Are Coach Passengers Allowed To Use The First Class Lavatory?

Which lavatory are you allowed to use on your flight? If you’re a coach passenger, can you use the bathroom up front in first class? What if a flight attendant’s drink cart is blocking the aisle and you can’t make your way to the back and you really have to go?

In general the correct approach – airline rules aside – should be,

  • Passengers should use the lavatory in their ticketed cabin first
  • First class passengers should have priority for the forward lavatory
  • However during drink service on a single aisle aircraft passengers blocked from walking back to the lavatory should be able to use the closest lav.
  • And in an emergency you use whatever is available.

This recently became something of an issue on a United Airlines flight, and clarifying what you should do on a plane – and what you’re allowed to do – makes some sense.

This passenger reports that other passengers from coach were permitted to use the first class lavatory, but when brought his daughter up he was turned around. United’s social media team stated this is policy.

Except that’s actually not United’s policy anymore. They changed it in 2020 as part of their pandemic response. While they encourage passengers to use the lavatory in their ticketed cabin, coach passengers may use the first class lavatory to reduce crowding in the aisle and at the back of the aircraft.

American Airlines also does not have a policy against coach passengers using the first class lavatory for domestic flights, or for flights departing the U.S.

Nonetheless, if a flight attendant instructs you not to leave your ticketed cabin, ignoring a crewmember’s instructions isn’t likely worth it except in the most desperate of biological situations.

Airline lavatories are usually pretty simple. Some passengers fail to use them, sometimes they’re inoperative and sometimes other passengers stink them up, but for the most part they work the same way. The only thing that confuses passengers is which one are they allowed to use?

And, it seems, the policy confuses United Airlines as well.

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. The first class loo should be for first class passengers only, except for legitimate emergencies (and, of course, elderly and persons with disabilities, who are unable to walk to the back of the plane). I fly first class (and not on upgrades – I always pay for my first class ticket) and one of the things I expect is a 1:16 or 1:20 pax to toilet ratio, unlike the back where it’s closer to a 2:150 ratio. I want the WC to be available to me when I want it, and I’d rather not have to wait for the guy in 27B to finish checking out the facilities!

  2. @Neal – I agree with you. Only exception would be a drink (or snack) cart blocking the isle on a single isle aircraft. In those cases I have never seen (and with over 8million miles I have seen about everything) a FA stop a passenger from using the forward restroom in that case. It is reasonable and if that was only exception doubt many FAs (or those of us in first) would mind.

  3. Here we go again….pulling the race card. *sigh
    His wife could have escorted the child to the restroom.

  4. Unless the pilots were coming out of the cockpit to use the fwd lav, thus the FA’s instructing pax to use the aft lavs. Very likely what happened.

  5. I am sure the egalitarians among us will object, but I am 100% with @Neal Z. I too *pay* for my FC tickets, so yes, I want “preferred” access to the front cabin lavatory.
    In fact, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me with Delta, who decided after Bastion became CEO, that it was a free-for-all on the FC lav. The last trip I took with them the line was seven deep in the aisle while we were trying to get breakfast served. That was a newer 737.
    A FA told me that “elites” (I was Diamond at the time) complained in the back and that was all she wrote.
    Bring back the curtain!

  6. Can we get rid of drink carts on all airlines? Southwest does not have them. The blockage of aisles is very inconvenient.

  7. I disagree with the privileged class comments that FC bathrooms are only for FC. I have status on American & Delta but my opinion ( and apparently that of the FAA, unless you’re returning to the US from international travel) is that bathrooms are bathrooms and I will use the closest restroom to me. I am often in rows 6-10 so I’m certainly not going to walk to the back of the plan because some class issue. If you feel you deserve a private bathroom, then buy a ticket on a private jet. American and Delta are public transportation so get used to being part of society.

  8. Airlines are good at making long announcements about credit card offers during flight. Why can’t they just state the lavatory rules at start of flight so all will know?
    The bigger issue is most don’t know the particular airline they’re flying rules.

  9. Planes used to be designed with customer comfort in mind with enough bathrooms in coach. Now the narrow bodies fly longer with less loos. When you gotta go, you gotta go. There was only one coach bathroom on a recent 737 max flight. Ridiculous.

  10. @Jeff the kettle has spoketh.
    When daddy said you were “special” he didn’t mean you could do as you please.
    Stay in your lane!

