Airplane etiquette: If you accept a drink voucher do you have to use it?

Last week I was flying for work and ended up in a middle seat. As we were all getting settled, the man in the aisle seat said he had a drink voucher and asked me and the man in the window seat if either of us would like it. Window seat spoke up quickly that he’d take it. Aisle seat handed over the slip of paper, and window seat put it in his pocket.


I wasn’t that disappointed about missing out on the opportunity for free booze. I don’t usually drink on the plane anyway, and if I wanted to I can afford my own drink. Let the young guy in the window seat have the freebie!

But then…

When the flight attendants came around to do the drink service, window seat did not use the drink voucher. He didn’t get a drink at all. Not even water. He even declined the complimentary bag of pretzels.

I found myself annoyed at this. I mean, if the dude wasn’t going to use the drink voucher he could have given it to me. I would have happily used it. I don’t always drink on the plane, but I don’t never drink on the plane either.

I know that standard etiquette says that a person’s only obligation when they receive a gift is to thank the giver. They don’t have to use it or even keep it. But this felt different.

This wasn’t a birthday present from a favorite aunt. This came from a stranger. And it wasn’t intended specifically as a gift for Mr. Window Seat. It was offered openly to whoever wanted it. By accepting it, window seat guy was denying someone else (me) the opportunity to have it, so wouldn’t the polite thing be to show his appreciation by using it?

I saw aisle seat glance at window seat when he placed his non-order, but I could not read his reaction. Did he care that his gift went unused? After all, it was free to him too.

I hope window seat used that voucher on his next flight. Or perhaps he forgot it was in his pocket, and it disintegrated in the wash. I know it’s none of my business. I’m just saying that if you ever see me in an airplane and want to give me a drink voucher I promise you won’t have to wonder if I used it.

What do you think? Is it rude to accept a drink voucher then not use it?

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