The Check-In: Tipping flight attendants, what to do during turbulence, and more

An airplane.
An airplane. Illustrated | Getty Images

Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature focusing on all things travel.

Should passengers tip flight attendants?

They show you where the emergency exits are, make sure you always have a cup of ginger ale, and give you an extra bag of pretzels when you ask. Flight attendants do a lot to make travelers safe and comfortable, yet tipping for good service isn't the norm. Should passengers slip them a $20 for a job well done?

Condé Nast Traveler spoke with several current and former flight attendants about tipping, and found that some carriers advise turning down tips and gifts when first presented, but to accept if the passenger keeps pressing the matter. Sarah, a flight attendant based in New York, shared that she has received Starbucks gift cards and chocolates as thank you gifts from passengers, which she appreciated. "I do wish it was more common and standard to tip in some way," Sarah said, especially in first class where "the experience is just like a restaurant. If you believe you should tip in a restaurant, you should also tip in the air."

Above all else, flight attendants are there to keep flyers safe, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA told CN Traveler, and "tipping undermines our roles." Passengers who give flight attendants tips might expect preferential treatment on board, and that's a line that can't be crossed. Instead of tipping, Nelson said, passengers can show their appreciation with a smile. "We love it when people just look up from their phone and say hello from one human to another when boarding the plane," she added.

A flight attendant on a plane.
A flight attendant on a plane.

Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Encountering turbulence? Stay calm, and put on your seatbelt

On Sunday, 36 people on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu were injured when their plane encountered severe turbulence. Officials said at least 20 were taken to local hospitals after the plane landed, and injuries included "a serious head injury, lacerations, bruising, and loss of consciousness."

Turbulence can be caused by everything from thunderstorms to atmospheric pressure, and it's rare for flyers to encounter turbulence that's strong enough to cause injuries. Experts say in order to reduce the risk of getting hurt, listen to instructions from the flight crew and keep your seatbelt fastened at all times; on average, 58 injuries are reported in the U.S. every year because people didn't have their seatbelts on during turbulence, the Federal Aviation Administration reports. When things get bumpy, try to set your mind at ease by taking deep breaths or meditating. Distractions are also helpful — start watching a movie on the in-flight entertainment system, or grab your phone and listen to a podcast.

An airplane in windy conditions.
An airplane in windy conditions.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

What to remember if your flight is canceled or delayed

With a major storm system set to hit the Plains, Great Lakes, Northeast, and other parts of the United States ahead of Christmas, many travelers could find their flights canceled or delayed because of dangerous weather conditions. Experts say it's a good idea to prepare for this scenario, so you'll know what to do if you find yourself stranded.

Before even leaving for the airport, check your flight status — it's less stressful to try to rebook a flight from home. If a flight is canceled once you're at the airport, quickly hop into the line to speak to an airline agent. While you're waiting, call the airline as well, in case you can get through faster that way. Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, told CNN if the U.S. customer service phone line has a long wait, consider calling the Canadian help line. "You might get through to an agent much quicker," he said. "They can all handle your reservations just the same." Once you're actually talking to another human, keep your cool — the agent didn't cancel your flight, and they'll be more willing to work with you if you're nice.

If you're stuck at your layover airport and have nowhere to go, get to a lounge if you have access. There's no law requiring that airlines give hotel vouchers, Keyes said, and it's more likely that travelers will receive vouchers if their flight was canceled due to mechanical or staffing issues, as opposed to weather. Look up your airline's policies so you know exactly what should be coming to you, and don't be afraid to ask for vouchers for food or a room. Keep in mind that flyers are entitled to refunds of ticket prices and/or related fees in certain situations, including schedule changes or significant delays. Visit the Department of Transportation's website for the details.

Canceled flights.
Canceled flights.

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

5-star gift ideas: Last-minute options

You are really cutting it close. If you don't feel like braving the mall or going the DIY route, your best bet is to get a gift card. For the frequent traveler, the safest thing to do is get them a gift card for their favorite airline, cruise line, or ride-share company. If you know they have a trip coming up, consider a gift certificate for a well-regarded restaurant at their destination — and if they recently came back from vacation raving about a meal, see if the establishment can send one of their specialties in the mail. Check out Goldbelly, where you can order everything from New York bagels and pizza to Chicago Italian beef sandwiches.

Plan accordingly: Events to add to your calendar

These are actually two closings that you need to be aware of, before it's too late to check out these special exhibitions.

At the de Young Museum in San Francisco, "Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs" runs through Feb. 12, 2023. This dazzling display of 181 ancient Egyptian artifacts contains royal sculptures and masks, gold jewelry, sarcophagi, amulets, mummified animals, and more from the time of the powerful Ramses II. To get further immersed in his extravagant world, add on the "Ramses & Nefertari: Journey to Osiris" virtual reality experience, a sweeping tour of Nefertari's tomb and Abu Simbel.

An Egyptian mask.
An Egyptian mask.

Catherine Garcia/The Week

Now in its final weeks, "Art of the Hollywood Backdrop: Cinema's Creative Legacy" at the Boca Raton Museum of Art showcases 22 massive scenic backdrops from movies made between 1938 and 1968. They were painted specifically for how they would look on camera, and the museum says it's fun for visitors to look at the backdrops with their naked eye and then view them through their camera phone lens. The exhibit, which ends Jan. 22, 2023, features for the first time in public the Austrian Alps backdrop from The Sound of Music; North by Northwest's Mount Rushmore; and Ben Hur's Rome.


Courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum of Art

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