Two Problems With American Airlines Lavatories: Size and… Sexism?

American Airlines has a new standard domestic product. It debuted in their 737 MAX a year ago, but they have been retrofitting aircraft to offer a similar interior. And they’re going to do something similar not just with over 300 Boeing 737s but with their Airbus A321s as well.

  • Less distance between seats and less comfortable seats in first class. Less distance between seats and thinner seats in coach.

  • No seat back video.

  • No ovens in the back galley so coach can’t have hot meals even on flights of 7 hours or more.

They are also putting in bigger overhead bins, which means we shouldn’t have to gate check bags anymore. This should also help American get flights out on time.

And part of squeezing in more seats means taking space back from the lavatories.

American isn’t the only one putting in these lavatories. Southwest has them in their 737 MAX aircraft but they aren’t retrofitting their entire fleet with them, and customers get more legroom too. The lavatories are a striking symbol of the terrible new domestic product American Airlines is rolling out, even as they make investments in becoming a better business class airline internationally.

The biggest challenge, I think, with the lavatories isn’t the blade doors banging into each other when passengers in the back of the plane open them at the same time or the water that initially sprayed back at passengers because the sink was too shallow (solution: less water pressure).

Instead since I can barely turn around in the lavatory, and my shoulders press up against the lavatory wall, how is a parent supposed to change a baby inside of one of these?

A Google executive (Head of Google Home and Nest Product Planning), though, called out American Airlines lavatories not because they’re too small for baby changing, but because their baby changing sign is sexist.

This seems to me to miss the elephant in the room. American could put a gender neutral sign in their lavatory, but the new lavatories they’re installing on hundreds of domestic planes will still be too small to change a baby in.

Their widebody lavatories, on the other hand, are subject to accessibility requirements. As a result new widebodies have a larger lav, and we can worry about the signage around baby changing.

(HT: Chris Matyszczyk)

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. While there is literally no space for me to change my very tall 2 year old in the lavatory, I am somehow able to take off his diaper and put on a new one, without getting urine all over the floor, which seems difficult for the rest of the plane.

  2. @no kids. I’ve never had my infant fly in economy so this isn’t a problem for us. She’s only flown charter domestically and business/first internationally so I think you’re complaining about the poor people.

  3. My flight on an Alaska Air 737-900 had the same type lavatory.

    I’ve read comments about water splashing from the tiny sink, and it was obvious when I opened the door.

  4. Maybe the Google Clown developed an extreme nesting instinct and feels the need to spread his liberal agenda everywhere.

  5. Now why is it that physically challenged people are not given access to reasonable size bathrooms on ALL jets? Could the reason be the airlines need to suck as much money out of their customers and damn the little people?

  6. Gary — we unfortunately have no choice with domestic product. If you/we can’t fit in these lavatories there’s 3 directions we can go: Private planes, colostmy bags or full body condoms. Sad. Go figure. You’ve bitched about it enough. I don’t like it either. Doug Parker obviously doesn’t give a shit about (his customer’s) AA’s domestic passenger experience – he wants to load as many people on his planes as possible so he can make his bonus or he probably does’t fly AA.

    Time to move on and focus on.. I hope that Doug’s ass gets really really fat from his bonus so he could never have a pee or a crap on one of these planes even if flying in first. Sad.

    Lets hope he has a Veruca Salt experience real soon.

    Also the lackluster financial performance for AA might come back and bite him in the ass real soon .. whoops ….

  7. Actually Gary — thinking about it — if you really cared you’d send him some cookies for Christmas 😉

  8. I don’t mind these lavs, but I feel like if you don’t like them, you’d just avoid AA whenever possible.

  9. Bill – it’s more than AA. This is/will be the new standard slimline toilet on all Boeing 737’s. All the US domestic carriers are adopting them as they can fit an extra row of seats in (make more $$). If you’re going to fly domestic on a new Boeing plane expect to see there slimline toilets — front and back of the plane.

    I’d like to know how/if they’re ADA compliant …
    Maybe they’re exempt as they’re airlines? – not my area of expertise …
    The lawyers will have fun …

  10. I wonder how many (if any) individuals have defecated in their pants as they were not able to fit into the bathroom in order to take care of their business there? I say this with all sincerity as I am not able to fit in these bathrooms. Which brings me to the following question: if I fly on American and sh*t myself, could I sue the airline for discrimination?

  11. @Ken Adams: As opposed to your MAGA agenda? My sympathies for your wife, children, and colleagues — assuming you have any, given your troglodyte sensibilities.

  12. @Gary

    You got it exactly right. If the bathrooms are too small to even change a baby in, who cares about the signage.

