Coach Passengers May Now Use The First Class Lavatory On United Airlines

Airline lavatories are usually pretty simple. To be sure 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?

A flight attendant may tell you to stay in your ticketed cabin. In 2015 a coach passenger was even arrested for using a business class lavatory on a Vienna – Abu Dhabi flight.

But now this long-controversial question has been settled on United Airlines: to reduce bunching of passengers waiting in line for the loo, they may now use any lavatory on the plane. This is a coronavirus distancing measure.

United Airlines has never blocked middle seats throughout the pandemic the way that Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have. They apparently believe social distancing is important waiting for the lavatory but not when you’re in your seat.

American Airlines for its part already doesn’t have a policy against coach passengers using the first class lavatory on domestic flights or flights departing the U.S.

The correct approach that airlines should have been taking to the lavatory all along is,

  • 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.

Don’t just use the first class lavatory because you’re at the front of coach and it’s closer. And if you’re in coach, can’t easily get to a lav in your own cabin but it’snot an emergency, give priority to those in the cabin in front of you who may be trying to use the bathroom. But when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to 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. If this turns out to be the case, who would want to pay thousands of extra for a piece of chicken or a portion of beef/fish? Let’s turn to Southwest or any LCC model all-economy design.

  2. The calculus here is: this will reduce Covid spread in congested economy class by distributing load to both lavatories.

    And mind you, nothing is more Covid friendly than drink service. The virus doesn’t chill when you’re boozing. Virus gonna virus, even easier if you take your mask off.

  3. This is a bad move for many reasons.Security,health, during covid all part of the reasons I have been paying for first class tickets to protect myself and the family.
    Even for flight crews to perform their duties without lines and interruptions
    Its a great reason not to fly United ever regardless of the class you sit in.
    I do support exceptions for those with special medical needs and permission from a flight attendant
    during peak times when exceptions need to be made.A free for all during covid is not the way to maintain a premium cabin for those willing to pay or use their hard earned miles at sky high redemption costs>Its another strike from an airline that has a long history of fatally flawed policy & decision making

  4. Big deal – I fly more first than coach and it is very common for coach passengers (on multiple airlines) to use the bathroom in first. There is a very simple reason airlines allow this even though they announce to use the one in your class of service – on a single aisle plane when the drink cart is in the aisle any passenger in front of the cart is allowed to us the first class bathroom. Now on A321s that have a bathroom in the middle of coach it may vary but I assure you no flight attendant is every stopping someone that has to go from using the first call bathroom if a cart is blocking them from getting to any others!

    Not sure if the comments on here are sarcasm but, if not, get over yourselves.

  5. Absolutely UNACCEPTABLE. I pay for First Class because I don’t want to be surrounded by the CATTLE. United already offers a substandard First Class experience. This will do it for me. All the more reason to switch airlines… I can BUY First Class on ANY airline. Instead of loyalty, I’ll now buy my ticket on the airline offering the overall best First Class experience. Nice job United…. knew it was coming when the cheap ass came over from another airline to drive this one into the ground.

  6. So now we have more foot traffic in first class? One of the incentives to pay for first class in a time of covid was to avoid unnecessary foot traffic. Also, it appears use of the lav on a plane is one of the places where your exposure to covid to be higher. The more people using the first class lav the more of a chance that one of those people has covid.

  7. The new United policy on lavatories is distressing and absolutely bad news for passengers in First/Business Class! Passengers pay a much higher price to sit in premium cabins along with other travel and flight amenities. With the new lavatory policy, these premium cabins will see a heavier passenger flow with longer queues from Economy. I believe the new policy was adopted because of low passenger numbers in premium classes especially on global routes along with possible less complaints from these customers. Also, it’s an added marketing perk for Economy passengers at the expense of passengers in premium cabins. I would respectfully suggest United place more lavatories in Economy; thus, greatly minimizing wait time for these customers while continuing services and comforts for passengers in premium classes! In the meantime, I encourage United to rethink this policy which will make traveling in premium classes less appealing and rewarding!

  8. The solution is to add a mid-cabin lavatory to all single-aisle mainline planes, not just the A321, 737-900, 757, etc. Otherwise, the cart-was-blocking-the-aisle excuse will just continue to be difficult to ignore.

  9. Wow. Some of these comments are awful. You are disgusting. Cattle? Really? I fly first but sometimes there’s no availability. We’ve all (for the most part) had to sit In coach at some point. I didn’t see any cattle. I don’t care what class you fly, if you’re referring to other travelers in that manner you have NO class.

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