Premium Class Lavatories: Should Economy Class Passengers Be Allowed to Use Them?

woman was reportedly handcuffed for an incident which occurred aboard an airplane during a flight after she used the lavatory reserved for passengers seated in the premium class cabin — even though she was assigned a seat in the economy class cabin — resulting in an emergency landing at Erzurum Airport in Ankara.

Edita Kmetova — who is 60 years of age and from Slovakia — was traveling on an airplane which was operated by Air Berlin from Vienna to Abu Dhabi when she became ill. The lavatory reserved for the use of economy class passengers was supposedly in use; which resulted in her using the one located in the business class cabin, as she deemed it an emergency situation despite the objections of those passengers who were seated in the business class cabin.

When Kmetova emerged from the lavatory, she was reportedly confronted by the pilot, several members of the flight crew, and passengers who were assigned seats in the business class cabin — which resulted in an argument, after which she was handcuffed.

After the diversion of the aircraft to Ankara and a round of mandatory questioning by authorities — through which she was reportedly crying — Kmetova was eventually released due to having no criminal record; but the pilot filed a complaint against her and refused to allow her to board the aircraft to continue the flight.

Employees at the airport arranged for the distraught woman to stay overnight at a hotel before they purchased a ticket for her to continue her journey to Abu Dhabi. “I was very upset about what had happened to her”, Abubekir Özcan — who is the night manager at Erzurum Airport, as quoted by this article of the Daily Sabah. “The business class toilet is used by a few people while the economy class serves almost 200. When she uses it, things get out of hand. The incident happened in Turkish airspace. When we were contacted, we thought something serious had happened. I was the first to enter the plane. When I approached her I saw an elderly woman crying. She was handcuffed. She was the only Slovakian on the plane. The rest were Austrians. I had her handcuffs removed and escorted her out of the plane.”

Although details of what exactly was the emergency are still unknown at this time, the question is whether or not Kmetova had any right to use the lavatory reserved for passengers seated in the business class cabin. You have probably witnessed similar situations pertaining to the use of lavatories during flights on which you were a passenger.

What Exactly Are the Rules and Etiquette of Using Lavatories?

Knowing the rules can be tricky and quite confusing, as illustrated by the following examples:

FlyerTalk members reported in separate discussions launched within a couple of weeks of each other in 2007 that on flights operated by American Airlines, either passengers assigned to seats in the economy class cabin are only allowed to use the lavatories in their assigned cabin or are permitted to use the lavatories in the premium class cabin — so which is it?!?

The flight crew of at least two transcontinental flights operated by American Airlines reportedly cited that passengers must “only use the lavatories in their ticketed cabins” for security reasons as supposedly required by the Transportation Security Administration…

…and could they face two days in jail for violating that directive?…

…or could it be that the policy that passengers must only use the lavatories in the cabins to which their assigned seats are located is a result of a regulation directed by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States?

Perhaps the policy was created and enforced by the airline — and not necessarily a directive of a government agency — such as reported for Alaska Airlines back in 2004?

Are passengers assigned to seats in the premium class cabin permitted to use the lavatories of their choice throughout the aircraft on flights operated by United Airlines; whereas passengers assigned to seats in the economy class cabin are only allowed to use the lavatories in their assigned cabin…

…and whether or not they are permitted, do the flight attendants of United Airlines ever enforce that policy anyway?

There was a debate back in 2003 pertaining to Further Thoughts on Coach Passengers Using The First Class Lavatories versus Further Thoughts on First Class Passengers using the Coach Lavatories on flights operated by Alaska Airlines. While the latter discussion is primarily “tongue-in-cheek” and a parody of the former discussion, who is correct?

Here is a twist on this debate: should passengers assigned to seats located in the business class cabin on an airplane be permitted to use lavatories located in the first class cabin?

The question of whether or not passengers have been denied access to the lavatories in the premium class cabin on flights operated by Delta Air Lines was first asked almost twelve years ago — illustrating that this issue has been debated for many years.

So — as a passenger assigned to a seat located in the economy class cabin — can you or can you not use a lavatory in the premium class cabin?

