Passengers Tossing Flight Attendant Thank You Notes. Should Cabin Crew Even Bother?

An American Airlines flight attendant asked a community of frequent flyers about the value of ‘thank you notes’ written to passengers. Unanimously everyone loved the idea. But the flight attendant reported that several passengers just tossed their notes.

I recently worked a trip where the purser and I both wrote personalized thank you notes to our FC customers. It felt good to do it, since we had a really nice flight, no delays, no issues, and we had fun. I was very disappointed after , to see how many of them ended up on the floor after the flight. Does this gesture mean anything to you guys, or should I discontinue thanking my customers? Feeling a little sad about it. I don’t expect them to carry them home, but to just trash our gesture, well, that kinda hurts.

I wonder if this is something that people love in theory but don’t actually appreciate in practice? Then again how many of us appreciate getting birthday cards and holiday cards, but toss them once we’ve read them, especially if they aren’t from someone we’re really close to and they don’t say something especially meaningful?

  • Sometimes pilots write these notes, do those mean more?

  • Would it mean more to a coach passenger, who doesn’t expect even most common courtesies, than it does to a first class passenger? American flight attendant Taylor Tippett is known for leaving notes at passenger window seats.

This is my 9th consecutive year as an Executive Platinum member. I’ve never been a Concierge Key. I am always polite to flight attendants and thank them for anything they offer or bring to me. I’ve handed out my share of ‘Above and Beyond’ certificates to recognize outstanding crew service. I have never received a thank you note from an American Airlines flight attendant.

I’ve always gotten a handwritten note from flight attendants working first class on Cathay Pacific. At worst once they forgot to sign it.

That’s part of the Cathay service standard. Does it mean less knowing that they’re supposed to do it?

I think the first thing that would be great from flight attendants up front is predeparture beverages. The second thing is addressing passengers by name. You feel more like a person than someone on the receiving end of an assembly line that way. I think passengers should be polite back, saying please and thank you.

A thank you note is special if it references an interaction, comes later in the flight, and seems genuine. A welcome note at the beginning of the flight is fine. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do with the note though. I might keep it out of politeness. I wouldn’t want to be seen throwing it away. And I’d probably keep it to photograph and write about here on the blog. The mere fact that a passenger tossed the note, even if that seems rude, doesn’t mean that the note failed to have its intended effect?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I was raised old-school and I am very particular about thank you notes. On an airplane, I think I would more appreciate being addressed by name and then having the flight attendant mention something personalized about me, or what I’ve done, or what happened during the flight. Ex: “Love your handbag“; or “Thanks for your smile when I asked if you wanted another dessert“; or “Hope you enjoy your time in London, and if not, come on back onboard!”

  2. Why bother, and this is for all airlines, not just AA.

    Pax knows you don’t really care, you know you don’t really care, you know your company don’t really care.

    So pretentious. We are all adults, travel is exhausting enough, let go the useless bothers.

  3. I don’t care much about a non-personalized thank-you note. As bzv said, if it’s personalized, that adds a nice touch, but otherwise who cares about some company-mandated scribble.

    Another option for making it more memorable/appreciated — and maybe keep it from ending up on the floor — would be to have the note accompany a token gesture of gratitude… a small food item (cookie? chocolates?), for example. Ideally the airline doesn’t require it but gives FAs the freedom and budget to do it (along with a personalized note) at their discretion.

  4. As a 7th year EXP on AA, I have received only two in my 7 years. Once on CX for my 50th Birthday flight to HKG- even came with a small cake and glass of champagne. Second was about 2 months ago on an American Eagle flight.
    I saved both and it elevated me to be a kinder person to others, as a result.
    This world needs more givers of kindness.

  5. I can see both sides. If I’m an FA and see the note on the ground, it’s a toss up whether it had any effect or not (maybe you were even annoyed at the extra trash!). But I have received a business card from a pilot with a thank you on it, on my first flight as a United 1K. I took it with me and thought it was a nice gesture. Made me feel warm and fuzzy about United…but then I threw it away at home about a week later.

  6. “A thank you note is special if it references an interaction, comes later in the flight, and seems genuine.”


    “A welcome note at the beginning of the flight is fine.”

    Also yes.

    “I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do with the note though. I might keep it out of politeness.”

    Still yes.

    “then I threw it away at home about a week later”

    And, yes.

