Travel Etiquette: Should you bribe your flight attendants with chocolate?

In this series, Stuff Travel takes on some of the biggest debates surrounding flight etiquette – and brings them to you to settle once and for all.

There have long been rumors that gifts given to flight attendants could bring benefits to passengers, and Helena Afroughi appeared to confirm this in a recent interview with Britain’s Express newspaper.

When asked how passengers can get special treatment or even upgrades on board, the flight attendant said: “Whatever works is if people bring some sweets to the crew – chocolates or whatever. And they make themselves felt.”

Afroughi suggested making the effort to speak to flight attendants before making a request, adding, “If you ask nicely and kindly, it’s rare for a crew to say no.”

While upgrades are far from guaranteed, gifts — and other kind gestures — usually result in some perks, such as: B. a seat with more legroom, said flight attendant Miguel Munoz.

Have you ever received a free upgrade? Email [email protected]

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The article didn’t specify which airline or airlines Afroughi and Munoz work for, so Kiwi travelers — or travelers in general — should not rely solely on their comments.

The President of the New Zealand Flight Attendants Association (FAANZ), Craig Featherby, said cabin crew sometimes receive boxes of chocolates or cards from passengers, which he sees as “gestures of kindness” but rarely anything of greater financial value.

Many airlines, including Air New Zealand, do not allow cabin crew members to receive cash or valuable gifts.


Many airlines, including Air New Zealand, do not allow cabin crew members to receive cash or valuable gifts.

As part of Air New Zealand’s cabin crew team, he said he knows one flight attendant who was offered $200 (NZD 315) on board, but “that’s about as extravagant as it gets”.

Many airlines, including Air New Zealand, don’t allow their employees to accept cash or sizeable gifts, so the flight attendant told the passenger what to do with their money.

“She said, ‘If you really want to give me the money, let’s go together. I know exactly where you can drop it off at Auckland airport. There’s this huge UNICEF trash can, so she said put it in there. And incredibly, the American customer did.”

In Featherby’s 18 years in the Air, gifts like chocolates have led to little touches like a glass of wine, but never an upgrade.

However, the crew sometimes gives special treatment to passengers who are celebrating a special occasion or who are unwell.

Air New Zealand flight attendants were so delighted with the cards they received during the pandemic that they pin them to the airline's Google Workspace platform for everyone to see.

Air New Zealand/Facebook

Air New Zealand flight attendants were so delighted with the cards they received during the pandemic that they pin them to the airline’s Google Workspace platform for everyone to see.

“Just last week I drove to Brisbane and back and we had someone celebrating their 50th anniversary. So we took two glasses of champagne from business (class) to economy. The good thing about Air New Zealand and many other airlines is that they give the crew the tools and, I believe, the authority to go beyond that.”

Featherby said medical events accounted for many of the rare upgrades.

“A few years ago I had medical treatment where unfortunately a baby was lost on board and there was a doctor on board. I had seats available so I moved him to Business Class and I told all the other customers in Business Premier why I was doing it so they would know what was going on.”

When Air New Zealand flight attendants receive chocolates, they often place them in the baskets of lollipops that are carried through the cabin before landing, he said.

“We are very grateful and try to pass it on to everyone else.”

Air New Zealand cabin crew general manager Viv Vincent said flight attendants treat all passengers equally and aim to “provide consistently high quality hospitality on all our flights.

“They work incredibly hard to get customers where they need to be, so the best gift customers can give our crew is a warm greeting, a big smile and a thank you.”

Featherby said it’s difficult to provide “amazing, exceptional customer service” to every single passenger on every single flight, especially when it’s short or full, but the crew is doing their best.

They’re so excited about the cards, which they’ve been getting more of during the pandemic, that they’re sharing photos of them on the airline’s Google Workspace platform.

However, cabin crew do not expect any gifts and in times of Covid-19 many are just grateful to be back at work.

“People pay a premium for their fare, so there is no expectation from the crew to receive anything from the customer. But it is always greatly appreciated…

“Almost every single person you meet on board an Air New Zealand flight has been laid off (during the pandemic). So when you step on a plane, we’re grateful because you’re flying again; They help pay our salaries. But when you get the card or the box of chocolates, it only reinforces the “okay, I’m really happy to be back”.

Have you ever tried to bribe a flight attendant? What was the result? Let us know in the comments.

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