Tipping Points

Business Jet Traveler » December 2013
Charter pilots typically say they don’t expect tips but always appreciate them.
Charter pilots typically say they don’t expect tips but always appreciate them.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 5:00pm

Bizjet passengers often express confusion about when to give gratuities to pilots and crews. Here’s help. 

Bizjet passengers often express confusion about when to give gratuities to pilots and crews. Here’s help.

Should you tip your pilots? We hear this question often at Business Jet Traveler, so we did some research to help you know when to pull out your wallet.

We began by including questions about tipping in our third annual Readers’ Choice Survey, which drew responses from nearly 1,100 passengers. As we reported in our last issue, the greatest number (41 percent) said that they never tip, but 22 percent tip occasionally, 14 percent tip every time they fly, 13 percent tip frequently and 10 percent tip at the holidays in December. Of those who tip, 33 percent give more than $100, while 27 percent tip $25 or less.

One passenger we spoke with, who flies via a jet card, said, “It never dawned on me that you would tip pilots. I tip ground crew when they assist, but it seems strange to tip a pilot.” Another business jet traveler, on the other hand, said he goes out of his way to tip pilots. He added that they always appreciate it and that he has never seen a pilot who “felt in the least bit uncomfortable” about the gesture.

When is tipping appropriate? Unfortunately, no simple guidelines exist, but in surveying almost 100 pilots, we found that the type of flight makes a difference. Pilots who work in-house for corporations or individual clients seem to not expect gratuities. Some employers forbid their flight crews from accepting them, and some pilots find tipping offensive. In most cases, these pilots are well compensated by their employers.

“I get a good paycheck, a performance incentive [bonus] and stock options, just like the rest of the company,” remarked a pilot who asked to remain anonymous (as did most of those who spoke with us). “I have worked for three corporations and never expected a tip from passengers.”

For fractional and particularly charter pilots, however, salaries can be relatively low. Many pilots, even those who work for corporate flight departments, made a point of telling us that their brethren who fly charter should be tipped.

Charter pilots themselves typically say that they don’t expect tips but always appreciate them, especially for exceptional service. What constitutes ”exceptional”? If your charter pilot schleps 17 bags on your behalf, cleans up after your twin five-year-olds or prepares the cabin with lots of extras, you may want to offer a tip. As one pilot told us, “If I accomplish the flawless, multi-time-zone, multi-country, bureaucratic, hectic and maintenance-plagued mission with aplomb, a tip is a nice way for the passenger to show appreciation.” According to the pilots we surveyed, the average gratuity is $50 to $100 per flight per pilot.

Don’t worry if the charter company has a no-tipping policy. In the unlikely event that a pilot cannot accept gratuities or is uncomfortable doing so, he will undoubtedly still appreciate the gesture. And keep in mind that if you can’t say thank you by tipping directly, there may be another way. As one pilot commented, “Our company says ‘no tipping,’ but experienced passengers will say, ‘Have dinner on me.’”

What about tipping flight attendants and other onboard crew members? Joanne Cassar, a corporate flight attendant for nine years, said she believes that tipping is never expected or necessary, “but it’s always appreciated. It helps you to know that your service was good and the client is happy.” Cassar added that she shares her tips evenly with the rest of the onboard crew because she believes that she is part of a team.

Then there is the crew on the ground. Passengers and pilots do regularly tip line crew and baggage handlers, but there are exceptions. Maddy Gilad, chief pilot for Projet Aviation, an aircraft management and services company in Leesburg, Virginia, said that Projet usually builds into the cost of the flight tips for line people, handlers and fuelers and informs the passenger that the service is included. “That way,” she said, “the passenger can rest easy, knowing that all of those gratuities have been taken care of by us.”

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Your Letters

What our readers had to say

I hate the challenge of trying to figure out if tipping is appropriate and, if so, how much [Tipping Points,” December 2013/January 2014]. I pay a lot of money to fly privately, so I believe that there should always be a no-tipping policy for the inflight folks.

Tom Johnson

 


I worked in the Middle East for four long years and flying VIPs was the perfect job—not because of the salaries but because of the tips. At the end of most trips with wealthy Arab passengers, it was common for the crew to get an envelope with $2,000 to $5,000 to split. However, nothing pays off like flying at home. Wealthy Americans are very down to earth and courteous and for an employee that is more rewarding than a big tip.

Romano


I always tip crewmembers when I take a charter flight ["Tipping Points," December 2013/January 2014]. I've encountered only one crewmember who felt uncomfortable accepting a tip, so I told him to donate it to his favorite charity. The typical crewmember doesn't make as much as most professionals in other industries and they are away from home a lot. I give gratuities in an envelope with a card and a handwritten thank you. Everyone seems to greatly appreciate the thank-you card and it seems classy compared with handing someone a $100 bill.

David Marshall


 

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Comments

No Avatar
Anonymous
on December 12, 2013 - 6:31pm

I always tip service people
Why should Charter pilots not get tipped
What are these people thinking
Charter pilot

No Avatar
Tom Johnson
on December 13, 2013 - 12:52pm

I hate the challenge of trying to figure out if tipping is appropriate and if so how much. I pay a lot of money to fly privately so I believe that there should always be a no tipping policy for the inflight folks.

No Avatar
Romano
on December 13, 2013 - 1:47pm

Dear Jennifer,

I enjoyed your article about tipping crews. I worked in the Middle East for four long years and flying VIP's was the perfect job not because of the salaries but because of the tips.

At the end of most trips with wealthy Arab passengers it was common for the crew to get an envelop with cash to split among the crew. Two, Three and Five Thousand dollars were not uncommon. However, nothing pays off like flying at home. Wealthy Americans are very much down to earth, polite and courteous and as an employee that is more rewarding than a big tip.

Thank you,

Romano Falco
954 882 4830

If Published, please do not post my last name

No Avatar
David Marshall
on February 16, 2014 - 8:21pm

I always tip crew members when I fly a charter flight. I only encountered one crew member who felt uncomfortable accepting a tip so I told him to donate it to his favorite charity. The typical crew member doesn't make as much as most professionals in other industries and they are away from home a lot. I give gratuities in an envelope with a card and a handwritten thank you. Everyone seems to greatly appreciate the thank-you card and it seems classy compared to handing someone a $100 bill.

No Avatar
Cletus
on September 27, 2014 - 6:20pm

As a charter pilot, I often see our customers pulling nice tips out for the guys who roll their bags out on carts and drop them at the luggage compartment door, then walk away, and I load about 100-800 pounds of bags.

I then load the passengers, get them blankets & pillows, serve drinks, pick up diapers left in the aisle, vacuum up after them, look the other way when they bring bags to clean out the wine, food and liquor, clean the toilet, and then unload the bags again.

I almost forgot....I safely flew them into one of the most dangerous airports in the country during winter.

Flying passengers is the least amount of work we do. People pay a lot of money to fly privately but don't complain about it because most of you make more interest in a week than we do all year. It is very easy to look up what our salaries are.

Most, if not all of us are trying to get to the major airlines and the tips don't really make or break our day. It is actually pretty funny watching people dodge the tip. Doesn't matter to us but when they leave a big mess, it shows the lack of class.

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Quote/Unquote

“"I've got a list of corporations that have gotten out of their airplanes [because of criticism from politicians]. It is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. When you look at the time and cost savings; it does not make sense not to fly [privately]. You can't let public perception interfere with your business decision to fly. It either is a good business decision or it isn't."”

-business aviation entrepreneur Nick Popovich