Complimentary airport shuttles to/from hotels and offsite parking lots are great. They save us money on taxis or rideshares such as Uber and Lyft (although credit cards that give us monthly or annual credits can help offset their costs).
But should we be inclined to tip shuttle drivers — especially because the rides are free?
I say no.
And here’s a kicker: I worked for three years driving a hotel’s complimentary airport shuttle!
Our Tipping Culture
Tip jars are practically everywhere. Pick up your dry cleaning? Oh, leave a tip. Pump your own gas but head into the gas station snack shack? Tip, please!
(Tipping in America has some fairly dubious history, actually.)
As someone who worked cruddy, minimum wage jobs in high school and college, tips were vital to my income. My sister was a server at several restaurants. So I’m empathetic to tipped workers and love rewarding a job well done. I know firsthand how much the gesture is appreciated.
But I’m compelled to not tip when the service provider doesn’t make an effort, is aloof, or a combination of the two.
This brings us to —
Tipping Airport Shuttle Drivers
I loved driving the Radisson Hotel Fargo’s airport shuttle. I met lots of interesting people and AvGeeked at the airport. Tips were earned not just from helping with luggage — but greeting guests with a smile, offering to answer questions about the area, providing recommendations, and making them feel as though I took care of them. This was a reliable recipe for tips.
That’s sort of my standard for tipping shuttle drivers.
Case in point: I recently stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Austin Airport. My shuttle driver from AUS to the hotel was a welcoming, chatty older woman. She loved talking about Austin, travel, her family, and was happy to provide restaurant recommendations. (She packed a lot into that ride!) I was traveling fairly light, with only my TravelPro Maxlite Rollaboard and Maxlite Laptop Backpack. I fractured my wrist four days earlier and wore a splint. She insisted on helping with my bags, even though I didn’t really need assistance.
I happily tipped her $5. Why? She gave great personal service and did more than just drive the bus.
Her colleague driving the next day, though, was exactly the opposite.
“Who are you?” she coldly greeted me. I told her I was originally reserved on the 6:00 AM shuttle but made it down for the 5:30 AM ride.
I climbed aboard the shuttle, put my bags in the rack, and took my seat just before we shot through the streets.
She was quite displeased with the heavy traffic at AUS that morning. I know this because she was very verbal. Not in a joking — or even dry — manner. But angry. And unpleasant.
She did not get a tip.
Basically, if you even offer to help with my bags and wish me a good day as I depart the shuttle, you earn a tip. (Personally, I tip $2 for one bag, $5 for two or three pieces, and then $1 or $2 for each after). But some parking lot shuttle drivers at LAX can’t be bothered when my wife or I carry our daughter and need to get all our luggage off the bus. They don’t get a tip. (For what it’s worth, QuikPark at LAX has pretty decent drivers. Although it’s only a 15-minute walk from Terminal 3, so we usually do that.)
What Do You Think?
Do you have standards when it comes to tipping shuttle drivers? If you tip, how much do you usually give drivers? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below! –Chris
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