In a divided nation, here’s one more divisive issue. Should you tip the pilots or flight attendants on your private jet flight? What about the ground staff at the private jet terminal?
With so many new private flyers due to COVID-19 and diminished airline schedules, it’s a question coming up more and more. It’s also not a question executives of private aviation companies are in a rush to answer. While most companies don’t prohibit tipping, they don’t want you to feel obligated. In part, that’s because private jet tipping varies globally in sync with the local culture.
In the Middle East, flight attendants report being gifted expensive jewelry and luxury goods. Pilots have even received a sheik’s spare exotic car as a tip. These lavish thank-you presents are generally reserved for crews who operate on lease contracts that can last several months at a time.
What about when you charter a private jet for a domestic flight or to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Hawaii? For the pilots, $50 is not uncommon, although the majority of customers don’t tip. Flight attendants only come on larger jets, and if you have a full meal service and for longer flights, think $50 to $100. For shorter hops, think Andrew Jackson.
One flight attendant said it’s not unusual to decline on your first attempt. She often finds cash stuffed into her purse or glass in the galley bar. Private aviation crews believe delivering friendly and top-notch service is part of the job.
The pros do say, if they mention it is corporate policy as the reason for declining, giving them money might put them in a difficult position. Hence, it’s best to know your compliments alone are genuinely appreciated.
On the ground, a spokesperson for Million Air, a chain for private jet terminals, says the line staff pools your tips and splits them. These are the folks who take your luggage from your car into the facility. Pilots usually load your luggage into the baggage hold and cabin. Folks who work on the ground tell me it varies widely. More significant tips typically accompany lots of luggage and lousy weather. Think from a couple of dollars to a Ulysses S. Grant if it looks like you are moving the stock room from a sporting goods store.
What about those shared flights where you don’t charter the entire jet but just buy seats or split the cost? “For shared flights booked through XO, passengers occasionally offer tips to in-flight crewmembers to recognize their exemplary service,” notes a spokesperson.
One company that has brought tipping into the tech-led 21st Century is BLADE, which offers helicopter and private jet charters, flights where you can buy a single seat, and crowdfunded flights.
Its CEO Rob Wiesenthal says the company has a tipping function in its app. Like Uber, the option is presented after your trip. Last year, BLADE customers tapped in over $300,000 worth of tips. That’s a lot of happy customers!