    For some reason people like to take up these “causes”, even though they have very little if any impact.

    No man will all of a sudden be willing to change diapers just becuase there are gender neutral signs on every changing table. I mean who even pays attention to these signs anyway?

    The real issue is making men and women more sacrificial and caring and humble towards others. That’s way more important for society and way harder to do than starting a twitter storm over some ideological issue.

  13. “I’d like to know how/if they’re ADA compliant”

    Sadly Federal regulations only require accessible bathrooms on planes with more than one aisle — a holdover from the days when widebodies were used for longer domestic flights. Sounds like high time to change that.

  14. How dare they assume that only women would change babies! That’s only been true for all of human history except the last few years. I guess biology is sexist too.

  15. Worldwide, there are an average of 100.000 flights every day

    Many airlines are installing these small lavatories inside planes with a range of 3.700nmi, for a 6-7 hours flights

    Passengers with reduced mobility, that need assistance in order to use the aircraft’s lavatories are having big trouble using these small toilets

  16. Aircraft Slimline Toilets make it very difficult for:

    – claustrophobic passengers
    – pregnant woman
    – passengers with reduced mobility
    – elderly people
    – athletes
    – passengers with disabilities

  17. Señor Leff,

    Does this mean you will choose to fly American Airline’s awful bathroom planes more often with the family when you want to avoid doing diaper changes in the plane bathrooms? Inquiring minds want to know.

  18. WR2,

    Men having been changing and cleaning babies for thousands of years. Are you unaware of the fact that lots of women and girls have died during childbirth or in the days, weeks or months after giving birth to a child? Maternity-related deaths have been more common than plane lavatories during all of history. 😉

  19. Something doesn’t add up. Is every seat on every flight sold out to create this much demand?
    Probably not, but AA may be trying to reduce number of flights and carry same number of passengers. And appeal to a lighter, smaller, demographic and let Delta keep the older larger demographic. That may be restating the obvious. That strategy worked for SWA, Spirit, Frontier.
    At a low enough fare, I may be willing to wear a space diaper and stink up the plane, but I dont know if my wife will? Will want to be on that flight, I mean. But seriously, I can fit in the small lav, so I give up nothing. This explanation seems to add up. All seats are smaller because they are targeting the youthful, mobile, trimmer demographic. In first class they should keep the larger lav.

  20. @GUWonder
    Yeah you got me, prior to the last few years there have been a handful of documented cases when men have changed baby diapers. Thanks for pointing out the obvious. The trend has gone from 99.9% of diapers changed by women to 99.5% over the last decade. Let’s make a big stink about it and change signage to reflect this massive shift in societal norms.

    Liberals in America are really good at looking for things to be offended about.

  21. For 2019 it would be nice if everything wasn’t picked apart. IT”S A SIGN for god sake, not a law or a mandate. People, it’s time the silent majority tells the “good people” to stop saving us and get a life (and maybe a job)! Enough already!

    Happy new year to everyone, let’s hope for a calmer, more peaceful and less annoying 2019! Safe Travels too!

  22. Time to lobby for changes in the law?

    It makes reasonable sense to have some leniency on short-range flights, but on a flight over 2.5-3 hours there should really be a real, ADA-compliant toilet. It’s not like a three hour flight is really three hours with their boarding process, taxiing, delays at arrival, etc. They can complain all they want about the existing fleet, but it could at least apply to all planes going forward (new or remodeled).

    I’m 6’3″ and skinny, but those new lavs are a problem. I can’t just duck in the lav, because they’re so narrow there’s no way for me to bend without hitting a wall.And 5% of males are even taller than me.

  23. WR2,

    You are engaged in snowflake behavior when complaining about “liberals in America” for comments that are duly critical about your spreading fiction. You claimed that “…. only women would change babies! That’s only been true for all of human history except the last few years.” Those words of yours are rooted in fiction, but then again spreading “alternative facts” comes natural to Trump and his fan-base

    Voting for that cry-baby, snowflake-of-a-President Trump again? He’s too big to have his diaper changed, or to do a diaper change, in one of these great AA lavatories. Maybe it’s a good thing he doesn’t fly AA, as he produces enough “alternative facts” from his holes to choke up the AA plane septic tanks without any help from his fan-boys and girls.

  24. Awesome. Another AA lavatory story, even though all the new 737s have these lavatories. Oddly, I have yet to encounter one on American, but I have used them almost a dozen times on Alaska and Delta. All without incident. This is a catastrophe only in Garry’s mind, for people well over 300 pounds, or chronic airline complainers. For everyone else, it is a trivial nuisance, at most. I would not want to change a diaper in one of these lavs, but then again I wouldn’t want to change a diaper in any airplane lav.

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