It's the season for gift giving. That means it's also the season for scrambling to pay off your guilt by dishing out gifts to those who serve you and make your life easier… The trash collector, your postal worker, the Starbucks barista and of course, your flight crew. While there are many great and appropriate gifts to surprise your lowly flight crew with as you travel this holiday season there are also some inappropriate ones. You may think you're being cheeky and thoughtful if you present your crew with a nice holiday surprise as you board the plane but there is a chance you are wrong. Allow me to list some of the presents that make perfect gifts for us reindeer who are driving your holiday sled if you are heading out to the airport this Christmas. I will also give you a few that don't work no matter how cleverly wrapped they may be.
Great holiday gifts.
Single individual dollar bills.
In this line of work we are often in need of ones. We tip daily and are always asking for change. It's awkward giving a hundred to someone and asking for ninety nine bucks back. No no…. Not girls on a dance floor tipping. Each day we ride hotel vans back and forth to the airport and it is customary to tip the drivers for each leg of the journey. A gift of a few ones would go along way with your flight crew. No card needed. A great way to dispense of it would be to approach the cockpit and ask how the weather is going to be at the destination. While being told the answer throw up a handful of ones and yell out, “How about we make it rain!!!”
Hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes.
Airplanes are disgusting. The humans leave a filthy trail behind them. We breath the same dirty air all day that swims through that trail. At altitude and closer to the Earths yellow sun, bacteria grow into absurdly stubborn living organisms that multiply way more than on the planet. And there are the coughers. Don't get me started on the coughers. If I had my way all passengers would be required to don their seatbelt and face mask before departure. Our only defense is a regular dose of gut cleaning airplane coffee and hand sanitizer. An excellent Christmas present would be some disinfectant wipes. Either throw it up to us or handle it with one of the wipes. Germs and an associated illness is a horrible gift.
While we don't always have easy access to ovens, hot plates or microwaves we do have a steady supply of hot water. Aside from all the obvious advances that have come from NASA over the years, Tang and dehydrated foods must be near the top of their works of genius. Pilots and flight attendants are hungry. Actually, we're not hungry. We're bored. We do the same thing every day. It's a well crafted routine that has been perfected with time. Same checklists. Same boarding announcements. Same meals... Airport pizza, fried rice or Cinnabon. That's all we have to chose from. A steaming hot dish of rehydrated NASA approved beef stroganoff at 37000 feet? Now that's living! You know why no one gets astronaut ice cream in their stocking on Christmas morning? Because Santa steals it at 37000 feet on the journey from the North Pole. That's not true. I made that up.
Coffee shop gift card.
The best bang for your buck? Pick up a gift card before you board your flight. A happy flight crew is a happy flight and nothing makes us happier than free coffee. Sure, you can argue that the caffeine makes us more alert and ready for anything. Maybe it makes us eager and willing to safely operate the airplane? But free coffee also makes us very happy. The weather could be horrible and the plane is broken and we may get stuck on the road but all the while we will look at each other and say, “How about that lady who gave us the free coffee? She was really nice.”
Okay, on to the inappropriate Christmas presents.
Non cockpit friendly foods.
Sure. You make some incredible chili this time of year. I bet it has the perfect amount of spice and is delicious. Aw... So thoughtful. You even brought crackers for us to crumble up and pour into the topped off flimsy Tupperware bowl you packed it in. It's gonna make a mess. We're gonna hit a bump and it's going to be everywhere. The cockpit floor is going to be covered in cracker crumbles and we're going to have chili on the controls. I can always tell where a plane has been by the finger print smears. “That kind of looks like Paella. Miami?”
Our suitcases are already maxed out. I will smile and appreciate the oversized hand made holiday sweater but I have nowhere to put it. The best option will be for me to wear it but the problem with wearing non-airline approved garments in the airport is you don't get discounted gum and you get hassled by the credit card hawkers who think you are just another passenger. We don't really need that. It's nice and generous but not appropriate. Same with heavy hard bound books, flatware and home electronics.
If we carry anything through security they make us take a sip to prove that it's not a liquid bomb. Hard one to explain when you get pulled over on the taxiway. An nonalcoholic beer is not funny. An no eggnog either. Or those powdery cookies. Messy messy messy.
So this holiday season if you are traveling…. Keep your flight crews in mind. We are here to serve you and do so with a smile while secretly hoping for a gift.
If you're eating from a bucket of donut holes offer the pilot one and say, “Merry Christmas friend.”
If your eating a slice of pizza offer a bite to your flight attendant and say, “Happy Holidays.”
And if you happen to have some astronaut food offer it to the crew and say, “Bring some water to a boil… Looks like you could use a hot meal."