Is it clearly unacceptable for a coach passenger to use the lavatory in a forward cabin?
- “Use the lavatory in your ticketed class of service, first class bathrooms are for first class passengers.”
Or is it clearly fine?
- “You paid for a first class seat not a bathroom, and basic human needs should be met in the most efficient way possible.”
On domestic flights I’ve certainly heard announcements asking passengers to use the lavatories in their “ticketed cabin” only. And in the modern flight world you don’t want to disregard flight attendant instructions regardless of their merit. You could find yourself in Guantanamo.
(There are other interesting lavatory restrictions, such as Virgin Australia’s ‘women only’ lav as well.)
And yet I’ve rarely seen passengers follow that admonition on US domestic flights, nor have I seen flight attendants seek to enforce that very often either.
I’m usually sitting up front, and there are certain times when there’s heavy demand for the lavatory — usually just after meal time as trays are being cleared (because everyone has been sitting awhile, and is finally freed to get up) and also just prior to landing. You don’t want greater demand for ‘your’ lavatory.
But there’s also fewer passengers per toilet up front than in back. There are often lines in the back of the plane. Does your first class ticket entitle you to priority access to a toilet?
What about during drink service in the economy cabin, when the drink cart is blocking the aisle especially on a narrow body aircraft? If you’re towards the front of the plane you’re not going to be able to pass the drink cart. If you can’t go forward to the first class lav, you can’t go at all until drink service is done. Does that make it ok to use the first class lavatory?
Qatar Airways A380 First Class Lavatory
When I first started traveling for work there would be a curtain drawn between first and coach class on domestic flights. People rarely crossed through the curtain. The removal of the curtain post-9/11 seems to have changed the norm against coming forward, even when a sheer screen re-appeared between cabins.
There’s also a totally different norm on domestic versus international flights and even on US carriers versus some other world airlines. A year and a half ago a coach passenger on airberlin was arrested for using the business class lavatory!
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Lavatory
Has what’s appropriate behavior actually changed, and is it different in different parts of the world?
My own view is that passengers should be accommodated in their ticketed cabin first. But extenuating circumstances — a drink cart blocking the lavatory, a long line — make it ok to use the lavatory in a different cabin. You don’t want this to happen.
That’s not the same thing as “I’m sitting in the bulkhead row of coach and the first class bathroom is closer.” In other words, courtesy and deference to ticketed cabin are appropriate but absolute prohibitions – and absolute rights – are not. (One Congressman believes use of a lavatory actually is a right and so introduced legislation to forbid airlines from charging for it — even though none ever have.)
Emirates A380 First Class Lavatory
Regardless it’s usually ok to use the lavatory when the seat belt sign is on what’s more important is what it smells like when you’re done. (Here’s how to fix a stinky lav.)