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. @Gary, serious question. Do you think it is possible (and legal) for an airline to charge passengers by total weight… that is, for the personal weight of the passenger plus all of his/her checked and carry-on bags? It seems like that is the fairest way to assess costs on an airplane. I imagine there will be those (especially those who are overweight or “large boned” as they would call it) who would sue on the basis of discrimination, but then again, some food bars charge food by weight.

    As a (inactive) private pilot, I know flying a single engine plane literally requires the pilot to do “weight and balance” calcs to figure out if the plane can legally take off with the onboard fuel, pilot plus passengers, plus other cargo. You might have seats for four people on a Cessna 172, but with full fuel, you might only be able to carry one heavy passenger if the pilot is heavy themselves.

  2. @Quo Vadis, even if it was legal, the airline would probably still have the inconvenience and expense of lawsuits – for example Pacific Islanders tend to be heavier, is it racial discrimination to charge on the basis of weight? Whatever the answer, it wouldn’t be settled by just one lawsuit as plaintiffs could sue in any state served by the airline, which could drag on for a long time.
    Not to mention that many passengers would be put off by the thought of having to be weighed when they get to the airport (I like to know the cost of flying in advance, not on the day).

  3. Last year the guy in the aisle seat across from me got up to go forward to the restroom five minutes into the flight. That’s my pet peeve, so, trying to amuse the flight attendant, I said to her “why can’t people go to the restroom before they get on the plane?” But the guy heard me, and when he came back he chewed me out.

  4. At American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines, we recognize all passengers are full of crap, and your turd is valuable. Therefore, your pee and poop have now been monetized to help improve our bottom line. As part of a collaborative green, brown, and yellow initiative to help reduce your carbon footprint, expect the leaders in global airline travel to participate in a future corporate crap-off competition. For example, before boarding, as an elite benefit, passengers will enjoy using exclusive fast-track lanes to enter private lavatory stalls at your departure gate that feature high-quality recycled two-ply toilet paper. In addition, before flushing, a calibrated scale will automatically measure the weight of each passenger’s poop.

    Your excreta is valuable because, for every ounce (28.35 grams) of pee or poop deposited before boarding, passengers will receive 100 bonus frequent flyer miles.

    Pro Tip: To achieve the biggest poop and help you earn maximum frequent flyer miles, passengers fortunate to be allowed space-available entry to an American Express Centurion Lounge, American Airlines Admirals Club, a Delta Sky Club, or a United Club are encouraged to eat and drink as much as they can. When they leave the club, they should go directly to their boarding gate, take an award-winning dump, and travel the world using their bonus craptastic award miles.

    This offer is void where prohibited and may end without notice when a departure gate portable toilet fills and overflows down the jetway.

  5. Along with the ticket the airlines issue, they also should issue a Depends. Therefore, they can shut down the toilets entirely.

  6. Along with the ticket, airlines should issue Depends. Therefore, they could shut down the toilets entirely.

  7. one of the most ridiculous suggestions I have ever seen about airlines, as ridiculous as wearing face diapers and thinking it stops the spread of viruses

  8. Every passenger should self amputate a limb prior to their flight in order for the airlines to create bigger savings and bigger executive bonuses.

  9. What about if they could get all the customers full of feces to do their bowel-emptying business in the non-plane lavatories on the ground instead? While water/urine weighs more than the equivalent volume of excrement, every little penny (in costs and in revenue) counts for the penny-pinching greedy airlines that no longer nickel and dime consumers as much as they Grant and Franklin the consumers.

  10. Some of my small, lithe friends suggest that prices/fees get charged based on the combined weight of the passenger+the passenger’s belongings going on the plane. That would mean passenger incentives get aligned in many ways that save on fuel.

    For many economy flyers, there might be a big bonus if big people were charged more: less getting squeezed in by other passengers at a time when airlines have squeezed in most passengers like crazy in economy class with its narrower seats, less legroom and other such things that make the base seating in economy class worse now in the aggregate than it was when the oldest continuing frequent flyer programs launched.

  11. Using the toilet on the plane saves a gallon of water from being flushed at the airport. So by all means use it on the plane

  12. Giving all the passengers absorbent underwear won’t help: the output still remains on the airplane, just in a different place. The only thing that would work would be for airplanes to have the same kind of toilets that trains used to have back in the middle of the last century: direct dump to the ground/tracks. (Just don’t live under a popular flight path.)

  13. @Randy Cobb, your “pet peeve”? Why? How does it affect you when someone across the aisle goes to the toilet? You have no idea if he couldn’t use the bathroom in the terminal bc of a late connection…or if he had a beverage in the lounge right before boarding…or if he had a colostomy bag that needed attention! Of all the potential hassles on a flight, someone else choosing to use the bathroom shortly into the flight shouldn’t make anyone’s list.

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