Here’s What You’re Allowed to Gift Flight Attendants

It's the thought that counts!

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Flight attendants are an essential part of making sure your flight runs as smoothly as possible. Indeed, receiving quality service from flight attendants is something passengers can look forward to when going on a flight. Guiding passengers to their seats, helping out with any questions, and aiding in food and beverage purchases are all things flight attendants can do. While it’s becoming more common to give flight attendants gifts on a flight, there are a lot of questions around the practice. So what are the rules for giving gifts to flight attendants? Learn the 13 travel secrets only flight attendants know.

A gift goes a long way

More often than not, people don’t even acknowledge flight attendants, so giving a gift can go a long way. “Passengers shouldn’t feel like they should bring flight crew a gift, but when they do it’s appreciated because often it feels like passengers don’t even see us,” Heather Poole, a flight attendant and author of Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers, told Reader’s Digest. “The majority of passengers don’t even respond to my greeting when I welcome them on board. It’s almost shocking when a passenger actually says please or thank you and makes eye contact at the same time. So a gift can feel like a dream.” Treat flight attendants with respect, and never say these things to flight attendants.

A nice gesture, but not mandatory

In general, gifts are appreciated but not mandatory. “Gifts aren’t necessary but it’s the kind thought that counts,” Betty Thesky, a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline and author of Betty in the Sky With a Suitcase: Hilarious Stories of Air Travel by the World’s Favorite Flight Attendant told Reader’s Digest. “You don’t need to bring a gift but a bag of peanut M&M’s costs almost nothing. The flight attendants will remember you and be extra nice to you. I like to say we’re cheap dates.”

Flight attendant safety

If you’re going to give a gift to a flight attendant, Poole says flight attendants are able to accept anything that’s sealed and hasn’t been tampered with, like wrapped chocolate and candy. “Sometimes passengers will drop off a box of chocolates with the purser or first-class flight attendant and ask them to share with the rest of the crew,” says Poole. “On bigger planes, sometimes passengers will drop off a gift in each cabin: first, business, and coach.  It’s usually candy or chocolates. Sometimes we get Starbucks gift cards. It’s best to bring wrapped store-bought items because we can’t accept homemade treats.”

Lavish gifts

Of course, each airline is different and there are rules flight attendants have to abide by when receiving gifts. For example, carrying cash is one of the things flight attendants aren’t allowed to do, so it’s best to refrain from tipping your flight attendant. Sometimes, flight attendants receive gifts that seem too good to be true.  “The nicest gift I got was when I was junior and working on Christmas, a first-class passenger said we could all pick a perfume from duty-free on him which was super sweet,” says Thesky.

Other passengers can give and receive gifts, too

Gifts on flights aren’t always reserved for flight attendants. Sometimes, passengers give gifts to other passengers, too. “I’ve only seen it twice but, parents with babies made little gift bags of candy and earplugs for the people sitting around their potential crying child,” says Thesky. “One had a little note saying they would do their best to keep the little one happy but please forgive them in advance if we are unable to keep our little bundle of joy quiet.”

Like giving gifts to the frequent travelers in your life, giving gifts to flight attendants should be a thoughtful, considerate act. Now that you know the rules of gift-giving, learn the pet peeves of flight attendants so you can avoid them.

Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a Digital Associate Editor/Writer at RD.com. Previously, she worked for HuffPost and Golf Channel. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her work can be found on her website: www.madelinehwahl.com