For years, Charlotte Douglas International Airport has been unique in two ways: folksy white rocking chairs and bathroom attendants who work for tips.
But the airport said Wednesday it will eliminate tipping for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July.
“Those employees will go onto a steady wage,” said interim aviation director Brent Cagle. “We will have consistency and predictability in their wages. The tipping is something we have done for a long time, but it’s something customers don’t like. It’s one of the most frequent complaints about service.”
Tipping for bathroom attendants was started 10 years ago under former aviation director Jerry Orr.
The airport said that having one attendant responsible for a particular bathroom improved the bathroom’s cleanliness. Charlotte Douglas is so busy – it handled nearly 45 million passengers last year – that a bathroom could deteriorate quickly if a rotating crew was assigned to it.
Cagle said the airport will still keep attendants assigned to a single bathroom. But the airport will likely no longer offer mints and mouthwash, a perk under the tipping system. The tip jar full of $1 bills will also go.
Cagle said few passengers actually asked for the mints and mouthwash. They were used as a visual cue to encourage tipping, he said.
He said another problem with the tipping system is that “some attendants were focused more on the tipping” instead of cleaning.
The 52 attendants are contractors, employed by Sunshine Cleaning Systems. Under the tipping system, they were paid $3.29 an hour, plus tips. If they didn’t make enough in tips, they were paid at least the $7.25 minimum wage.
Cagle said the attendants will be paid more, most likely in the $10 to $12 an hour range.