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

Should passengers assigned to seats in the economy class cabin be allowed to access and use the lavatories located in the premium class cabin — such as this one stocked with these amenities aboard an aircraft operated by Asiana Airlines? Photograph by FlyerTalk member quirrow. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by quirrow.

You have probably witnessed passengers assigned to seats in the economy class cabin using the lavatories in the premium class cabin on an airplane during a flight.
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?
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”

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

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?
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 and they are not inconsiderate by either 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. There is no excuse for being inconsiderate — 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.
What do you think would be the ideal policy — and where should the threshold or line be drawn? Is this a legitimate concern — or simply a “first-world” debate which is nothing more than the perpetuation of a class system? Please share your opinions, beliefs, stories and experiences.

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

  1. nlkm9 says:

    I only have done that when the bev cart is blocking the aisle and I cannot wait–lol. Sometimes people are sitting a seat away from first class and I think it is silly for them to walk all the way back, and when Im sitting in first, have no objections.

  2. Allvest says:

    Ridiculous. One of the reasons I fly business class is to have half decent washrooms, especially long haul. Absolutely, unless some sort of “emergency”, should Y pax NOT use J washrooms.
    Facts: Pax are messy. (Ok, most are pigs). Washrooms run out of soap and toilet paper. Washrooms get stinky the more people use them. Y pax crossing through J cabin detracts from my peace and quiet I pay for in J. and so on.
    I can’t believe there is even an article about this. Kind of asking if I should be able to take the Mercedes limo when booking a regular taxi at the airport limo stand.
    There surely must be more interesting topics to discuss.

  3. ffI says:

    Did you forget Curb Your Enthusiasm

  4. Annalisa12 says:

    I pay more for extra privileges and that includes having a cleaner toilet with less wait. On a recent flight with Malaysia Airlines J cabin that was 3/4 full a male flight attendant was near me when I waited about 30 seconds for the toilet. When a lady came out asked me to wait a moment and went inside, washed his hands then proceeded to clean the mirror, basin top etc then bent over and gave the floor a thorough wipe with paper towel. He then gave me a big smile and motioned me over. Now you don’t get that with economy!!!
    I’ve seen some scary things in economy loos!!!

  5. Annalisa12 says:

    Economy passengers may think premium toilets are so much more roomy! Unfortunately not for most of them.

  6. santarosaflyer says:

    When I first started to fly in a premium cabin, this used to bother me. Then my brain kicked it. There is only two toilets in economy for as many as 125 or more passengers and one toilet in First for as few as 8 of us.
    Typical flight on UA, the captain keeps the seat belt light on for at least the first 30 minutes. Add to the that the boarding time. On a morning flight, sometimes more than half of the passengers board with cups of coffee.
    These are the passengers I usually see coming to the premium toilet, 1) those with small children, 2) those who really have to go and 3) those who have been sent forward by the FA because the cart is in the aisle and 4) elite flyers who are sitting in the front rows of economy and decide its closer to use ‘their’ toilet.
    On many flights, more than half of us are upgraded and didn’t pay for premium. I know we pay because we fly a lot.
    I notice on intra-Europe flights, the seat belt sign is off in 10 minutes or so unless there really is turbulence. Rare do I hear the announcement to use the toilet in your designated cabin. On a Lufthansa flight I was in economy and asked the FA if I could use the business class toilet which was just a few rows in front on me. She looked at me with the strangest glare – of course, why would I need to ask.
    When I decided I did not need to regard those in economy as pond-scum, it became one less thing to worry about.
    And some of the dirtiest users of the toilet are those sitting in premium cabins.

  7. photographer2012 says:

    I travel 99% of the time in economy and i think the toilets in F or C should be off limits, also the area should be off limits. unless it’s an emergency or way to toilet blocked etc.
    when i flew J i found it a little disturbing when people came and walked around the cabin…it’s soupouse to be an exclusive product…
    there is a reason for the curtin…

  8. ORDnHKG says:

    By saying because the cart is blocking the aisle and you cannot wait, so how come you didn’t use it before the cart roll to the aisle then ? That is one of the things FA hated the pax would do on the plane. And that’s why they put out a gate if the pilot come out of the cockpit inflight to use the lavatory, so you can’t use the same excuse. People are sitting a seat away from first class and it is silly for them to walk to the back ? So I can assume you would use the same excuse to help yourself to the food serve in first class too right then ?

