Photo: Flight Attendant Appears To Take Cash Bribe To Let First Class Passengers Go Maskless

A flight attendant on board United Airlines flight 6060 from Charleston to Houston Intercontinental, an Embraer ERJ-175 operated by Mesa Airlines, was photographed appearing to take cash from a first class passenger. Another passenger on board reported on twitter that the cabin crew member “took cash bribes” from passengers up front not to enforce mask rules for the flight.

Another photo from inside the cabin shows at least passengers in the cabin not wearing masks, although the two closest to the person taking the photo are speaking to each other while at least holding a drink.

Zooming in, a female passenger does appear to be offering a folded over $20 bill.

To be clear, we can see cash being offered. We do not have independent confirmation of why the cash was being offered. And no photo shows cash being accepted.

Mask enforcement is lax on many flights – nursing a drink isn’t supposed to be an excuse to go maskless (‘take the mask down for each sip’ rather than leaving it down). Indeed, the attitudes of cabin crew vary tremendously. I flew recently on a flight with two crewmembers chatting maskless in the galley for about 40 minutes while holding (and not drinking from) open water bottles.

In general tipping flight attendants isn’t permitted. Frontier Airlines caused a social media frenzy over its policy to allow tipping three years ago. Their employees are paid less, and made up some of it with tips. Flight attendants who get customers to sign up for credit cards do generally earn a commission. And Ryanair was revealed to impose a quote on cabin crew for inflight sales.

At American Airlines airport customer service employees are allowed to accept “promotional items, complimentary tickets or perishable gifts (candy, fruit, etc)” that’s worth no more than $100. American tells employees to “share[..] with colleagues when practical.” However gifts worth over $100 must be returned.

Employees are not allowed to accept “cash, gift cards, and gift certificates” regardless of amount. So no Starbucks gift cards.

Tipping is far more accepted at hotel check-in in Las Vegas but there the desk agent is being paid off to give you an upgrade (giving away something of their employer’s for free) rather than being paid off to ignore federal rules.

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

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. Mask or not. It doesn’t matter. They do nothing, except provide a sense of security for barely-literate leftists.

  2. How about we shame “Megan O” for being a freakin’ Karen who can’t mind her own damn business? Seriously, these self-entitled little busybodies spoil everything for the rest of us. And that’s true whether there’s anything to this allegation or not.

    My suspicion is that birdbrain Megan O was missing context here. And we’ll likely find that out after the poor FA is put through hell because of one tweeting b_tch.

  3. Anyone noticed the skirt length of that flight attendant in question? From official pictures, skirt length should cut right above knee cap but her skirt… is that normal?

  4. Good! I’ll happily pay $20 to not wear a mask on a plane.

    QSuites is great for this. 20+ hours without a mask – like a human.

  5. The one thing COVID has shown me is who would have turned Anne Frank in and who would have hidden her! I’m sure I know what @meganrose95 would have done.

  6. On a different note, how about a post on the ins and outs of bribes? I have a few friends who have deployed them (including on airlines) to great effect, but I’m always afraid of the recipient yelling “ARE YOU TRYING TO BRIBE ME???”

  7. Amazing transatlantic flight in F yesterday. Only 4 passengers, and none of the cabin crew complained about not wearing masks. Impeccable service.

  8. It’s all hype. I’ll bet there is some reason for this. Buying drinks on the plane for example. I also agree with @Tom regarding Anne Frank. We know who those types of folks are through all of this.

  9. Masks do NOTHING to stop a virus, don’t believe me? Just read the back of the box that the masks come in, it clearly states the obvious there.

  10. Landed on BA from DC this morning. Waited on board at a remote stand for a bus for 90 minutes!

    Nothing to do with masks but I had to tell someone.

    I’d pay $20 for a no-mask flight. $50 across the Atlantic.

  11. Do you not have a problem reporting libelous rumors without evidence? Just based on human nature, I’m 99% certain that whatever reason that $20 changed hands, it wasn’t about mask compliance.

  12. Amazing that after 18 months into this pandemic, we still have nutcases that refuse to believe that masks work. These numbskulls continue to get their science from Alex Jones and his ilk.
    @Joe @Jerome @George, etal
    Please do 2 things to show how brave you are:
    1. Next time you get really sick, don’t go to a doctor, ask Tucker Carlson what to do.
    2. Sign a document refusing medical treatment if you get Covid. This would be the honorable thing to do, so I don’t expect you to do it.

