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The new frontier in tipping: flight attendants

A Frontier Airlines plane sits on the tarmac at the Pittsburgh International Airport July 9, 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
A Frontier Airlines plane sits on the tarmac at the Pittsburgh International Airport July 9, 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

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Earlier this month Frontier Airlines, the Denver-based low-cost air carrier, changed its policy regarding tips given to flight attendants.

Since fall of 2015, passengers who have ordered food and drinks from a digital tablet onboard Frontier flights have had the option of giving the flight attendant a tip. Under the previous policy, tips given from the tablet were collectively pooled and distributed evenly amongst the cabin crew.

But under the new policy tips given by passengers to attendants will remain with the individual flight attendants.

Regarding the recent change in policy Frontier spokesman Jonathan Freed said “We appreciate the great work of our flight attendants and know that our customers do as well,” and that the choice to include gratuity is “entirely at the customer’s discretion, and many do it,” he added. Frontier’s tablet based system does allow flight attendants to skip the screen at their own discretion when a customer pays

In response to Frontier Airlines' change in tipping policy, the Association of Flight Attendants International President Sara Nelson released the following statement: “Flight Attendants are certified for our safety, health, and security work. Safety is not variable and therefore base compensation for a safety job cannot be variable” Speaking further Nelson emphasized the importance of paying flight attendants a fair wage saying “Regardless of the tip issue, Frontier Airlines needs to step up and pay aviation’s first responders a wage that recognizes their critical safety role onboard.”

Similar low cost airlines, such as Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines, do not include tipping options, and other airlines such as United and American Airlines don’t allow tips at all or instruct their flight attendants to decline any tips they recieve.

Have you ever tipped your flight attendant? Should flight attendants be tipped at all? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.


Leslie Josephs, reporter covering airlines for CNBC; she tweets @lesliejosephs

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 20 airlines, including Frontier Airlines; she tweets @FlyingWithSara