As a traveler, I always encourage extending acts of kindness to flight attendants throughout the year but the holidays are an especially great time to show them some gratitude for their hard work. If you subscribe to my free newsletter, then you know I almost always bring a bag of chocolates every time I fly. And I started doing it long before I dated a United flight attendant 20-something years ago. Actually, I think it was the chocolates that melted her heart. RELATED: What Do Flight Attendants Notice When You Board A Plane? Here’s What They’re Looking For
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After dating a flight attendant for four years, I know firsthand the difficult stuff they deal with on almost every single flight and we all know the pandemic has only made their jobs 100 times harder.
My number one travel tip has always been to be genuinely kind to everyone you encounter when you travel but especially gate agents and flight attendants. And lately, I’ve gotten multiple emails from readers asking exactly how and who do I give the chocolates to. Here’s one message that reader Maureen sent in:
You regularly talk about giving chocolates to the gate and check-in agents and FAs, and I’d love to do this but:
1. What is the best gift for everyone? Is chocolate really the most appreciated?
2. When do you give it to the FAs? When you board and give it to a random one, or to the first one who takes your drink/meal order?
I’d love a bit more about this as I do believe they deserve a bit of appreciation given how crappy some travelers are these days.
Here’s my advice: The best gift (if you can afford it) is to give a gift card to each flight attendant. I often carry $5 Starbucks gift cards in my carry-on to give to people who I meet along my travels that go above and beyond but it’s expensive. Chocolates are probably the easiest, cheapest and sweetest (pun intended) option.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last year released an episode of The Air Up There podcast about “Give Thanks This Holiday Season” and they interviewed Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants. Sara was asked, “how can passengers throughout the holiday season thank their crew?”
Sara replied, “Oh, wow! You know what, kind words go a really long way. So if you remember to do that, when you step on the plane, take a minute to look up from your phone and say hello. Greet the flight attendants. And on your way out, thank them and just be thoughtful about that. Look around and see if you can help in any way. But also what I would say is, you know, flight attendants love chocolate.”
I used to bring boxes of chocolates but when I started traveling more frequently it became expensive and took up too much space in my carry-on. So now I usually carry bags of Hershey Kisses. I like them because they’re inexpensive, individually wrapped, don’t contain nuts and almost universally liked. Costco also sells Godiva dark chocolate ganache hearts that are delicious, inexpensive and a step up from Hershey’s.
Ideally, I carry three bags. One for the gate agents, one for the flight attendants and one for myself (just kidding about the latter). If I’m traveling with my kids, the third bag goes to the pilots since they love visiting the cockpit and they often get invited up.
If you are traveling with little kids, then give the chocolates to them to give to the flight attendant welcoming passengers onboard. If I’m not with my kids, I still give it to the flight attendant at the door and I say something like, “I know how difficult your job is. Here’s a gesture of appreciation.”
If the flight attendant at the door isn’t friendly (which is rare), then I will give it to the flight attendant closest to my seat when I place my bags in the overhead compartment. I’ve given chocolates well over 100 times and I think only once did the flight attendant not thank me profusely. Almost always, multiple flight attendants will come up during the flight to thank me, which is ironic because I’m trying to thank them.
When I flew last November between JFK and LAX, I was in the airline club lounge trying to find options for my severely delayed flight. I spent some time with one of the agents in there and at the end of her diligent work, I busted out a bag of Hershey Kisses and she was flabbergasted. She was so appreciative and when I walked out an hour later she came up to me an handed me a couple of American Airlines amenity kits. It was unnecessary but just goes to show how happy you can make someone with a simple and inexpensive act of kindness.
So this year, let’s do something nice for the gate agents and flight attendants. After the last couple of years they’ve had, they will surely appreciate being showered with gifts.
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