  11. There are 2 FA’s in Position in photo for a Pilot lav break stop the BS PLEASE !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. @Jeff, I think you’re either a troll or a person who doesn’t know how anything works. It isn’t a “class” issue except for the ticket class you paid for. The only one showing a sense of entitlement is you, pretending you have a right to use a bathroom in the cabin you didn’t buy a ticket for.

    If you want access to extra privileges that come with first class, you can get a ticket just like everyone else.

  13. @Woofie, the concept of first class is perfectly egalitarian. Everyone has equal access and ability to get a first class seat. That’s the definition of a level playing field. People make different choices with their resources, and people gain different amounts of resources in their life, but there are no rules making things unfair or uneven.

  14. very few people in first class actual pay for the ticket. many if not most are upgraded and very few who do pay actually pay for the ticket themselves.

  15. If I paid for a FC seat and have to go, I’m jumping out in front of the self-entitled jerks that come up from coach, part the Great Dividing Apron, and take a 15 minute shit in the forward lav.

  16. So I am assuming that first class passengers are kept from using the bathrooms for the plebes right? After-all, this is the plebe cabin class we paid for and don’t need more people using our latrines.

  17. Coach passengers in need who are denied the F class toilets should just piss and sh-t on someone in F class.

  18. @Joe, yes that’s true. Also, in First Class the pilots take over the restroom for a portion of the flight, and we aren’t allowed to stand in line for the bathroom. With those two things added in, it’s even more reason we don’t want jerks from the back who have access to two bathrooms at least and can stand in line jumping in and clogging up our one and only option.

  19. @Sidney your logic is flawed. However someone gets in FC, they are entitled to all it’s privileges. Do be an ass. If you want something, get the ticket. You have just as much opportunity as anyone else.

  20. A loo is a loo. The poo is going to the same place. Seriously? Far more important issues here.

  21. @James Walters if you don’t understand the issue being discussed, you can feel free to stay out of the conversation.

  22. @Tim james Flannagan – obviously you must be looking at a different picture. 1)There’s no cart blocking the door. If there was I don’t think the person would assume they could just hop over it. I mean it’s placed sideways, very obviously to block access. 2)its clear the 2 FA are chatting about whatever she has in hand. (Looks like a salad maybe?)

  23. How about outlawing first class. Liberte, equalite, etc. You shouldn’t be allowed to pay more to get treated better. Treat everyone the same.

  24. I think @Jack the Lad would have been delighted to live in (and fly the airlines of) any number of socialist utopias. Of course, all passengers are equal, but some passengers are more equal than others.

  25. I’m sure Jack the Lad is just joking, because surely he knows that being able to equally purchase a FC ticket is liberty and equality.

  26. My attention comes with the purchase of coach to purchase of first class when you spend 600 dollars you expect to go anywhere in the plane yet when I spend 3000 for the same ticket for you not think that I deserve my privacy around my area. If you paid for a private home behind a gate and I wanted in just because it is convenient because of traffic are you going to open the gate for me. I agree with there is always a exception but as someone who traveled with elderly and handicapped people I thought about where we sat on planes just for that reason when I bought the tickets now somebody and especially first class people since first class brings in more money than the rest of plane on many of the flights. Why shouldn’t first Vass get a privilege or two gor spending so much
    First class people we need you tell the airlines eat we expect and stop having the price go up and the service go down and down. For many shirt flights now I fly coach and just sit for whole flight and of cou6stay in my cabin. Plus people do6think about these things when they give their kids sodas and water while they wait for the plane sometime saying no yo children is necessary as it seems so children actually run the parents and not the other way around.

  27. LOL
    Great conversation. I hear the FA’s announce on flights many times which LAV passengers are to use. Another good laugh is the comment about Southworst who doesn’t even have a first class. Maybe socialism will come to the Airlines under this administration and the Lavatories will be mandated in all areas of the plane to be used by any passenger that wants to use then. Also the pilots gotta get in cutting in line.

  28. @Josh writes, “Also, in First Class the pilots take over the restroom for a portion of the flight, and we aren’t allowed to stand in line for the bathroom.”

    I never knew that the airline pilots at American Airlines or Delta Airlines received the added workplace benefit of Priority Pilot Pooping Privileges. I wonder if this was a negotiated contract benefit for members of the Allied Pilots Association and the Air Line Pilots Association, International.