  13. @DaninMCI “It’s all hype. I’ll bet there is some reason for this. Buying drinks on the plane for example.”

    Buying drinks in first class?

  14. I thought regional jets needed cash to buy drinks as they do not have the handheld devices to process credit cards?
    Maybe she was paying for drinks? Or maybe masks on planes are theater? Both perhaps.
    Cash talks. Love it.

  15. Maybe they wanted the f/a to flash her boobies for 20 bucks. From what I can see from the back, I’d gladly have given her the 20….and after she can get me another drink. Lighten up people.

  16. Am I missing something or are some posters comparing someone potentially trying to break the law in order to expose those around them to what can be a fatal disease to Anne Frank? Yeah, I definitely want to hear more of your opinions.

  17. Interesting. I’ll give $15 Starbucks gift cards to at least four flight attendants on long-haul AA Hawaii flights and I’ve never had one refused.

  18. The photo evidence seems pretty clear that (a) those two passengers weren’t wearing masks on board the aircraft, and (b) cash was changing hands between the passenger and the flight attendant. Given that United is a cashless airline, there’s no obvious reason why she would be paying her $20.

    An investigation is appropriate to determine if there is an alternative explanation.

  19. Megan O deserves our ridicule and condemnation. Maybe one day she will be spotted and photographed for something innocuous that is blown out of proportion. Filming, photos, and identification are ok for serious issues. To do it here is disgusting. These first class passengers were served alcohol which is normal. They had fun on a short flight. They didn’t bother with putting on a mask between sips of alcohol. Cash tips aren’t common on flights but they are definitely more common in business class or first class than in the back. I thought about giving a gay flight attendant a tip in business class on American for being friendly compared to the old ladies. I didn’t have a chance to do so in the end but tipping is not some obscure thing in business/First.

    Megan O should lose her job over this and be blacklisted from any organization. If she has a conservative employer, the employer should take a stand against her for bullying. Hopefully someone calls her employer to complain about her.

    @Tim L

    We don’t recognize leftist mask laws as valid. We consider them an attack on freedom and view anyone who enforces them or other leftist laws as criminals of the highest degree. It’s illogical to support the enforcement of a law or policy we wholeheartedly disagree with.

  20. id pay you covidiots 5 dollars each to keep your mask on. oh wait many of you are already in hospitals, sick, and intubated. .

  21. Didn’t Gary write a story back in July in which he “tipped” the Hertz employee so that he could jump ahead of other people who were ahead of him and score the last car on the lot? One man’s tip is another woman’s bribe….

  22. @Jackson


    That’s all I’m giving you for now. Cancel culture works both ways. Time to fight back.

  23. Lmfao. Well Gary, I’m betting this post didn’t go the way you were thinking it would. I echo the majority of those above who think any mask beyond an N95 is ridiculous exercise in placebo science. And the idiot who decided she would throw the FA to the wolves for what will probably come out to be nothing like she suspected looks like the degenerate neighbor you always fear will buy the property next door.

  24. What I don’t get is why all you antimaskers are so cool with what may have gone down on the flight.

    I’m betting a substantial percentage of you are unvaccinated, so you’re the ones most likely to wind up in an ICU with a tube in every single orifice of your ignorant body, plus a couple they created for your ECMO in vain hope of saving your cowardly selfish lives.

    Those of us who are vaxxed and masked *might* get a case of the sniffles from it but will live another day.

    The stupidity of a substantial
    percentage of the American public is the greatest tragedy in the history of the world.

  25. Gary, why don’t you just delete posts that urge violence, intimidation or lawbreaking? This bizarre set of anti-vax people have taken over your comments and really present a conundrum. Do we give a soapbox to people who think “leftist” gun restrictions on airplanes shouldn’t be “recognized” and urge people to violate that regulation, too? Maybe a bit of editorial license here is called for?

  26. @Greg

    99% of people who get Covid or the delta variant have no symptoms, mild symptoms, or moderate symptoms like the flu. I never had the flu but my family has and they said it was terrible. I didn’t worry about the flu being without the flu shot then. I don’t worry about being without a vaccine for Covid. You are buying into the Covid propaganda. No one is dying more than they did in 2019. Covid gets the same people who would have died of pneumonia or the flu. People with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis end up on ecmo.

