Aviation tipping etiquette; private jets, commercial airlines & airports
Tickets ready, bags packed, pre-flight refreshments consumed. A quick flight into mainland Europe or a huge long-haul across the world, the journey is often something to savour.
It is well known that products on aeroplanes are bumped up – necessity is the mother of inflated prices. It’s little wonder then that many people don’t often bat an eyelid about tipping – but our journeys are supported by servers, bar staff, cabin crew, pilots, check-in assistants and many more.
Whether you’re about to go into business class or crammed into economy/coach, or even chartering a private jet, gratuity in aviation and in airports can seem slightly tricky, but we’ve got you covered.
Can you tip in flight, and if so, how much?
Of course, it’s not a crime to show appreciation to dedicated professionals who make a difference to your experience.
However, there’s never been a set of guidelines on how, when, or an amount to tip those in aviation. In fact, tipping on commercial airlines isn’t wholly accepted. Private chartered flights is a different story.
A Quick Guide
Tipping on a private jet
Tipping on private chartered flights is welcome but not expected. In some cases, company policy is to turn down gratuity. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you wish to tip crew or pilots, and it’s up to the professional to decide whether they would like to accept your gratuity, or politely decline.
In the private jet sector, passengers are known from time to time to arrange for some form of gift to show their appreciation of the flight deck and cabin crew.
David Pitt at News From The Ramp and Charter Sales Manager told us, “I’ve seen flight deck crew receive a wide variety of gifts as a thank you for their great customer care. Gratuity has varied from £50 cash, flowers, and even concert tickets and backstage passes.” Oh, the perks of flying bands and artists around!
Forbes also covered the private jet tipping etiquette with a great piece, hearing from other professionals in the industry covering the topic of gratuity. They spoke to Andrew Flaxman, a former business jet pilot who founded jet card broker ExpertJet. Andrew questioned, “Why is it that yacht crews, taxi and limo drivers, as well as anyone in the hotel service industry, may get a tip, but flight crew often neglected?”
Our answer to Andrew’s observation is that clients and customers just don’t have the knowledge or ease of tipping their crew or the pilot. This is where a virtual tip jar like TiPJAR® can help to shift flyers’ thinking on tipping in aviation and not be afraid or unsure on whether to tip or not.
Forbes also spoke to Adam Twidell, a former private jet pilot and the co-founder of PrivateFly. “Do people tip? Yes, however, much more in the US than in Europe.” To the question, is tipping expected, he replies, “Not really in the US, and absolutely not in Europe, but it is always very much appreciated.”
There seems to be inconsistency and a stigma around tipping cabin crew, but a consistency in the answer to whether receiving tips in aviation is appreciated. Yes it is appreciated.
Commercial flight gratuity giving
The speed of transactions on a flight depends on the nature of your journey. Travel from London to Spain and you will be asked once, if you’re lucky, whether you would like anything – snacks, drinks, sandwiches, duty free etc.
Tipping on a commercial flight is not an accepted custom. Some airlines actively refuse tips from passengers for their staff. It can be a little confusing, and it’s not as easy as asking the flight attendant to round up your bill before you tap your card or hand over your cash.
While the acceptance of tips on board is a little confusing, it may be worth you exploring the option of TiPJAR® with them. That way you can scan their QR code and ping them some money instantly and securely to their TiPJAR account. If a cashless tip isn’t quite what you had in mind, then why not send an email, give them a shout out on social, or gift them chocolates.
Ultimately, just like with private flights, it is up to you whether you tip, and the professional whether they accept your gratuity or politely decline.
Tipping at the airport
Duty-free beverages and the customary Instagram pictures of your pre-flight meal, it’s all part of any trip away. There are many moving parts at an airport, and tipping comes into practice in some areas more than others.
For many flyers, the need for wheelchair support, help with bags, and ground transfers within the airport may be necessary. These tasks are carried out often by willing, awesome volunteers from across the airport who are assigned to help ensure your visit to the airport is super easy. Tipping in these situations is almost exclusively cash based (unless you have a virtual tipping account), and means you will need to part with your money that way – hopefully you have the right currency to hand! It’s also worth remembering they will not have cash on them to change up.
Tipping airline staff may be tricky and hard to manage, but airport staff are in a different jurisdiction, they’re service staff, they’re much easier to show appreciation to.
Airport staff in North America, where tipping is often supplementary to someone’s wages, are welcoming of tips. In many server jobs in the United States, waiting staff, concierges, and other helpful employees will often take a pay cut to secure a job at an airport, because the tips can tend to be a little more fruitful.
This is in the main down to the positivity of holiday travellers before they board their flight. Asked to arrive at the airport hours before their flight leaves, we have nothing better to do than sit, eat, drink, and chat with fellow travellers. This is, of course, why we are sometimes a little less frugal with our money in these scenarios.
When it comes to airport restaurants, there’s no need to approach it differently. Whether you’re at a small, family-run restaurant or a chain, we always look to our server as the shining light. An airport server will almost certainly be working unkind shifts – an airport is a 24/7 conveyor belt of people from all over the world.
To support their role, airport staff may learn new languages, understand how to communicate with people from all walks of life, and still manage to hold it together during the busy times and long night shifts.
Tipping is an easy calculation when you receive your bill from an airport restaurant, but make sure to read your receipt before leaving any money. Airports often add service charges to the bill and will sometimes leave you paying an extra 20% or more. This is an opportunity to refuse the general tip on the bill, and choose to personally tip your waiter/waitress through a virtual tipping app – keeping that tip for themselves will certainly be appreciated by the staff member.
Where do my airport tips go?
Another point of contention when it comes to tipping on flights is where the money ends up. It is a difficult thing to know what happens when you contactless tap away your money. As airlines and flight operators do not actively accept tipping on their journeys, it is not something that is regulated specifically, and your money may just end up in a back pocket of a distant CEO.
It isn’t 100% certain where all tips go. Service charges are often placed into a pot for all the staff to dip in and out of, but even these tips can end up in the general pool, rather than be taken home by your server.
Can I tip my airport transfer/taxi service?
The airport transfer is one of the most alien experiences of any new trip. As soon as you roll along the tarmac of a new city, a fresh landscape opens up. After your flight, no matter how long, you are seeking the solace of your accommodation.
Fortunately, airport transfers are on hand to take you directly to that slightly confusing address which you’ve hastily printed off and shown to the driver in the hope they know the quickest or most direct route to your temporary base.
Depending on where you’re flying to, taxi fares can be inflated compared with those in the city – it’s easy to raise the prices for those seeking convenience. However, in some cases your taxi driver will be able to give you help and advice on the local area, inform you of the nearest supermarket, or give you the best place for food when you arrive.
In addition to this, they may help you with your bags on arrival at your destination, or even help with the hotel check in using their native tongue.
Taxi drivers will always accept extra tips for their work, and as the transaction is almost exclusively cash based, at least for the moment around the world, you can simply round up the fare. It goes without saying that to make this transaction as safe as possible, you should always agree to a fare before entering the vehicle, as standard fares can jump into astronomical numbers without it being mentioned.
Taking tips worldwide
Wherever you’re planning on flying to, this guide has hopefully shown you that there are plenty of different ways you can tip and feel comfortable on your next journey. The role of cash is changing fast in many countries and regions, with some now actively discouraging its use due to Covid-19. Now is the time to transition over to a cashless/virtual tipping system like TiPJAR®.
From airport support staff and check-in assistants through to waiting staff and on-board airline cabin crew, you can confidently tackle the confusing world of tipping in aviation.
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