With the modest rise in Covid-19 cases in Australia, the country has cut in half the number of international arriving passengers allowed to enter and go into state quarantine, at least through August 31. As a result American Airlines only has an allocation of passengers on certain days. For other dates they’ll fly cargo only from Los Angeles to Sydney, and carry passengers on the return.
Now it’s taken the pandemic, but American Airlines is finally telling its employees they have to stop tipping when they’re in Australia. And that’s by order of the government there. In an LAX flight service memo on Monday, Los Angeles-based flight attendants were told they’d face 14 day quarantine if caught tipping:
The New South Wales (NSW) Health and the NSW government have informed us that we are no longer allowed to collect money for tipping upon arrival or on our departures as we have done in the past for our transportation drivers, hotel staff and others.
This restriction is due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Australia and the potential for exposing and spreading the virus with the exchange of money. If anyone is caught providing a tip, they will be subject to a 14 day quarantine in SYD.
I know we all want to provide this tip, however we simply cannot. Please just provide them with a wrm smile and a thank you. I know you all understand and once we are able to start providing a tip again, I will let you know.
I’d make several points here,
- Flight crew traveling for work should have their employer (American) covering the cost of tips during work travel, not come out of pocket. (N.B. it was not my intention to have a philosophical debate over per diems, interesting though that is.)
- Australia does not have a tipping culture although with American visitors and influence it’s become more common in recent years.
- Workers there, such as hotel employees and drivers, make a living wage and don’t rely on tips as part of their income the way service workers often do in the United States. The cost of a hotel housekeeper is factored into the wage paid by the hotel, and baked into the room rate, rather than assuming guests will come out of pocket separately to cover it.
- If they really wanted to, could they pool funds with Venmo or similar apps?
Fomite transmission isn’t impossible and isn’t nonexistent, but it’s not a significant vector of spread for the virus which primarily moves via aerosols in poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
However with a limited amount of virus in the country, foreigners are viewed as a threat, and the introduction of virus from any source is of concern to a government that until now has successfully tamped down on any outbreak and which has also bungled its vaccine rollout such that there’s very little immunity in the country. Sydney remains under lockdown and an extension past Friday seems likely.
Americans need to stop tipping everyone, everywhere. And Americans need to stop assuming that service industries operate the same everywhere else as they do in the U.S. Here are 5 simple rules for tipping that will cover you everywhere in the world if you aren’t certain of local practices.