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.

Tipping Points

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.”