Happy Thanksgiving! I wasn’t planning on sending a newsletter today but I woke up super early (2:30am — thanks, Jet lag). I started thinking of all the things I’m thankful for and there’s a lot, including you for reading this and subscribing to my newsletter.
I’m also thankful for the miracle of air travel and those who work in the industry. It still boggles my mind that these huge metal birds can get off the ground with so many people, so much luggage and cargo and take us all over the world so quickly, smoothly and comfortably.
We really are fortunate to be living in this modern aviation era. Many people, including me, love to rag on airline executives, but when you stop and think about it, it’s pretty mind-blowing how smooth they run their operations, especially when you consider how large these companies are and how complicated the logistics.
Some airlines operate thousands of flights each day. The big four: American, Delta, United and Southwest all have over 4,000 flights a day. They fly to hundreds of destinations, dozens of countries, employ tens of thousands of workers, all while carrying half a million of passengers and their luggage a day. No wonder bad weather or a single delay can throw everything off.
With all of this in mind, and because today is Thanksgiving, I decided to run my number one travel (and life) tip for today: Always be genuinely kind to everyone but when you’re traveling, especially to gate agents, flight attendants and pilots. They work hard and are often underappreciated. If you don’t believe me, then the next time you fly, observe how passengers treat gate agents and flight attendants. Many don’t even acknowledge them. And did you know that some flight attendants don’t even get paid until the aircraft pushes back from the gate?
Remember, the most junior workers most likely have to work on holidays when, like you and I, they’d much rather be at home with their families. Yes, they might be making overtime but money can’t replace life experiences and memories. So if you’re flying today, this week, over Christmas or heck, any day, just remember to be extra kind to the workers (even the TSA officer yelling at you to) because without them, we would all be staying home.
I almost always bring a few bags of chocolates just to show my gratitude. I’ve been doing this for three decades and I always hand a bag to the flight attendants when boarding. When I travel with my little kids (ages four and seven) it makes it a lot less awkward since I give them each a bag to give to the flight crew. The flight attendants just eat them up. Literally.
I’ve shared this tip since I started my newsletter in 1995 and the last few days while reading travel headlines, I found a few stories from major players that back me up.
Let’s start with the Federal Aviation Administration administrator Mike Whitaker. He recently posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “If you’re flying, please be nice to your flight crew. They are there for your safety. The FAA has zero tolerance for unruly behavior.”
If you’re flying, please be nice to your flight crew. They are there for your safety.
The FAA has zero tolerance for unruly behavior.
— FAA Mike Whitaker (@FAA_Mike) November 20, 2023
Julie Su, the Acting Secretary of Labor also posted on X: “In this season of gratitude I’m #thankful for our nation’s workers who ensure we travel safely and comfortably—flight attendants, rail workers, airport attendants, baggage handlers, pilots & bus drivers. Especially during the holidays, please thank these workers for all they do.”
In this season of gratitude I’m #thankful for our nation’s workers who ensure we travel safely and comfortably—flight attendants, rail workers, airport attendants, baggage handlers, pilots & bus drivers.
Especially during the holidays, please thank these workers for all they do.
— Acting Secretary Julie Su (@ActSecJulieSu) November 22, 2023
The Association of Flight Attendants, AFA-CWA, wrote: @TSA expects to screen more than 30M travelers over the Thanksgiving period. We thank airline workers who spend the holiday bringing family and friends together, especially Flight Attendants and Pilots who leave their own families to ensure safe passage.”
.@TSA expects to screen more than 30M travelers over the Thanksgiving period. We thank airline workers who spend the holiday bringing family and friends together, especially Flight Attendants and Pilots who leave their own families to ensure safe passage. #1u pic.twitter.com/OtIw3lu7Ek
— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) November 22, 2023
Last year, I shared an answer that Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants, gave to the host of the FAA’s The Air Up There podcast. Sara was asked, “How can passengers throughout the holiday season thank their crew?”
Sara replied, “Oh, wow! You know what, kind words go a really long way. So if you remember to do that, when you step on the plane, take a minute to look up from your phone and say hello. Greet the flight attendants. And on your way out, thank them and just be thoughtful about that. Look around and see if you can help in any way. But also what I would say is, you know, flight attendants love chocolate.”
If you can afford it, then bring $5 Starbucks gifts cards for each one if you really want to make their day. I do keep some in my carry-on but I usually keep them as back-up to give hotel housekeepers if I run out of $5 bills.
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