.

“Fat chance.” That, at any rate, was my initial reaction to the notion. Then I remembered the very kind flight attendant who employed deft seat reassignment diplomacy to ensure that my family and I could sit together on a flight last Easter Sunday. Was I remiss in merely smiling and saying thank you, while leaving my wallet closed?

Honestly, the idea of tipping didn’t cross my mind. But I suppose it should have.

We live in a tip-crazy world. Without a thought, I leave a dollar when someone simply pours me a cup of coffee. At a Minneapolis bakery I recently visited, a can near the register read, “Fear change. Leave it here.”

Surely, flight attendants work harder than baristas. Of course, it’s their job to keep us safe in the air (not, as some fliers seem to assume, to serve us, and certainly not to boost our heavy bags into the overhead bin). And they are compensated for that job by the airlines.

Typically, we tip people in the service industry who would not otherwise make a living wage: $1 to $2 a bag to airport skycaps and bellhops; $1 to shuttle bus drivers; $2 or more a night to housekeeping; 20 percent to waiters. Because you could argue that flight attendants aren’t in that league, I don’t think mile-high tipping will become the norm.

Of survey respondents, 74 percent said they have never tipped; 27 percent have. In doing so, the minority probably are fostering gratitude in the flight attendants, but definitely not presumption — especially the kind that would spark a pithy command on a tip jar.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.