When you fly an Asian or quality Middle Eastern airline, you expect that lavatories will stay relatively clean throughout the flight. I’ve seen ANA flight attendants cleaning restrooms between passengers, and Emirates has even had staff on its A380s dedicated to this cleaning.
After a long haul flight on a U.S. airline, though, it’s almost de rigueur to expect that by the end of the trip lavatories look like something out of a post-apocalyptic zombie film where we everyone must band together to rebuild humanity out of the ashes.
United Airlines wants to change that. As Mateusz Maszczynski reports that the carrier has a new onboard announcement where flight attendants “ask passengers to provide feedback on the cleanliness of the onboard lavatories.” If passengers notice dirty restrooms, they can tell a flight attendant, who will…
In steps Sara Nelson’s Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) who declares that this new announcement causes “unrealistic passenger expectations” because cleaning dirty lavatories isn’t in the cabin crew contract. What is required is,
- Wiping splashes of water from the counter
- Restocking supplies like toilet roll and paper towels
- Picking up any loose paper towels
- Ensuring the waste bin is fully closed
While on some United flights taking the action steps that are part of contractual duties might be progress, flight attendants aren’t required to do anything beyond this, such as cleaning floors or high touch surfaces.
And since ‘going above and beyond’ doesn’t benefit a crewmember in a seniority-based system, it’s only the group of flight attendants who take personal pride in the service they offer and passenger experience of their cabin who might go beyond contractual requirements.
I’ve had flight attendants, for instance, bring their own flowers for lavatories like some foreign airlines provide because they think it makes the service nicer. These flowers aren’t reimbursed by the company, and they don’t receive merit pay for delivering a better experience.
United probably isn’t wrong that if flight attendants are announcing passengers should let them know about dirty lavatories, some of those flight attendants might actually do something about it – even if they can’t be disciplined for not doing so. And they also aren’t wrong that if they could clean up areas of poor customer experience, they can clean up on the P&L too.