That’s a First: I Was Asked for a Tip From a Flight Attendant

Dec 31, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

While many domestic US airlines are raising drink prices, there’s an airline flying in the US that’ll actually give you a discount for ordering more alcohol. But, you’re going to be asked for a tip at checkout.

That airline: Frontier.

This “revelation” surely isn’t new to many of the 17 million passengers the airline welcomed onboard so far this year, but it was new to me during my first experience on the airline earlier this week.

Feeling parched and kicking myself for not refilling my water bottle before the flight, I ordered a can of ginger ale when the flight attendants passed through selling snacks and drinks. After swiping my card, I was surprised to be handed the flight attendant’s tablet. There on the screen, I was prompted:

I’d gotten a heads up by TPG reader Paul Frazier right before my flight that on-board tipping was a thing, but seeing it in person was still surreal. I’ve flown more than 350 flights on 51 different airlines in the past three years, but I’d never experienced an airline ask for a tip.

Did the flight attendants expect a tip for handing me a can of soda and a cup? Do other passengers leave a tip? Do these flight attendants count on passengers to tip? And should I set up an electronic tip jar at the bottom of each of my posts?

After just two flights on Frontier, I still have plenty of questions about this practice. So, I reached out to Frontier and recevied a quick response.

First, I wanted to make sure that the tips actually go to the crew working the flight and this isn’t a way for the airline to make a little extra money from its passengers. Sure enough, Frontier confirmed: “Frontier does not keep any portion of earned tips.”

However, how your specific tip is divvied up is changing soon. A Frontier spokesperson said:

Currently tips are shared amongst all members of the flight attendant crew on a given flight. Effective January 1, 2019, flight attendants will earn tips on their individual sales.

My final question is a bit harder to answer, but I was curious if this tipping was meant to take the place of what Frontier would otherwise pay flight attendants. Hopefully, Frontier flight attendants aren’t making anywhere near minimum wage, so it isn’t like restaurants, where servers make less than minimum wage and tips make up the difference.

So, I asked Frontier if gratuities were meant as extra earnings for FAs or “considered a consequential part of their earnings.” Frontier’s response: “Both. Many flight attendants see the inflight tip program as a way to supplement their income.”

I’m still undecided on whether or not I like this tipping aspect. It feels a bit unprofessional for flight attendants to be seeking tips. However, especially with the changes coming in 2019, ideally this tipping process would actually lead to better service. Once flight attendants are getting to personally keep all of the tips themselves, they’ll be even more incentivized to get the cart going — and hopefully check back through the cabin during the flight for new orders.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.