In January there was much buzz about the Frontier Airlines policy of supplementing flight attendant wages with customer tips.
Most airlines don’t permit flight attendants to accept tips, and they have mixed feelings on the subject — some simply want more money (although tipping may ultimately mean lower salaries), while others worry the emphasis would then shift from safety to service. But what about other agents you encounter at the airport?
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 now Starbucks gift cards.
The airline’s concern of course is that a customer (or supplier) might give something to an employee and the employee would then do something that benefits the customer or supplier in return. It’s a fine line between a tip and a bribe (tipping at hotels for an upgrade is accepted at Las Vegas but elsewhere is usually thought of as a bribe).