Go Ahead and Use the First Class Bathroom on Flights

Last week, an Alaska Airlines plane made an emergency landing due to threats from a passenger, apparently due to frustration with a particularly long queue to the toilet. “Making seven people wait here to use the toilet while the entire bathroom is empty is wrong,” the passenger said on video footage of the incident, referring to the empty toilets in the first class cabin.

I, too, felt ashamed of not using the toilet in the first-class cubicle, and was directed back to the queue of people waiting for a cramped bathroom in economy-class chairs (although I never used threats or violence). But why ca n’t we use these toilets – just because I didn’t buy a first class ticket?

Well, according to Forbes , allowing passengers to use any toilet – regardless of their assigned cabin – can pose safety concerns, especially if passengers are loitering around the cabin door. In other cases, it can also cause disruptions for the flight attendants when serving food and drinks.

Here’s the good news: Most (if not all) of the major US airlines do not explicitly restrict toilets by cabin class. Below you will find a few of their rules in case you find yourself in front of a long line in the aisle:

  • American Airlines: Does not limit bathrooms by cabin class on domestic and international flights that fly to the US (According to Guy’s Balls , this “TSA policy” requires international flights that return to the US in order to use the toilet in its class, however.)
  • Alaska Airlines: “Whenever possible, we ask guests to use the toilet in the cabin they are seated in,” an airline spokesman told Forbes .
  • Delta: Same as Alaska, but subject to “special” circumstances.
  • JetBlue: does not restrict the use of toilets on domestic flights.
  • United: does not restrict the use of toilets on domestic flights.

Of course, there are exceptions. If a companion specifically asks you to use the toilet in a particular classroom, you must absolutely follow their instructions, regardless of whether it is written in any of the rules. (In the Alaska Airlines example above, the escort reportedly asked the passenger to use his cabin toilet because the first class was busy; refusing to follow the crew member’s directions could be considered a federal violation.)

And, as Forbes points out, if you need special accommodations or have an emergency, you should ask the service staff and advise them of your needs so that you can use the toilet you like best.

Here’s my takeaway – unless you were told otherwise, go to the first-class cabin toilet if you like. Given the vague policies of airlines such as Alaska and Delta, this suggests that they are at least ready to receive passengers when the toilets in some cabins are overflowing. And if a travel companion is trying to argue with you about the toilet, here’s how to (politely) inform him of your rights.


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