Airlines Could Save $100 Million a Year If Everyone Went to the Bathroom Before Boarding

Airlines that hand out tablets to premium cabin customers save money compared to installing wired seat back screens. Airlines like American that don’t even do that save even more, not just on installation but also weight in the aircraft and therefore fuel. Giving pilots tablets instead of their carrying maps and charts supposedly saves major airlines over $1 million a year each in fuel.

Luke Jensen and Brian Yutko calculated that “if every passenger remembered to go to the bathroom before boarding, shedding an average of 0.2 liters of urine, the airline would save $2.66 in fuel” per flight. With about 40 million commercial flights a year that’s roughly a $100 million issue. The higher the price of oil, the bigger the savings.

American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Lavatory

Already incentives are aligned in many ways that save on fuel.

  • Checked bag fees and indeed carry on bag fees encourage passengers to bring less to the airport. That saves fuel.

  • The TSA’s War on Water discourages passengers from carrying on as much water (they have to replenish inside security, where it’s more expensive to buy bottled water and most people don’t bring refillable bottles).

  • Airlines that charge for water on board means less total water onboard and consumed.

Of course charging to use the lavatory would encourage passengers to go before they go.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. And be ableist and discriminatory in many other ways. RyanAir tried this and have been mocked about it ever since…and it’s been over 10 years.

    But I suspect a simple sign at the gate reminding people that the bathrooms are closed until the airplane reaches cruising altitude and they should go before they board would make a huge difference. “Please use the restroom before boarding as it may be some time before the on board restrooms are open” would work, methinks.

    (I always go before I get on the plane. It’s just common sense, really).

  2. I didn’t know the urinary system functions by the brain telling the bladder “empty yourself now” and not the other way around. Glad these two Ivy League stat geeks set us all straight.

  3. You say, “charging to use the lavatory would encourage passengers to go before they go.”
    I say, Charging to use the lavatory would encourage passengers to pee or poop in the convenience of their aircraft seats.

  4. Bathroom? There are no bath-rooms on airplanes or publicly available at airports.

    If you are referring to toilets, please say toilet or WC, or lavatories. We are all grown ups here.

    Thank you.

  5. I’m sure if everyone walked 30 min a day airlines would save even more fuel.

  6. Took a turboprop 19 seater once on old Midwest Express at their peak hub operations in MKE. It was MKE-CMH. In the boarding area the gate agent said over the speaker system “the bathrooms on this flight are here in Milwaukee and in Columbus”.

  7. Heh! I don’t think I’ve ever been on a commercial plane so small it didn’t have a lav.

    I have been on a plane so small it didn’t have rudder pedals.

    (For those who don’t know, I’m talking about one of these: – they were designed with only hand controls on the theory that that made them easier to fly. They’re an amazing toy although the person I knew with one is now retired from flying).

  8. I have Crohn’s and often get a nervous stomach especially while on the flying. Flight attendants block the isle with food/drink carts for a lot of the flight. Can’t use the toilet during that time. If they did without toilets on flights mean I can no longer fly.

  9. Sorry, airlines. I have a nervous bladder while flying and even though I go to the bathroom before boarding. I’m still going to use your facilities prob every hour. Trust me, it’s more annoying for me than it is for you.

  10. What an ableist suggestion. Some people have neurogenic bladders or bladder control issues that don’t enable them to be able to wait 4 hours between trips to the bathroom. Suggesting the airline should charge them for using the facilities is inhumane and cruel. I guess we could all wear depends, use them while the plane is in the air, and let everyone get off the plain smelling like urine….. That would be wonderful PR.

  11. Would be interesting how much War on Water actually saves.

    Counter to the points you lay out would be folks who decide they need to check a bag to bring larger toiletries and because they are checking a bag decide to pack even more since it doesn’t have to fit in the overhead bin anyways at that point.

  12. Try not going to the bathroom on a 10 plus hour flight.

    Everyone knows that flying dehydrates. Charging for drinking water is not only adsurf it’s dangerous. People are sick and tired of being nickeled and dimed for everything.

    Next up a dollar fifty per hour for breathing

  13. Maybe I’m old, but I can’t pee .2 liters on demand.

    Ahh…. to be young again….

  14. Recently flew from PHX and heard a gate announcement for the flight to Cortez to use the restroom because there were none on the plane. I had not even heard of Cortez before. I had to look it up.

