Reader Kevin asked the following question on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:
I’m not sure if you’ve ever answered a question like this before as I did a search on your blog and couldn’t quickly find any related info.
I love travelling in Business and especially First Class and I wondered whether you ever tip the crew or reward them in anyway for looking after you so well on a flight?
I’ve had some great crew on past flights and apart from saying thanks, I wondered if there was anything more I should do?
Any advice would be appreciated.
This is a fun one, and I certainly have a few thoughts on this, based on personal experience:
Always thank the crew
I know this sounds obvious and perhaps ridiculous to some, but if I have an especially good crew I’ll constantly thank them throughout the service. If you smile at them and sincerely say “you’re doing a really fantastic job. I fly [airline] a lot, but you guys are one of the best crews I’ve had,” it makes them smile without exception, in my experience.
For example, on Cathay Pacific they’ll often give you a nice “note” with your meal signed by the crew, welcoming you aboard. I always make a point of thanking them for it, and the response is almost always “thanks, hardly anyone else seems to notice, so it’s nice to know some people enjoy it.”
A letter praising them
I think a lot of people don’t realize how much of an impact a positive letter can have for an employee. At many airlines letters of praise are considered towards promotions to “lead” flight attendant, and in many cases they actually have a quota they have to reach. Furthermore, if they ever get a complaint or accidentally miss a trip, letters of praise will typically “balance” that out when they’re called in their manager’s office.
It all depends on the airline, but at the end of the flight I’ll usually thank the crew for great service and say that I’d like to write a letter, and ask for the ones serving me to write down their names so I can properly recognize them in the letter. For example, on my recent Singapore Airlines flight from Frankfurt to New York, the leading stewardess came up to my seat on the descent and said “Mr. Schlappig, how did you enjoy your flight with us today?” First of all, let me say that I loved the way she phrased it. It wasn’t “did you have a good flight with us today?” but rather she genuinely opened it up for feedback. Go figure the flight was perfect…
That’s the point at which I asked for the names of the three cabin crew serving me, so I could write them a positive letter.
This is all pretty straightforward, but I do think a lot of people don’t realize how far a letter of praise goes towards making a person’s day.
To bring chocolates, or not to bring chocolates?
On US airlines I’ll sometimes bring chocolate for the crew. It’s a nice, cheap, “safe” gesture, that doesn’t have the ability to be misinterpreted. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend this on non-US airlines, as it doesn’t seem to be perceived the same way. For example, I recently asked a friend that’s cabin crew for British Airways how he feels about a passenger bringing chocolate, and he was confused and then said that would be kind of strange.
So what do you give a great non-US crew?
In the past when I’ve had a young British Airways crew that was awesome and fun, I’ve bought them a couple of bottles of booze from duty free for their layover. It’s perfectly legit and only makes sense if they’re not headed home, but that has been perceived well.
Of course none of this is necessary
None of the above is really necessary. Last year there was a survey which said that 27% of people have tipped a flight attendant, which seems way off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure a flight attendant wouldn’t mind if you tipped them a $20 or $100, but they’d assume it was just because you wanted a number, were really drunk, or had never flown a premium cabin before.
If you really want to “do something” for the crew, write them a letter of praise, which will go further than anything else.
But if you want to have some fun with them or make them smile, chocolates on a US-airline, or booze/Hello Kitty paraphernalia on a non-US airline can’t hurt either…
Have you ever brought a gift for a crew, and if so, how was it perceived?