It’s the holiday season so it’s time everyone kicks up their acts of kindness. As a traveler, I always encourage extending that 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 box or 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).
After dating a flight attendant for four years, I know firsthand the kind of crap they dealt with on almost every single flight and you know the pandemic has made their jobs 100 times harder.
Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants, and Lakisha Price, the Air Traffic Manager at FAA’s Command Center recently told CNN, “There have been more than 5,000 disruptive passenger reports sent to the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of this year, that’s more disruptions in 2021 than the entire 31-year history of recording such behaviors. And we’re not even done with the year yet!”
The majority of these altercations are due to passengers refusing to wear a mask and it escalates from there. I know what you’re thinking, these passengers are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, have never played a team sport and are behaving the complete opposite of patriotic.
The good news is that the laws are about to get tougher and once the federal government institutes a no-fly list across the board, instead of just the airline banning the perpetrator, they will be banned on all airlines. So I think their actions will change real quick.
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) just released an episode of The Air Up There podcast about “Give Thanks This Holiday Season” and they interviewed the same Sara Nelson mentioned above, who is also a flight attendant (AA). 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 individually wrapped and don’t contain nuts. 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 it’s an easy way for them to 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 FA 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 one 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 FA’s 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 week 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, which had masks and sanitizer. 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 year they’ve had, they could use being showered with chocolate.
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