In a completely unscientific poll of American flight attendants, the majority said they would like the option to be able to accept tips from passengers – although some say it calls into question their role as safety professionals. It follows the revelation that flight attendants at Denver-based low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines are able to accept tips via onscreen prompts when a passenger makes an in-flight purchase using an iPad point of sale device.
Frontier Airlines has actually been asking passengers to stump up a tip for several years but since January 1st any tips go straight to the flight attendant who made the sale rather than the entire team working the flight. Passengers are presented with a screen that reads “gratuities are welcome” and are then given the option to leave a tip of either 15%, 20% or 25% of their purchase amount. There’s even the option to leave a custom gratuity.
On the popular ‘aastews’ Instagram page which is followed by many flight attendants at American Airlines, just over half (56%) said flight attendants should be tipped. The poll received around 1250 respondents so its hardly representative of the 26,000+ flight attendants who work at American Airlines but it is perhaps telling of how valued many feel right now.
“This is my opinion on tipping flight attendants,” wrote the unnamed flight attendant behind the aastews Instagram account.
“First reaction: everyone else in the service industry is making tips. Why not flight attendants. After giving it some thought :
We are here PRIMARILY for your safety. We have spent years gaining the respect in the industry as professionals. Furthermore, tipping would be income and income is taxed. I am not willing to take a pay cut to allow tipping.”
And that’s pretty much the reaction of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) who represent thousands of flight attendants across the United States, including at Frontier.
“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,” explained Sara Nelson, the union’s leader. She points out that flight attendants are trained as safety professionals and deserve a wage that reflects this critical role.
It’s perhaps no surprise that AFA and Frontier are currently are loggerheads over a long-running dispute over pay and conditions that recently resulted in the airline’s flight attendants overwhelmingly voting to authorize strike action. The thought of flight attendants being forced to top up their meagre wages with tips is unlikely to help resolve the row anytime soon.
For its part, Frontier Airlines says any tips flight attendants receive is in addition to their contractual wages. It does, though, raise some serious questions over whether a flight attendant could be influenced by the tip they receive – after all, passengers have the right to be treated fairly and equally: whether they choose to tip or not.
This is perhaps a moot point outside of the United States where a tipping culture is most prevalent. After all, you couldn’t imagine this happening at Australia’s Jetstar could you?