Tipping the crew?
Just before 2019 dawned, JT Genter over at TPG alerted us to an unusual sight, cabin crew from a US budget carrier virtually demanding a tip for selling overpriced drinks on a flight.
The Indigo Partners airline, Frontier, has introduced a change to its inflight service which now means its in-flight point of sales machines now require a 'gratuity' to be entered when purchasing something from the food and beverage carts.
Of course, the airline might say, there is an option to decline to pay the tip, however, the castigating looks, tuts and huffs from the cabin crew not to mention the accusatory looks from your seatmates when you click on the 'I prefer not to leave a gratuity' button would surely embarrass most passengers into pressing the minimum amount of 15%!
Also, there is the fear that you'll not be served if you don't tip the crew, who are already earning a wage for pushing the cart passed your seat. Will they still come around a second time if you don't supplement their incomes with excess tipping? Will, they still give you attention in an emergency situation if the tip is skipped when you purchased that $5 can of fizzy pop from them?
Is this new and rather worrying development from Frontier the latest technique in the USA for airlines to take more of our hard earned cash? Is tipping about to become commonplace in the industry? We decided to ask some of the leading US carriers if they planned to follow Frontier in demanding tips from passengers.
The original US low-cost carrier, Southwest prides itself on being hospitable and creating a memorable onboard experience, after all that's what many Southwest Flight Attendants are known for. They told us "As a general rule, our Flight Attendants do not take or expect tips for providing great customer service. However, if a Customer were to insist on tipping a Flight Attendant, he or she would be allowed to graciously accept the gesture."
Also, the airline told us that A-List Preferred and Rapid Rewards A-List members also have the opportunity to recognise Southwest staff by handing them a Customer Kick Tail-A-Gram, which they receive in the mail. "Employees are then able to enter the code on the card into an account for drawings throughout the year. It’s another way Southwest Employees are recognized for providing great customer service."
A spokesperson for New York's hometown airline JetBlue kindly informed us that, "Inflight Crewmembers will politely decline any offered tips."
Sun Country Airlines, who recently announced the largest route network expansion in its history told us that it did "not plan to incorporate" tipping into its in-flight service.
Ultra low-cost US carrier Spirit advised us that "At this time we do not have any plans to add optional tipping on our point of sale system. We do not accept cash onboard."
Las Vegas-based Allegiant's spokesperson Sonya Padgett told us "Allegiant doesn’t incorporate tipping into inflight sales. In fact, our policy is that flight attendants should not accept tips if offered."
American Airlines, the industry leader has a similar policy, saying "We ask our team members to decline tips, if offered. The best way our customers can recognize our team members is by sending a note to our customer relations team."
Outside of the US and one of the fastest growing European low-cost airlines Wizz Air, which is also backed by Indigo Partners, isn't following the Frontier way either "Wizz Air does not and has no plans to encourage passengers to tip members of cabin crew." Laura from Wizz Air’s UK press office told us.
Indeed, out of all the airlines we approached, none had an active policy of asking for or seeking tips from passengers, none reported any plans to introduce such a system and many had policies in place for staff to decline any such tips. In fact, the only airline that didn't respond to our request for information was Frontier.
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