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Would you tip a flight attendant for good service?

Flight attendants serve passengers during a flight.

Have you ever tipped your flight attendant? Would you?

A new poll from the airfare discount website AirfareWatchdog.com finds that 27 percent of people have tipped their flight attendant as a "thank you" for serving them while flying the friendly skies.

"It surprises me because so many people complain about air travel and they dislike airline crews," says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com. "But a lot of airline crew are really super nice. Some go beyond the call of duty -- whether it's listening to problems you have or reseating you."

Nearly 900 people responded to the poll, with 20 percent of the respondents saying they have tipped their attendant as a thank you for doing a good job and 7 percent saying they tipped because the attendant went out of their way to make them feel comfortable. 73 percent of respondents said they wouldn't tip a flight attendant -- they get paid for doing their job.

But in many cases flight attendants don't make a lot of money, says Hobica. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for flight attendants in 2010 was $37,740 per year. Data from the Association of Flight Attendants shows that the average annual wage for an entry-level flight attendant position was $16,597 in 2011.

Hobica says many flight attendants don't get paid until their plane's wheels leave the ground. So when they're greeting you at the door, sometimes it's for free -- yet another cost-cutting measure for carriers.


Travel advice from the airfare watchdog


For passengers who have received good service from their attendants, Hobica says leaving a tip would be a nice gesture.

"Since we tip hotel staff, airport sky caps, rental car shuttle drivers, limo drivers, and other travel industry employees, I see no reason not to tip flight attendants," says Hobica. "But my preferred way of saying thank you is to bring on board a factory-sealed container of chocolates, shortbread cookies, or other treats."

Don't be surprised if your tip is declined, says Hobica. Some airlines prevent attendants from taking tips.

And don't think that slipping a $100 bill in your ticket envelope is going to work either. That's a bribe. 

Would you tip a flight attendant? Leave a comment and let us know.

Hobica also offered this advice to travelers looking for Thanksgiving flights:
  • If you see a fare that's not much more than what you normally pay on non-holidays, you should absolutely book it.
  • Look for flights several times a day, not just once a day or once a week.
  • If you're still looking for a flight right now, you may want look at flying out early on Thanksgiving morning and coming back on the Saturday, Monday, or Tuesday after Thanksgiving rather than the Sunday.
  • Look at cheap carriers and be willing to try different airport combinations.

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.
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On a recent trip I did tip my flight attendant $2 each time she served me a beverage and she was quite attentive, instead of getting a cup of beer poured, the can was always left on my table next to the cup. Based on that experience of getting friendly service beyond what my non-tipping neighbors received would lead me to repeat the practice.

Next flight be sure to take a pocket full of single bills or a few $5 bills and you can be assured your glass won't be empty and you'll have a smiling face to look upon.

The only awkward point is when the flight attendant is either surprised or has to covertly accept your tip due to a tipping policy. If more people did it, it wouldn't be a problem.

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