I’ve written that the trick to traveling successfully and smoothly is to treat the people you deal with along the way like… people. Be nice. You rely on their kindness. But do you ever show that kindness proactively, when you aren’t even looking to get something in exchange transactionally, like help with rebooking or a better seat?
United Airlines has gotten really good about celebrating important customer milestones in-person and inflight, though they don’t execute on this every time. A two million miler might find themselves recognized by the captain and crew as they cross their milestone, and perhaps gifted a bottle of champagne.
But one United Airlines customer brought cupcakes for the airline’s employees to celebrate crossing the one million mile threshold, earning lifetime Gold status with the carrier (and extending his status to a partner). He wasn’t looking for the airline to do something for him, he did something for the people at the airline who have helped him along his journey.
Our happy Million Miler brought cupcakes to celebrate his @united milestone with the team 💙 thank you for your business and loyalty Mr. Drabant #BeingUnited #UnitedAirlines @MattatUnited @DENJT21 @StephenStoute @jonathangooda pic.twitter.com/vKLvpjcJLH
— Ayesha Pino (@CUNgirlatDEN) April 10, 2023
Now, two things to note here.
- The TSA let him through security with frosting, which conforms to the shape of its container and is therefore a liquid.
- Though it wasn’t transactional, he’s creating lasting loyalty among employees, bringing them into his celebration and achievement. They’ll remember him more, and remember him positively, so it’s likely to pay off in future interactions anyway.
In general airlines do not permit their employees to accept tips. The American Airlines policy is that customer service employees can accept perishable items worth under $100 and should share them with colleagues when practical, but are forbidden from accepting “cash, gift cards, and gift certificates” regardless of amount.
Nonetheless, it’s not uncommon for passengers to give Starbucks gift cards as a thank you. Don’t be surprised if it’s declined, citing airline rules, though often insisting a second time it’ll be accepted (and appreciated). Not necessary or expected! But easier to bring through security than cupcakes with frosting.