  9. Points Surfer says:

    Maybe it’s just us but when we stretch to book a Premium cabin on long flights it’s for the benefits and one of those is dedicated lavatories for that class….typically cleaner! and no line ups….a paid for benefit that I don’t expect access to if I didn’t pay for it when I fly economy most of the time…Seems fair to me. Emergencies or Lav out of order issues aside, some traveler’s can be quite disrespectful and seem to engage in some kind of “seat envy” towards those in premium seats. Hats off to those FA’s that enforce the rules. It also seems when FA’s make a statement prior to take off about the Lavatory rules that helps avoid issues during the flight. I’ve even seen economy seats argue with FA’s about how rude it was to close the curtain for Premium….if you want Premium benefits buy them, don’t poach them. That sense of entitlement doesn’t belong on a crowded plane.
    At the same time, Airlines seen to cut Lavatories in Economy for billable seat space which is really unhygienic…ditto for letting them get so dirty in-flight? Those in economy seats near the Lav’s should get a discount for suffering through the crowds and other stuff.

  10. Cannonball Run says:

    “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”
    It’s not CONSIDERED one of the benefits it IS one of the benefits. Flying with 2, 3, or 4 ‘cabin’ choices come with defined benefits – from Luggage, Lounge Access, Boarding time, Meal Choices, Drink Choices. The Lav’s are as much a part of the experience as the seats.
    FA’s need to enforce this – that IS part of the job. It’s not security related although that’s the excuse thrown out – it’s what you’ve paid or earned to use. Simple as that.

  11. jamesteroh says:

    I wish they would enforce it. I fly DTW/LAX frequently on a 767 and it’s one lav for 30 passengers. When I fly out I will chose seat 5c or 5d if it’s available because if the FA does their job correctly meal selection should be done from the back first since it’s an odd number flight and providing the FA isn’t doing a service the only people I would have to worry about getting up to use the lav would be 5a or 5b.
    It’s irritating when you are trying to sleep and someone from Y comes up to use the restroom or if you are sitting in a front row of F when people from Y will come up and congregate at the lav. Also irritating when I have to use the restroom and have to wait behind Y passengers lined up who are too lazy to walk to the back of the plane or don’t want to wait, if the FA is going to allow Y passengers to use the F lav, then F passengers should have first priority.
    If fly DL a lot on a 757 as well and there are two lavs in Y in the front and I am amazed that people from Y still use the F lav. There is no way carts could be blocking their access. And if I am on a 757 and the first class lav is in use, I don’t go behind the curtain and use Y, I wait!

  12. DrunkCargo says:

    I still feel relieving myself (#1 and #2) at my seat is the best option, even in F/J class. Less chance of falling during turbulence, less effort required. Change pants at the arrivals lounge, good to go. (don’t wear underwear, same reasoning… less crap to clean)

  13. flyaxa says:

    I fly primarily Y and have no problem whatsoever with the idea of staying in your ticketed area. The problem is on some configurations (737s) there are 2 lavs for over 140 px. Add to that the extended seatbelt sign and you run into problems. Seems worst on the transcon flights. They need to add an extra lav and flight attendants need to to service them.

  14. DrunkCargo says:

    I just noticed in the photo that the security seal on the napkin compartment is not in tact… maybe we want whomever stashed goodies in there (snuff, diamonds, misc contraband, or dare I say “bomb”) to pay full fare F for the priv of accessing?

  15. laggers says:

    Gotta Pee somewhere.

  16. usafwso says:

    Just do it in the seat back pocket.

  17. jtthor says:

    Hmm, what is the regulations pretaining to the number of lavoritories per # of paxs? If it is 1 per 50 pax then would F class even merit a lav? Come on people, use some common sense and reason.

  18. smit0847 says:

    Like the seats, the food and drinks etc, you should only be allowed to use the toilets in the class you are seated in.

  19. UltraRant says:

    It’s pretty simple: if I don’t pay for a certain service, I shouldn’t use it. Of course it’s nice that there’s a plastic flower in the C or F toilet as the enhanced service, but that’s not what it’s about. If I pay for a ticket that comes with a toilet for a maximum of 8 pax, I expect a maximum of 8 pax to use the toilet. If I fly Y, then I shouldn’t complain when I share 4 toilets with 200 others. I don’t expect to be able to use first class check in, receive a first class meal or priority luggage when I just fly in Y either. Simple, eh? 🙂
    However, if the airline gives me a (free) upgrade, then of course I will use all services that come with the new booking class: it has then been agreed on forehand.

