Are You Allowed to Give Flight Attendants Gifts?

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Giving flight attendants gifts is a great way to show your appreciation—but make sure you know what you can give them before you board.

Flight attendants are an essential part of making sure your flight runs as smoothly as possible. They have specific rules to follow and essential tasks to complete, like guiding passengers to their seats, answering questions, and aiding in food and beverage purchases. They do a lot while 30,000 feet in the air, and as such, they deserve a little gratitude every now and then. That begs the question: Are you allowed to give flight attendants gifts? Some may think this is one of those flight attendant secrets that’s kept close to the chest, but the question actually has a straightforward answer.

Here’s what to know about flight attendant gifts—bookmark the information before your next flight, along with these other key rules to follow when you fly.

Is it okay to give gifts to flight attendants?

Yes, it’s okay to give certain gifts to flight attendants. In general, flight attendant 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.”

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. And 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.

Why do people give gifts to flight attendants?

Most of the time, people give flight attendants gifts as a sign of appreciation for their hard work. Some 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 at 35,000 Feet, 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.” Remember to treat flight attendants with respect, and avoid saying these things to them.

What do flight attendants like as a gift?

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.”

Gifts to give flight attendants

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 us in advance if we are unable to keep our little bundle of joy quiet.”

At the end of the day, giving gifts to flight attendants should be a thoughtful, considerate act. It’s a great way for them to notice you on the flight, and a small act of kindness goes a long way—even in the clouds.

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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