There’s a debate currently raging on a popular frequent flyer message board and it’s managed to divide opinion even more than usual. The question, posed by a regular flyer between the United States and United Kingdom was a relatively simple one: Should they buy sweets or chocolates for the flight attendants?
As a flight attendant myself, I know exactly how I would answer this: Absolutely, yes. I love a sweet treat and if someone wants to gift me some chocolate then I’m not going to turn it down.
But, it turns out, lots of frequent flyers and even some flight attendants find the idea of passengers turning up at the aircraft door with confectionary gifts a little ‘creepy’.
In fact, the biggest concern shared amongst frequent flyers was that it might come across as bribery. That might certainly be the case if you’re sitting in Economy on a bargain-basement hand baggage only fare and fancy getting ‘bumped up’ to a fancier seat.
I’ve certainly encountered that kind of situation myself. A passenger shows up with some cheap sweets and expects an upgrade. Most flight attendants, however, aren’t that easily bought.
The problem is that not only are free upgrades strictly against the rules (which could then end up getting a flight attendant in big trouble) but you’re effectively swindling an airline out of the money it should be making on selling a Business Class ticket.
So, while you might strike gold and get upgraded in exchange for a few bars of chocolate, it’s a long shot at best.
The other issue, then, is whether you are signalling you want preferential treatment. A free drink maybe or extra food. But do the math… You’re likely to spend more money on gifts than what you’ll save with a free bottle of cheap airline wine gifted in return by a flight attendant.
So what could be your motivation for gifting your flight attendant chocolate or, in some cases, Starbucks gift cards? Well if you just want to make a kind gesture and go into it expecting nothing in return expect then I for one will happily accept your gift (as would the vast majority of flight attendants).
It’s a lovely gesture that most flight attendants really appreciate. And don’t worry, we won’t start expecting it.
If, however, you’re hoping to gain something in return then, sure, go ahead. Just be prepared for a knockback.
Oh, and if you’re an airline employee travelling on a deeply discounted concessionary ticket then, yes, please spend some of the money you’ve saved on treats for your flight attendants.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.