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Tipping SkyCaps--it's the law! (OK, it's not, but it should be!)


Jul 7th, 2003, 06:30 PM
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Tipping SkyCaps--it's the law! (OK, it's not, but it should be!)

Disclaimer: I am not a SkyCap, nor is anyone in my family a SkyCap.
I just returned from sending off my SO at the airport, and am just appalled that so many travelers seem not to know that the SkyCaps who run the curbside check-in counters are not airline employees, and they WORK FOR TIPS! Sorry for shouting, but I watched young and old stiff the poor guy; finally, I said "You guys need to put up a sign!", and he had the very good grace to laugh it off, saying "yeah, maybe we should."
Waht gives with this cheapskate behavior? Do folks really not know to tip SkyCaps? I would assume Fodorites are in the know, but is there any way to get the word out? I hate to see a working guy get robbed, especially when, like the one I saw today, he's giving really courteous, professional service.
E is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 06:53 PM
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Its true, most of them are not airline employees. I usually dont use curbside, but a few years ago the ones at BWI certainly weren't shy about it and I quote, "you may now tip the porter".
Had he not said that I dont know if I'd have known to do that or not, I dont remember honestly and I have seen people ask other people in line if that was typical. It's an easy oversight because you'd never tip the ones at the counter inside and these guys are usually dressed in a very similar uniform as the airline employees.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 06:58 PM
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Good lawd E! Eat a valium and calm down. Yes, many people that should get tipped do not get tipped but don't bust a vein over the situation.

People who I see stiffed all the time; hotel maids, the girl who washes my hair at the salon, boat hands, doormen that hail cabs in the rain, etc.

Of course it is not fair and it is wrong but next time, say something. The person may just not know they need to tip.

Now go have a glass of wine and relax. Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 07:05 PM
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what's the tip supposed to be? i usually only take carry on but am travelling with a lot of luggage next week. is it $1-2 per bag? should i just slip the guy a fiver? last month my sister came for a visit and she gave the skycap $3 for two bags. is that enough? too much?
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:29 PM
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You are absolutely correct, E, about tipping SkyCaps--it's not optional in polite company.

Do you have a ballpark idea, however, what kind of incomes SkyCaps made in the past? (Since 9/11 their incomes have been slammed (eliminated altogether for awhile during the weeks of no curbside check-in)).

First off, you'll find virtually no published/reliable info about this because >90% of their income is in small bills in the form of tips. The IRS has had a difficult time trying to track this type of income. Suffice it to say that most SkyCaps take home a lot of tax-free income. They are not interested in having their income data publicized either.

Second, if a SkyCap picks up one bag per minute average during a shift (no families, no multiple bag travellers) and works 40 hours per week he takes home......
$120,000 per year (assuming 2 weeks vacation).
If he pays taxes on only half of his income, he's really making the equivalent of ~$156,000 per year.
In truth, they may not average a bag per minute over a whole year. But you get the idea.

I've heard many stories of SkyCaps averaging over $75,000 per year in busy airports.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:52 PM
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I always heard $1 per bag. I usually give a little more because it is very handy. Last week they were even able to give me a boarding pass.

Wonder if they ever send a bag to the wrong place if they didn't get tipped?
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Jul 8th, 2003, 01:03 AM
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rwilliams, I appreciate your argument, but I don't think tipping should depend on how much the tippee makes in a year, as it's not charity, but paying for a service, and an optional one at that. angeleno, I usually tip $2 for one bag only, $ 3-5 for a pair, depending on how monster heavy they are (which they can't be these days anyway).
So a valium and a glass of wine is your Rx, GoTravel--'splains a lot!
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Jul 8th, 2003, 04:15 AM
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OK, I will step forward and confess my ignorance. So to E's question "Do folks really not know to tip SkyCaps?", my answer is yes, I really did not know.

E assumes "Fodorites are in the know", but on Fodor's front page there is a tipping guide which lists the service personnel that you should tip. Porters are mentioned but not curbside check-in.

So are the curbside check-in personnel considered porters? It doesn't seem that they are handling my luggage any more than the check-in counters inside the airport. I stand in line, they put a tag on the luggage, then move it about 2 feet, same as inside. Why the distinction whether someone is an airline employee or not? One gets tipped but the other does not? Doesn't make sense to me.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 04:37 AM
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No, I did not know until I used this "service" in Orlando. How could I have known? If I did, I certainly would have carried my little bag the few feet into the terminal. The man was very adamant that we had to tip him.

I think there should be an informational sign saying that this is not an airline desk and tips are expected.

Would have saved me an embarressing experience.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 04:40 AM
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And now I'm embarrassed that I spelled embarrassing incorrectly.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 05:46 AM
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Simple solution to this problem, don't use the skycaps.

I don't like to use the skycaps for this very reason; they expect a tip for a service I can do just fine on my own at the gate. Think about it, if you decide not to tip them, they complete control over where your bags are going without any real accountability. If they think you are a cheapskate, then they might think your bags would enjoy an around-the-world vacation, and since they are not employees of the airline, the airline can easily slough off lost baggage to using their services.

