You pay to pick your seat. Then you pay for a blanket and a cup of tea. And you might even pay just to print off your ticket at home.
These days, flying is an exercise in dodging extra fees. But one airline has taken things to new heights by prompting passengers to tip their flight attendants.
When passengers travel on budget US carrier Frontier Airlines they’ll be able to leave a tip for their flight attendant upon purchasing in-flight food or beverages.
The message reads “gratuities are appreciated!” and passengers can add a tip of 15 per cent, 20 per cent or 25 per cent, airlines blogger The Points Guy revealed this month.
“We appreciate the great work of our flight attendants and know that our customers do as well, so [the payment tablet] gives passengers the option to tip,” Frontier spokesman Jonathan Freed said on Friday.
“It’s entirely at the customer’s discretion, and many do it.”
Is this the future of air travel?
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) international president Sara Nelson warned the airline is setting a dangerous precedent.
She said flight attendants’ primary task is aircraft and passenger security.
“Safety is not variable and therefore base compensation for a safety job cannot be variable,” she said, calling on the airline to just increase staff wages.
While tipping in Australia is largely considered unnecessary and funds tipped are generally minor, it’s not the case in many other countries.
TripAdvisor recommends leaving a 15-20 per cent tip when eating or drinking at restaurants or bars in the US. Waitstaff and bartenders in the US made an average $2.13 an hour in 2015, so tips make up a substantial part of their income.
However as another AFA spokesperson, Taylor Garland, told Condé Nast Traveller, flight attendants are not waiters.
“Flight attendants are onboard for safety,” Garland explained.
“Tipping connotes service and could undermine the flight attendant’s role as the authority in the cabin.”
‘You’ve just reduced them to waitresses’
Irritated passengers took to Twitter to vent their frustration at the new scheme:
This is wrong on many levels, not to mention demeaning to flight attendants, many of whom take pride in their work and are very professional.
You’ve just reduced them to what, waitresses??
Pay them properly to retain high quality staff, and remove this tipping nonsense.
— VJ (@VJ8086) January 13, 2019
“This is wrong on so many levels,” one passenger wrote. “You’ve just reduced them to what, waitresses?”
Another traveller argued tipping simply shifts the responsibility for paying a living wage to the consumer, as has happened in the US hospitality industry.
Tipping is shifting the corporate responsibility for a living wage to the consumer. Pay your flight attendants properly so they would not even consider accepting a gratuity for doing their job.
— salemlawyer (@salemlawyer) January 11, 2019
Other passengers simply weren’t keen to spend more money on what can already be an expensive service.
I just heard something on the news about tipping flight attendants.. first off I’m not tipping no one if my flight was damn near $400 and the service was mediocre
— Kaitlyn Roach (@KaitlynMRoach) January 12, 2019
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