A “pet peeve” of FlyerTalk member cw082350 is when there is a “parade of coach passengers going to the first class bathroom” and the flight attendant did not attempt to exert any effort in stopping them “as they squeezed by her” — even though she reportedly announced the policy over the public address system of the aircraft.

Forget human passengers: are dogs allowed to use the lavatory, whether or not they are located in the premium class cabin?

Four Reasons for Breaching the Rules of Using Lavatories

There are reasons why passengers assigned to seats located in the economy class cabin use the lavatories in the premium class cabin:

  • Perceived laziness as to not want to walk all the way to the rear of the aircraft — especially if the lavatories in the premium class cabin are more conveniently located to their seats
  • The beverage cart might be blocking the aisle as flight attendants serve food and drinks to passengers during a service
  • All of the lavatories in the economy class cabin may be in use with lines of passengers awaiting their turn
  • Although this could surely happen in the premium class cabin, there are times where at least one of the lavatories in the economy class cabin needs to be fumigated just to get the odor all of the way down to the level of “awful stench”

Four Reasons Why Premium Class Passengers Want to Keep Economy Class Passengers Out of Their Lavatories

There are reasons why passengers assigned to seats located in the premium class cabin want passengers assigned to seats located in the economy class cabin to use the lavatories in their assigned cabin:

  • The use of a lavatory without having to wait in a long line is considered one of the benefits of being a passenger seated in the premium class cabin
  • Lavatories located in the premium class cabin may include amenities not found in lavatories located in the economy class cabin — can you imagine, for example, economy class passengers lining up to use the shower facilities equipped in the premium class lavatories on some aircraft operated by Emirates Airline?
  • The “invasion” of passengers assigned to seats in the economy class cabin to use lavatories located in the premium class cabin can disrupt the ambiance, peace and quiet of the premium class cabin — not to mention a greater chance of potentially “soiling” the lavatory

Are the Rules Realistic?

Human beings have basic bodily functions which can be delayed but not ignored. If someone really needs to use a lavatory immediately and the one located in the cabin to which he or she is assigned is not available, who is anyone to deny that person of relieving that need? Whether or not they are inebriated, do we really want to witness passengers urinating in the aisles or at their seats in extreme cases?

On the other hand, what is to stop other passengers from mimicking or pretending to have that need relieved themselves? Where should the line be drawn?

Summary

I personally have no issue as a passenger seated in the premium class cabin pertaining to the use of the lavatory located in the premium class cabin by passengers not assigned to that cabin — as long as…

  • The lavatories in the cabin in which they are seats are unavailable or access to them are blocked
  • They are not engaging in the following behaviors which are considered inconsiderate to fellow passengers:
    • Unnecessarily depleting the lavatory of supplies such as toilet paper, soap or paper towels
    • Taking too long to do what they need to do; or
    • Not cleaning up after themselves in the lavatory after they use it

 

Wet floors and tissue paper in the sink are unappealing at best…

…and yes, I do realize that passengers assigned to seats in the premium class cabin can be guilty of being inconsiderate as well — and even exhibit a superiority complex resulting from the difference in classes. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior — no matter to which cabin you are assigned aboard the aircraft during a flight.

Boeing 757 aircraft which are equipped with a lavatory located in the front of the economy class cabin does seem to alleviate the problem and helps towards resolving this debate. In my opinion, it would be ideal if all aircraft were all equipped with at least one lavatory located in the front of the economy class cabin in addition to those located in the rear of the aircraft.

After all: when ya gotta go, ya gotta go…

2 thoughts on “Premium Class Lavatories: Should Economy Class Passengers Be Allowed to Use Them?”

  1. Matt says:

    Just flew BA premium. Double price but same toilets as Y class. Same food. Same poor service. Not allowed to use washroom 3ft in front of me. Only biz class and chain going across. Y toilets at back. It sucks!!!

  2. Amod Squad says:

    I was on a 737-900 United plane in the aisle seat of premium Econ row 7, meaning I was right next to the bathroom for the econ/econ plus section. Not one, not two but at least 4 people from business used this bathroom. They all had to first unlatch the rope that separate the classes to go into this bathroom. So the Econ group had to wait, not only for other Econ passengers but the business class folk who couldn’t be bothered waiting in their section. No one arrested any of them.

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