  20. Brian Cohen says:

    …and although there may be 200 passengers sharing four toilets, I know of some people who refuse to use lavatories aboard airplanes at all costs. Although that becomes exponentially more difficult on longer flights, I wonder what percentage of passengers are those who refuse to use the facilities…

  21. Asiaflyguy says:

    As soon as I read the title of the article, I know there would be some good rants on this topic, and it is always fun to read them… but my gosh, how may times and in how many forms can this questions be asked in a year on the forum?
    I think my faviorate thus far in the line up of responses is that he premium lavs as being a perk of flying F… Guess I never gave doing my business much thought, if I have to go, any hole on the plane will do. I have scurried back to Y to use the lavs when the ones in F were full, so is there a rule against that? ( though it was only number one from the free booze, (another perk))

  22. CLTpigeon says:

    I’d rather wear a catheter than use a Y lavatory.

  23. 98103 says:

    If this is your biggest travel concern, I’d say you have it pretty good.

  24. Schmurrr says:

    FC pax are the worst when it comes to using the lavs. They generate a stink of entitlement that permeates through and infects the whole plane!
    No, I don’t really mean that. However, I think it is inhumane to expect to reserve one of a limited-supply item for a tiny number of pax when the demand for the limited-supply item is the result of a natural human function that pax don’t necessarily get to schedule. (What’s next? Independent circulating airflow for FC pax?) If there are enough clean lavs for coach pax, FC pax are welcome to their own lav. But if demand for the coach lavs exceeds supply, FC pax should be ashamed of thinking of coach pax as animals because the latter dare to use the FC lav. Coach pax are humans; treat them humanely. If not out of compassion, do it for sanitation–or simply ask yourself what you would do if you were in coach with an urgent need and no available coach lavs.

  25. puddinhead says:

    @Schmurr – so you don’t want to wait in line and feel that you must be allowed use the FC restrooms. This is like women at convention hotels that demand to use the men’s room because there is a line at the women’s bathroom – and then try to prevent me from using the men’s room (I’m male).

  26. nlkm9 says:

    seriously? Did someone really ask why we didnt “go” before the cart went out? I most often fly in FC, but many times by the time the seat belt light goes off the cart is out.
    I mean seriously?? Are people really that cold? A few weeks ago I had the misfortune to be seated in FC but the lavatory was broken. Should the coach passengers have stopped me from going back to their bathroom? Some of these responses amaze me.

  27. Schmurrr says:

    @puddinhead: Will you soil yourself waiting for a coach lav or use the FC lav?

  28. AussieOzzie says:

    It seems that there are at least two possible solutions to this heated debate over who can dump where and under what circumstaces:
    1) Equip the lavatory doors in each class of service with a code reader to allow access and then print the appropriate scan tag onto each passenger’s boarding card.
    2) Institute an in-flight “pay as you go” upgrade system (say 5K frequent flyer miles or $50) for Y passengers who want a seat in the First Class cabin… if only for a minute or two… to do their Business… with class.

  29. mkjr says:

    the only exceptions to use lavatories dedicated to your cabin is for children and emergencies for those that lack control. i would never be upset about these two groups using the forward lavatories when seated a cabin behind.

  30. M7L says:

    Many of you – flying FC is probably the only time you feel special if you don’t want to share a lavatory. This topic brings out how insecure the FC passengers are. There are exceptions where it should be discouraged, such as long haul international flights, but never refused. I fly FC 80 percent of the time and don’t give a fuck.

  31. puddinhead says:

    @Schmurr – I’ve never seen 30 people in line on an aircraft. I have sat in 1B and had coach pass bump into me for over an hour. I used the restroom and when I got out someone was in my seat and didn’t want to move until it was her turn.
    I booked a FC compartment on an overnight train. I have my own WC and shower. There are 2 bathrooms in the coach car. Should I let the coach pass use my in roombathroo, if there is a line? The coach seating isn’t that much different. Maybe the weak bladders should wear Depends.

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