Gifting – surprise and delight yourself

Last week I was chatting with a future trainee Cabin Crew member at a very ‘orange’ airline about the power of gifting. She was telling me a little about their upcoming training course and what was ahead of them before they would be in the air. During the course of the conversation, we talked a little about what it’s actually like to be Cabin Crew and inevitably we touched on the minority of travellers that make their lives hard.

One of my main aims in life is to leave as many people as possible better off than before I saw them – I try to counteract a deficit of humanity – and plane journeys are an opportunity to do this,

I often feel sympathy for the crew on my flights when I hear and see how some people treat them. Variously, I’ll actually watch them perform that most mundane of tasks, the safety briefing. I’ll politely order or decline when they come past with the trolley. I try to always be warm and friendly to the cabin crew as I board: asking them how they are and actually listening to the answer – it horrifies me how taken aback most of them are to actually have a passenger ask. I’m sure there are many of you out there who do some of these, or similar things.

Anyway, as the conversation progressed I mentioned something I’d read about in the past, but had forgotten to do. Rather than expecting the cabin crew to be the ones brightening my day, I should undertake my own little version of the ‘pay-it-forward’ idea. Trying to brighten their day with a small and inconsequential act of gifting.

I did it this weekend when flying on a former ‘world’s favourite airline’ that seems to be struggling to maintain that ambition a little in recent years.

I took two small red boxes of round chocolates with me – one for each part of the journey. On both legs, as I entered the plane I greeted the crew and exchanged pleasantries. Then, just as I was about to walk up the aisle, I gave it to them, saying “Here’s a little something to keep the cabin crew going”.

Smiles came out. Big ones. Real ones, that reach the eyes. Body language changed, became more open and upright. Thanks and exclamations of ‘not having to do that’ were abound. The tiny gesture seemed to really make an impact. But, not just on them, on me too. I felt great. It was a buzz that lasted long after the initial interaction too.

While I can’t speak for the experience of the rest of the passengers, or assume this was down to me, it did seem that, whenever I caught sight of the crew, they were in good spirits. They were obviously talking about it too because the staff from the other end of the plane came smiling down the aisle to whisper their thanks and offer me a drink. The good spirits were spreading.


The strangest part of the experience though was how nervous I felt before giving them the small gift. I could feel a palpable fear that I’d be judged by my fellow passengers. That I’d be viewed with suspicion by the crew, thinking I was after something. That people would think I was a weirdo. But, none of that happened (that I know of) and in the end, none of it would’ve really mattered if it had.

The science of gifting and the impact on both givers and receivers are well documented. We know these actions are just as beneficial to us as to the people we interact with but yet, we don’t seem to do it an awful lot. That’s strange bearing in mind there really is no downside to it.


  1. Anita Gleave

    Any reluctance, reservation or nervousness comes as a result of our current conditioning….that people always doubt positive motives, that we should be suspicious of peoples intentions, that an act of kindness must be made with an expectation of repayment….how sad, how sceptical we have allowed ourselves to become. The only way we change this is by one random act of kindness at a time….no matter what size or cost! I hope you feel less nervous each time you continue on your quest…you are making a real difference to people’s lives…would that we all did the same , everyday, as it is surely in our gift!

    1. Owen Cook

      Hi Harvey! Lovely to hear from you! I would never have expected less from you. All is very well with me thanks, Chris also. Would be lovely to catch up some time. Hope life is good. OC

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