Overall, I simply fail to see the value added of having my bags checked at the curb as opposed to at the gate, where I am required to check in anyway. Seems to me like double the effort at the airport and one more thing to worry about when I arrive at my destination.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 05:58 AM
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Funny, exactly the same thing happened to me in Orlando as well... The guy basically said "You have to tip me".

I had no idea!

But, you know, I've never used skycaps ever since. It's been my experience that lines at curbside check-in are usually longer than lines at the counter, a few feet away...
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Jul 8th, 2003, 06:22 AM
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We travel internationally, and can't check our bags at the curb, so the SkyCaps have to take our luggage into the terminal for us.
We also usually go for two or three weeks, and are divers as well, so we normally have four pieces of checked luggage - one of which is a very large, bulky and heavy piece filled with dive equipment - and two carry-ons.
I view those deserving a tip as anyone who is in a service position and helps me out with something.
Schlepping 200 lbs. of luggage from our vehicle to the front of the check-in area is something we tip around $10.00 for.
We live in a hot part of the country, and trying to manage all of that stuff by ourselves added to the stress of traveling is well worth the money to us.
I agree that if you have little enough luggage that you can easily manage it, or if the idea of tipping someone for helping you does not appeal to you, then feel free to bypass the service.
However, I think it is quite thoughtless to utilize their help and then not tip.
Due to extra regulations put in place since 9/11, the job takes much longer than it used to, and they make less money. (This is straight from a SkyCap at RDU.) Give the guys a break, huh?
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Jul 8th, 2003, 11:22 AM
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This has been interesting to read...
SkyCaps are, indeed, "porters", and while some airports have subsidized their income since 9/11, to make up for staggering losses, they work for tips. I, too, wish there were informational signs to that effect at curbside--that way, travelers could decide if they want to pay for the curbside service or not. No one would feel pressured to tip by aggressive SkyCaps, and the polite SkyCaps wouldn't lose out.
Btw, in my experience, curbside lines are usually much shorter than those inside the terminal; we saved at least an hour yesterday. I've never had my luggage misdirected after curbside checkin, although it did happen once after checking in at the airline's indoor counter. (If curbside handlers routinely misdirected luggage, the service would have ceased long ago. I just think that's an unfounded fear.)
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Jul 8th, 2003, 11:31 AM
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I'll show my ignorance in the fact that I didn't know they weren't airline employees... I never use them so I can't really say if I would have tipped or not. I'd like to think so, since I tend to tip the airport shuttle drivers (not the parking ones, but the ones that pick me up/drop me off at home). When you think about it, there are a lot of professions in the service industry that I'm sure plenty of people never thought about tipping - not because the people are rude, but because it never occurred to them. Hence, the people not thinking of tipping hairstylists, hotel maids and the like.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 11:55 AM
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I never realized the Skycaps weren't airport or airline employees either.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 12:05 PM
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I normally check in curbside. But one time I had to go to the ticket counter. The agent there was so nice and boxed up some of our stuff and really went out of her way. I tried to tip her like I always did the skycaps especially since she was far nicer than they usually are. That's when she told me she couldn't accept a tip because she worked for the airline. I never realized that the guys at the curb didn't.

Regardless, it is certainly worth the $5 - $10 tip to the sky cap to stay out of the inside ticket line. Or at least it is to me since they give me my boarding pass too.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 12:21 PM
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My former GF's father-in-law and several of his sons were/are Skycaps. They make a living but they really hustle to do it and now way in heck are they bringing home $100,000 per year. I agree that more should be done to advise people of the fact that tipping is appropriate - it had never occurred to me that folks would not tip them. I often travel with no more than a carry-on bag but have still used Skycaps to check in at curbside when in a hurry. Even if I'm not giving them a bag to check I tip $1 per person. If checking bags I do $1 per bag on small bags and add on a couple $$ if it's multiples or large bags.
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Jul 8th, 2003, 12:32 PM
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My brother and I used the SkyCap in Philly a few months ago. This was only my brother's second time at the airport, and didn't know that he was supposed to tip the SkyCap. I had my purse in my carry-on, and while I was trying to get to it, the guy just kept saying to my brother "I'll take care of your bags, sir", "Don't worry about your bags, I'll take them", and more stuff like that....pretty much waiting for the tip. My brother was so confused until I handed the guy a 5. Frequent travelers might know about how things work, but not everyone. You have to either learn by watching other people or have someone tell you what to do...
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Jul 8th, 2003, 03:06 PM
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Oh dear! I had no idea I was supposed to tip them. They seemed to wear uniforms of the airlines, I don't tip inside. I never really understood why there were 2 lines and not just more people at the desks inside. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Though I do kinda wonder, they don't do anything more than the people inside, why do I tip them?

Now I know so I can decide if I am feeling rich I'll do curbside, cheap I'll wait in line.
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