Why I Give Flight Attendants A Small Gift Before Each Flight

aerial photography of airliner

A little gift can go a long way! Photo by Ross Parmly on Unsplash

Note: This post is from my website madelinehwahl.com, which I am going to revamp shortly. I will be sharing some of those posts here in this newsletter.

Early on in my solo travel adventures, I joined a few Facebook groups (like Girls Love Travel and Girls Who Travel) specifically for solo female travelers and read about the adventures these women had exploring the world. While there have been many repetitive posts, I like being part of a community of women who have the desire to continuously leave their comfort zones and travel. I find value in reading through conversations about loneliness, the anxiety about coming home after a long trip, the words of advice from seasoned travelers, the romantic stories of people meeting the loves of their lives abroad (once a hopeless romantic, always a hopeless romantic... sort've), the stories of women who left everything behind to begin a new life and the women who talk about the acts of kindness from strangers. Reading through their journeys continues to help build up my own confidence in my travels, like going to Toronto for a solo birthday trip and booking that plane ticket to Mexico City for Day of the Dead. More often than not, I find myself reading through most of the comments and taking notes to save for future reference. Sometimes, I take the words I read to heart and apply the advice to my life. However, there are still tips on the road which have surprised me.

For example, I've never heard of giving gifts to flight attendants until I became a part of those social media groups. It had never even crossed my mind to do this until I read through those posts and scrolled through the comments. Giving a small gift to a flight attendant, as the post explained, is a way to show your appreciation. The women in the group spoke about being bumped up to business or first class, receiving hand-written thank you cards from the flight deck and crew and even receiving extra treats for the flight. I didn’t expect to get any of that. However, over four seven years of traveling with many domestic and international flights, I’ve been mildly surprised at how far a small gift can go.

On one of my flights I discovered the magic of listening to a Headspace meditation. Highly recommend.

On one of my flights I discovered the magic of listening to a Headspace meditation. Highly recommend.

I don’t remember the first time I bought a small bag of chocolates (probably early on in my trips, like Toronto or London) and while I wasn't a fan of paying the exorbitant, over-priced fee for a small bag of chocolate-covered pretzels or a bag of shareable Snickers at the airport, I figured it would be better to buy an item after going through security with proof of a receipt rather than buying something else beforehand. (Moving forward, maybe I'll just buy a box of chocolate at Trader Joe's... but then that's one more thing to keep track of and pack.)

Here’s exactly what I say when I hand them the little chocolates: “This is for you and the crew. Thank you for all that you do.” Simple, short, and to the point.

On a local flight from New York To Florida, I boarded the plane, handed a bag of chocolates to the flight attendant who greeted everyone at the front of the plane, and said, "This is for you and the crew. Thank you for all that you do." Simple, short, and to the point. She thanked me and said she'd share the chocolates with the crew. I took my seat and after a particularly turbulent flight where all of my insides churned, I couldn't have been happier to leave as soon as the plane landed. When leaving the aircraft, the same flight attendant asked if anyone came by my seat and I said no, and then she asked if I wanted a bottle of wine or anything and I politely declined, but very much appreciated the offer. After that flight, and turbulence, wine was the last thing on my mind.

I recommend gifts/food that come in sealed packages. While delightful, a pastry from an open bag from Paris probably wouldn’t do.

I recommend gifts/food that come in sealed packages. While delightful, a pastry from an open bag from Paris probably wouldn’t do.

Another time, when flying from New York to London for my month-long trip around Europe this past December, I gave a bag of chocolates to the flight attendant and took my seat in the back row of the airplane. As a general rule, I never pre-order meals on flights and I don't check luggage. However, when the flight attendant came by my row and asked if I wanted anything to eat, I politely declined. She asked, “Are you sure?” And there was something in her tone of voice that made me reconsider. So, I changed my mind and then received the meal... free of charge. No one was seated in the middle seat and the British guy I chatted with who sat in the window seat benefited, too. He leaned over and pointed that out after we received our meals. He suggested that maybe they thought we were together? Regardless, the gesture was kind and all because of a bag of chocolates.

On a separate flight, an attendant routinely checked in on me and gave me a blanket, bottles of water and a coin purse containing a pair of headphones for free. Realizing that in the past I gave out Snickers and Reese's to flight attendants, I changed the kind of chocolate I bought because I was nervous about anyone potentially having peanut allergies. So, I settled on a bag of chocolate Hershey's Kisses and as I was leaving a male flight attendant said, “Thanks for the kisses!” A bit awkward to the bystander listening in, but I knew what he meant and really appreciated it. On my most recent flight, I gave a bag of chocolate covered pretzels to the flight attendant and when I was leaving she expressed her thanks.

Of course, there were many, many flights I've been on where I gave a bag of something and received a gracious word of thanks and that was it. Which, really, was all I wanted. To show appreciation. Expect nothing and enjoy the act of giving a gift. When on a domestic flight of around three hours or an international flight of upwards of ten or more hours, I hope the flight attendants are comfortable. I'm grateful for flight attendants and I'm thankful we're actually able to sit in an aircraft to fly us across oceans and continents to different languages and cultures. Even though I don't remember the first time I bought a small bag of chocolates at the airport, I now uphold this practice before most of my flights, both domestic and international.  

Who knows what will happen after giving someone a gift? After all, a small bag of chocolate can go a long way.

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person holding present box
Your gifts don’t need to be that elaborate! Chocolate covered pretzels from the airport shop will do just fine. Photo by freestocks on Unsplash