    You need help. You have Covid paranoia. Get out of your basement. Stop listening to the media who sell sensationalism. Stop listening to politicians who want to restrict freedom. Stop listening to the globalist medical community pushing an agenda and pharmaceutical companies pushing a jab.

  27. @Jackson Waterson

    I don’t know whether you’re deliberately ignorant or deliberately lying for the purposes of distributing misinformation.

    Based upon your post, you’re literate, articulate and fluent in the English language, so I have to assume you’re deliberately lying.

    In the United States during the 2019-2020 flu season, there were 22,000 flu deaths.

    In the United States in 2020, there were 375,000 deaths from COVID.

    I guess the other potential explanation for your lies is because you’re trying to cover up the fact that you’re just a coward, afraid of a vaccination….

  28. Seriously, liberals used to be the fun ones. Republicans were the “don’t break any rules” nerds and prudes who were in to politics and political activism. Now the liberals are the rule following nerds and prudes into political activism and the republicans just want to have fun, drunk boat parades.
    America, what a weird place.

  29. @Greg

    I said there were no more Covid deaths in 2020 than flu and PNEUMONIA deaths in 2019. The amount of people who died in 2020 and 2019 are roughly the same. The people who would have died of pneumonia or the flu in 2020 and 2021 are the same people who would die or would have died from pneumonia or the flu in any year before Covid. It’s like pneumonia disappeared as a cause of death. Before Covid, it was the leading cause of non cardiac nursing home deaths. We heard about ICUs being filled up with old people suffering from pneumonia for years. The media and academic community portray Covid as killing people who would live long prosperous lives. That’s mostly untrue. Most of the people who die from it are very elderly and frail people who would have died in nursing homes this year anyway, people who have chronic health problems, or people who have an unknown severe risk factor. We have 22 year old athletes who drop dead on the field or people found dead at home at 27.

    If Covid were a serious problem, the amount of deaths would be considerably higher than before Covid. They are not.

  30. @Greg and others: Cloth masks don’t do squat. They don’t prevent you from catching COVID or any other virus. They simply don’t. And, what little protection they may provide you (theoretically, and often touted in studies) is lost by not wearing it perfectly to prevent any unfiltered air from coming or going. You need an N95 at a minimum or ideally a P100 to filter out the virus. But these also need to be worn properly and because of the tiny pore size they offer, they will fatigue your respiratory system after a while. For the P100’s, OSHA requires medical examination and testing before they even let you wear one to work.

    Those of you who think that wearing a mask keeps you safe and not wearing one makes you Typhoid Mary are uninformed, and clearly believe the breathless hype foisted on you by liberal media journalists who (believe me) don’t know sh1t about science.

    If $20 keeps you from having to play COVID theatre, I’m in.

  31. Well hypocrisy dominates. Nobody is making much of the Federal Judges and Supreme Court staff, as well as ALL of Congress (Congress!!) getting a ‘mask mandate WAIVER’. Ridiculous and not at all justified. It matters or it doesn’t. Waivers for politicians who are not so elite not to catch Covid is just absurd.

  32. I believe all these resulted from the low paycheck. We are humans and we are living in a world the economy doesn’t really favor the low life. If really the flight attendant took the bribe, I wouldn’t judge

  33. “Tipping is far more accepted at hotel check-in in Las Vegas but there the desk agent is being paid off to give you an upgrade” No it isn’t called tipping. It is called bribery. Get your terms right. You are paying to get something you are not entitled to over someone else who may be waiting for an upgrade.

  34. There should be an investigation and if it turns out that the FA was taking bribes to look the other way on violations of the federal mandate then she should be fired and the passenger who issued the bribe should be banned from flying. Don’t really give a crap what the anti-maskers think. If anything they should only allow k95/n95 masks and should require people to be fully vaccinated before flying or they have to provide a negative covid test. This country has been held back long enough by the covidiots. It is time for more drastic measures so we can get this pandemic under control and get the country back under control. It is ridiculous that a segment of our population has made it so that Americans can’t even travel to some countries in the world because of the way we have responded to the pandemic.

  35. “In the United States during the 2019-2020 flu season, there were 22,000 flu deaths. In the United States in 2020, there were 375,000 deaths from COVID.”
    It’s people believing that statistics like this actually mean something who are allowing the virus disaster to go on and on. Better to investigate the symptoms of the flu and of the virus. Better to determine the underlying health issues of the dead people. Better to understand history.

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