Why Airlines Should Charge Passengers to Use the Lavatory

Whenever Ryanair is out of the news their CEO Michael O’Leary talks about making passengers stand (to cram more people onto planes) and making them pay to use the lavatory. In the U.S. pay toilets are illegal in many states but those prohibitions wouldn’t apply to airlines since they’d be pre-empted by the federal Airline Deregulation Act.

UK pay toilets are often cleaner than free ones. Would airlines charging for lavatories give us better lavatories? Would they give us bigger lavatories since they’d become a profit center?

One strong argument that suggests airlines wouldn’t provide better lavatories if customers had to pay is that higher checked bag fees don’t mean more reliable bag delivery. United and American raised their prices without matching the delivery guarantees offered by Alaska and Delta.

Airlines are still the monopoly provider of lavatories in the air, pay toilets need to compete with each other for business but in the sky you don’t have an option of whose pay toilet to use.

However there’s a way to pay which isn’t just insert coin for entry. You could pay with your eyeballs, with your attention, and airlines could use the lavatory to market co-brand credit card signups to passengers.

Great internet companies monetize eyeballs instead of charging for services directly. That’s predominantly the strategy of Google and Facebook. Airlines could learn something from tech giants. They could offer a better product, put customers in a good mood, where they can ponder their financial future. It’s win-win. Charge for our attention with wall advertising and in exchange give us the space to soak in the message.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Does anyone really give a $hit what that numskull Michael O’Leary has to say about anything? In fact, who in the right mind would even fly that horrible carrier Ryanair? Between them and Wow, I’m not sure which is a bigger fuster-cluck. Idiot euro low far airlines, actually make our 3 idiots look smart.

  2. Lets have a credit check for the bathrooms! Only those with great credit can poo, everyone else gets a bag! Yes, lets make flying even WORSE for the public!

  3. Free use of AA toilet would be the new perk for City Advantage card holders but not those who got Barclay Aviators card.

  4. Lol, I love how you assume putting some credit card advertising decals in the lavatory will make FAs clean them more

  5. Make people be under 5/24 to use the loo. Really have decide between the overblogged Sapphire reserve or the AA enchiladas.

  6. @Gary, O’Leary has stated that those statements about standing passengers and charging to use the bathroom were pure marketing gimmicks and that they would never happen.

  7. Airlines are still the monopoly provider of carry-on bags in the air. They should charge — A LOT — for carry-on bags.

    It’s busy business people on expense accounts that would pay them, and in the sky they don’t have an option of whose carry-on space to use. With everyone else checking bags again, boarding will be fast and relaxed once again.

    Big win-win all-around!

  8. Barefoot bathroom users should have to pay a premium for beeing so disgusting. I am always impressed how many do it (even barefoot moms bring their barefoot kids). And after a few minutes, voila, those disgusting feed on the seat in front or the bulkhead.

  9. I have often wondered why airlines have not done more to monetize seatbacks, traytables, snackboxes, etc as potential advertising vehicles. Not that it would stop them from shrinking seats or making flights less comfortable in other ways, but seems like a no-brainer for profit hungry airlines.

  10. Really stupid idea. Imagine each user spending one or more minute in the lavatory to read the ads and to ponder whether to write down the info of the advertiser, while other passengers waiting eagerly outside.

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