  29. The ignorance.and plain stupidity by so many people here obviously not used to flying is stunning. Of course you stay in your cabin, and accept the service you have paid for. Of course pilots get preferrence when ever they need to, what idiot would want to compromise basic flight security by having the pilot out of the cabin longer than necessary? Of course FC/BC will stay and even the cheapest jerk here want that, because with premium classes covering vastly more of an overall flight expense, not being able to sell those cabins will make ALL coach tickets MUCH more expensive for those who least can afford it. And yes, if you want shorter access to a restroom in coach, buy a seat in the back so it’s easier to go when fewer people are in line. And if you really want to avoid the restroom wait stop drinking more liquid than strictly necessary. Please, if you don t understand the basics stop flying!!

  30. 110 years ago, there was another type of passenger transportation mode that also separated, or segregated, passengers by what they were able to spend.

    The ones that could pay for all the bells and whistles were welcome to full access to the craft. All the best food and drink. All the luxuries that a few extra dollars could entitle them to.

    Then there were the ones that could barely afford their ticket. They were restricted as to where they could go. Where and what they could eat.

    Where as the high class passengers had unlimited access to all necessary facilities, the lower class passengers were limited to just a few.

    One thing that could not separate the classes?

    The cold icy waters of the North Atlantic.

    Rich or poor.
    Man or woman.
    Young or old.

    They all died the same.

    Just because you can pay for a bigger seat, doesn’t make you a better person.

  31. I keep seeing comments that first class pulls in more money but do the math. Hundreds of steerage seats
    vs. a few dozen first classseats?
    Maybe not on all planes all the time but I’d guess most often. Since the beginning of travel time with the big transatlantic ships packing thousands below deck subsidizing luxury above. Just like in real-life.
    If most of the money came from first class there’d be more first class. And how many are free award seats?

  32. @Jorge, no coach doesn’t “subsidize” FC. That’s a ridiculous assertion. And there aren’t “a few dozen FC seats. There are 12 to 16 usually, sometimes a few more.

    The main thing being purchased is space, and a little bit better treatment. This is more than paid for by the ticket price. The other value derived by the airline is by being able to offer unsold FC seats as perks to frequent fliers, etc and that generates revenue across the system.

    No where in live are the masses subsidizing the wealthy. It’s the exact opposite. The wealthy pay for the vast majority of everything. Pick up an economics book, and read some data.

  33. Josh, I’m not going to get into a debate with you on who pays more taxes. There’s hundreds of cheaper seats, OK 12 to 16 FC, I’d just like to see a revenue breakdown. Why are airlines trying to cram more of the cheaper seats in and not FC? Basic math, so you see. That’s all. I’m a curious person. I wish you a Merry Christmas and much happiness!

  34. @Jorge, there would be no debate, because the top earners pay 100% of net taxes in the U.S.

    And I didn’t bring up that topic, you did.

    Airlines aren’t “cramming more of the cheaper seats in”… They are creating mid-level premium seats to give people a FC-lite experience for a little more money. And the answer of why they arent “cramming more FC seats” is easy: they have the right amount to meat demand, in general.

  35. Josh, I was discussing revenue categories in travel, not taxes.
    Whatever, you do you. I will seek more information elsewhere and compare your claims.
    Have a nice night!

  36. Just got off an AA flight from DFW to SAN, an A321. We were seated 2 rows behind the bulkhead separating coach and FC. As the FC flight attendant pulled the curtain shut, she told us that we were welcome to use the FC lav.

    Of course, the FC lavs were just as cramped and uncomfortable as a coach lav, a constant annoyance for my 6’3″ build.

    But I always try to take a deep breath with any in-flight peeves, (of which I have many!) and remember I’m flying 500mph in an aluminum tube, 30000 feet in the air, (the stuff of sorcery) which is WAAAAY better than driving, and a pretty freaking amazing advancement for human travel.

    Enjoy the ride!

  37. I pay extra so I don’t have to wait for the lavatory when flying. No way am I going to give that up because someone who wasn’t willing to pay wants the perks of premium travel for free. (As an aside, the lavatories in Singapore Airlines’ A380 First Class cabin are huge… one of them is bigger than my bathroom at home.)

  38. I think it is ridiculous that on a plane with 178 passengers, 166 passenger are supposed to restricted to the two aft lavatories and 12 people use the one in the forward area of the plane.

    They should just make a flight of first class only and have you wait until it is full to depart. Surely twelve $1,500 fares do not come anywhere close to covering the cost of that one flight.

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