    Sometimes I wonder if blog readers were raised by wolves. 🙂

  7. Gary, I was going to write you about this very topic this week. I was on an AA flight this weekend from SEA to PHX. The flight attendant did a super job from pre departure beverage, to meal service, to additional beverages and calling everyone by name throughout the flight. When we were deplaning she handed everyone a personalized handwritten note. On my note along with thanking me for my business she included my connecting flight and gate number. I was really impressed! I had never experienced that before. I was so impressed that when I was waiting for my connection in PHX I went to the AA website found where you could leave a compliment and told them about the great service I received. The next day I received a non-canned response from AA thanking me for taking the time and letting me know that would let our flight attendant know. I don’t travel a lot, but you hear of so many bad interactions between crew and passengers, this really stood out as something special. Without sounding too gushy, it made me reconsider my loyalty and I have switched back to American from United for my travel over the next several months. I really appreciate the little things that make customer service go from good to great.

  8. I flew DL business class last week and received a nice note from the purser. I thought it was a nice touch and left positive feelings. That being said I think most of us buy flights based on schedule and price. And I’d rather have good IRROPS support than anything else.

  9. Come on Gary….no AA employee said “Thank you” when you handed them an above and beyond certificate? Or do you mean a personal thank you note? I cannot image any FA or GA taking your A&B and just carrying on with no “Hey thanks!”

  10. I actually got one on a very routine AA domestic flight in F a few weeks ago. I do recall wondering what I was supposed to do with the note, but it certainly had its intended effect. To me, it did show appreciation for my business. I knew they didn’t have to do it.

    Optimistically, I’d like to think it creates some sort of halo effect. FAs must be in somewhat of a good mood. Pax can’t help but not be happy. Good flight. Though doing this in lieu of expected service like PDB or a refill or two would probably create more ill will. I expect AA to underperform. Don’t unnecessarily get my hopes up.

    To FAs that want to do this, I say go for it. You’re likely already a great FA. If pax leave them behind, I promise they’re not meaning to be rude.

  11. Is the FA sure that the pax were throwing the notes away, or were the pax actually tossing them towards the galley hoping to get the attention of the FAs who were in there chatting with each other? 😀

  12. I’m bothered by the cynical attitude of some of these comments, and I’m grateful for personal interaction, including thank you notes. I’ve received one every time I’ve down JetBlue‘a Mint, and it’s made a huge difference about the way I feel about the product. Without that personal interaction, I’m more likely to fly B6. With it, I’ll go out of my way to fly them.

  13. Thank you for validating our efforts, TomAs a flight attendant at JetBlue, I know it goes over well. It’s always done with the sincerest of intentions because believe me, we’re probably exhausted as well, but something made us want to create a special moment for you.
    As far as tossing, no no no.
    Unless I misunderstand the word “toss”.

  14. I think a note is a fantastic gesture of service and I would be very happy to receive one.

    If it ends up in the trash it doesn’t mean it wasn’t appreciated.

  15. I’ve had the same problem in reverse, actually. On two occasions I gave one of those Thank You certificates to FAs on AA, and both times I didn’t get a thank you or anything. They just stuck it in their pockets and let me walk off the plane. Yes it was at the end of the flight and they were busy, but come on it isn’t that hard to smile and/or say thank you. I didn’t like it, so I can imagine how an FA feels when they see the fruit of their efforts discarded. It really isn’t that hard to stick a tiny piece of paper in your pocket and dispose of it later.

  16. It needs to be personal if the attendant wants it to be kept. A note that is just as applicable to the person in front or behind you is just nice words on a page.

  17. I don’t keep Christmas cards, Birthday cards, Thank You notes but I appreciate most of them when I receive them. Why would people expect you to keep these notes? I suppose it looks better if you pretend to keep them and wait until you are home to throw them away.

    I know I received a Thank You/Christmas card from Delta when I flew them late last year. It was appreciated but eventually was thrown away.

    I’m guessing the only notes kept are the ones with a desirable phone number on them 🙂

  18. The airlines are here to get you from Point A to Point B as safely as possible. Sure, Thank You notes are a kind gesture, but it is repetitive and wasteful. The crew, they don’t know me, I don’t know them. Thank you note is inappropriate.

    The crew, at least what i’ve seen already give us drinks before departure, hang our coats, address us by name, and Thank us.

    What else is there to expect? A poached dodo egg with a 10-minute massage? For some first class passengers, seems like you want the world handed to you for your $350 two-hour flight from Dallas to Chicago.