  15. Lol, if everyone just stopped taking a shit we wouldn’t have any problems….. Good grief what a dumbass article. May as well stop eating too. I can’t imagine a more dumbass article in this day and age and coming from a ‘reputable’ source. Let’s all just offset that cost on the airports. “If everyone walked everyday” I had to comment just how stupid this entire point is. If we all just stopped growing.. if we all just bought battery cars .. if we all just changed our names to it/they/them… If we all just flew on paper bags….. .. if we all just lived in a 4’x4′ box and we worked from an abacus. Good grief. Waste my time with dipshit articles.

  16. This is stupid. We already get dehydrated during flying and ultimately this would likely end up being a wash in actual implementation vs. Theoretical. Even still, I do try to pee prior to getting on, for my own sake.

  17. Nope. Bad math. Let’s back of the envelope reverse engineer this.

    Water weighs roughly 8 lbs per gallon. Urine is roughly the same, since it’s mostly water. 4 quarts per gallon, a quart and a liter are roughly equivalent. That’s 2 lbs per liter. .2 liters is .4 lbs. If the savings are $2.66 per passenger, then the savings are $2.66/0.4 or $6.65 per pound. Which, if you take a 150 lb passenger and multiply that by $6.65/lb means the airline would have to be spending $997.50 per passenger for fuel. That’s a big not happening, even with my sloppy estimates.

    So complete BS.

  18. Taking this to an even more absurd degree, just imagine what the airlines could save if they limited passengers to those weighing 200 pounds or less.

  19. Maybe I’m missing something obvious here. Their calculation is based on: “if every passenger remembered to go to the bathroom before boarding, shedding an average of 0.2 liters of urine, the airline would save $2.66 in fuel.”

    I think a significant percentage of passengers already do go to the bathroom before boarding. I’ll guess at least half of them do. (I have zero data for that estimate….just many visits to busy bathrooms in airports.) If my estimate is even close, then the savings estimate should be cut in half.

  20. If all airlines eliminated all food and beverages on flights they’d save a lot more.
    Greyhound doesn’t feed you and flights today are just busses in the sky…..

  21. And if you do a trepanation, you can save weight on blood. What an inane article.
    The US economy billions if they kept articles like this from this from being published.

  22. Since jet engines get a little performance boost in wet weather, the black/grey water should be piped to the front of the jets and sprayed in. I’m proposing the company name should be WizzJet. Don’t worry, contrails will still be white…ish.

  23. How about we just get rid of seats and have everybody stand, like straphangers on the subway?

  24. I guess I’ll just piss all over the seat then. I guess I’ll also be dehydrated. Seriously, save $2.66 a flight. Nice, flying cattlecar to save $2.66.

  25. Yes let save the airline more money while they raise ticket and remove all amenities even the bathroom
    This is the most ridiculous thing ever

  26. @mac5 Please restate your last non-sentence for clarity.

    “The US economy billions if they kept articles like this from this from being published.”

    you know, the one before you called someone “moron”.

  27. Hey, passengers are not the enemy. Your article positions passengers as a hindrance to airline profit. Newsflash – passengers are the ENGINES of profit. Stop treating us like we’re the enemy.

  28. Now why would I want to save the airline industry money? What do they do for us except overbook- overcharge and just a holier than thou business.

  29. Maybe they should start charging us 10 dollars for a bathroom trip. I’m sure they thought of that.

  30. This article stands as evidence that the airlines place profit above all else and any concern for passengers has gone to the shitter.

  31. Obviously you missed the point of why restrooms existed. Airlines save enough money reducing cabin service and squeezing more seats on planes. “WHEN YOU GOT TO GO YOU GOT TO GO:

  32. This would only work if ppl did not also drink e.g. water or whatever before going on the flight which they should do to maintain hydration and thus their normal body weight …

  33. If only passengers bought tickets and not showed up…..

    Screwed up the post above….must be from the anxiety about holding my pee for 4 hours.

  34. Charging to use bathroom or
    Pee b4 getg on plane…
    Well… let’s all pee in our seats
    They can clean up since they already Charging higher fees.

  35. What a stupid article. How much would the airlines loose in empty seats when many people said, this is the final straw, I’m not flying anymore. The $2.66 saved would be a huge loss when people revolt and just stop flying unless they absolutely had to. I use to like flying back in the day. Now I hate to fly. Get to airport at least 2 hours early, deal with long lines for everything, go through TSA checkpoint which is a total pain, food and water is way overpriced, layovers, jetlag, delays, cancellations, rude entitled passengers and flight attendants and then you want us to stop using bathrooms on airplanes. Really? That’s what you came up with as a good idea to save airlines money. Just stop already.

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