  19. I appreciate thank you notes. I get 4 or 5 a year on DL (DM and millionmiller). I have never gotten anything from any AA flight attendant but I would welcome it.

  20. Gary..great article..
    reminding us all how important the little things are
    that go a long way especially
    Recognizing our Premium Level customers

    I really enjoy your Blog , full of industry information as well as thought provoking articles..Keep them coming

    Best Regards
    AA Flight Attendant
    Miami, FL

  21. When the FA comes around the 1st time and addresses me by name I feel gratified as long as it seems genuine and not forced. I in turn will always call her/him by their 1st name.
    90% of the time the service wounds up what I expected. It makes those 15+ hr LAX- SYD trips bearable.
    The TY notes are appreciated too.

  22. As a 50 year Delta flight attendant I admit I write and deliver thank you notes. I opt to do approximately one third of the coach passengers on our list. (I do not work First Class. Read above comments.) Few coworkers deliver cards or messages. That is their choice.

    The only chance I usually have to complete the cards is before boarding the flight – that necessitates I sign-in extra early for every trip. We cannot access the info until the day of operation, usually less than 2 hours before scheduled departure. On my flights we rarely have time to sit down other than during turbulence. It is difficult to write notes during turbulence. The only reason I mention this is – this is our reality. Whether a customer appreciates the effort or not is certainly their choice. That matters not to me. They are welcome to hand the card back to me without even reading it – that has occurred. I am not offended. I had one guy tear the card into tiny bits and throw it on the floor. He pointed at the mess and smiled. I smiled back and continued walking down the aisle. To each their own. I was taught to behave better than that. I do not allow a passenger’s behavior to change me or my behavior. I continue to do the cards. (I neglected to mention, I add bundles of the cards to my luggage before each trip. Those are not readily available, we must seek them every morning. They are not on the aircraft.)

    I am a very private person. I do not appreciate when a stranger calls me by my name. I left a bank I had utilized for 35 years due to the staff ALWAYS calling me by name each and every time I entered the bank. I requested they stop announcing my name, they stated it was company policy. I 1,000,000% know my name. I do not need my name being announced to strangers. Respect my privacy or I refuse to do business on-site – period.

  23. I have received 1-yes one note in the 5 years as a diamond!! I really liked it and put it up on twitter!!
    last sunday i was flying in the main cabin(DM andMM) 90 on upgrade list. The young woman next to me received a thank you note from the FC FA and promptly stuffed it in the seat pocket?? without reading it. I said to her “you must travel alot” Yeah was her response and she left it on the plane….

  24. My partner & I were pleasantly surprised last April on a Delta flight (LGA-PBI) when the flight attendant stopped by our (Main Cabin) seats, handed each of us hand-written thank you notes even though we’re hardly road warriors as Silver Medallion tier SkyMiles!

    And while we kept our hand written Delta thank you notes from that flight largely because any type of airline related action/memorabilia (good and bad) is something I’d typically keep on file in the event I write about the experience (and because I’m an avgeek at heart, too!), I agree with those who’ve said just because many passengers discard their notes does NOT mean they effort goes unnoticed or is unappreciated by them.

    After all, NOT everyone is an avgeek, and for some, holding onto the note is just something else for them to keep track of, or that they have to deal with when they’re rifling through their computer case, briefcase, purse, “murse”, etc., when they’re at a meeting or searching for other documents & receipts they need to retrieve on the fly.

    But for sure, we were pleasantly surprised on that flight, and have wondered on most of our flights since then if we’d receive another hand-written thank you note?!?!

    (Alas, we haven’t)

  25. Awww, that kinda sucked of her, but at least a nice effort was made by the crew. You just can’t help some people just don’t have manners.
    I will never stop going out of my way to smile and say something nice to a customer, it may be the best thing that happens to them that day or even that whole week. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing and it feels pretty darn satisfying to make someone smile.

  26. I greatly appreciate any notes I get and I still have a note written to me by Emily in January 2018 on an AA flight to Europe. After a great flight and wonderful service, what a nice surprise at the end of the flight.

  27. 17 year executive platinum and last year did 400k miles, spent 75k with AA, and didn’t make CKey. On my 400k mike flight HKT to DFW the first class flight attendant wrote me a wonderful note thanking me for my business even though AA didn’t offer me CKey, her and all the employees AA appreciate my business. It was very nice and I still have the note.

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