Guest Post: Bathroom Behaviors at 30,000 Feet

(Yes things have been quiet here for a while. Writing and editing for NYCAviation keeps me busy. Writing for Airline Reporter (yep, I also write for them on occasion) keeps me busy too. As does my son who was born in May. I promise you that more avgeek content is forthcoming. But for now, a guest post.

My brother Dan is not an aviation enthusiast. He is a typical traveler who sees flying more as a necessary evil than as an adventure. And that's okay. He isn't the most frequent of fliers, but he flies enough to know the drill. He is also opinionated and isn't afraid to call things like he sees it. I hope you enjoy his view of restroom etiquette on board an airplane.)

The world is full of rules and frankly I don't care for many of them. Perhaps it is my natural Libertarian slant or a deep hatred of being told what to do. Etiquette on the other hand is an entirely different story. What I love about etiquette is that it is rooted in the idea that you don't HAVE to follow it, but when someone has good etiquette it is admired by those that are able to recognize it.

I am writing this from the last row of a 50 seat Endeavor Air CRJ200 flight from La Guardia to Greenville, SC.  The final destination is an old friends wedding. As you might imagine the last row is commonly known as the bathroom row.  A row reserved for the late bookers (guilty as charged).

As a 225 lb male that was about to be sandwiched in the aisle seat between a family of 3 a bit further forward on the plane, I bit the bullet and opted to snag the whole, empty back row for myself.  As I buckled my seatbelt I immediately flashed back to that scene in Alive where the whole back of the plane rips off and all of those actors got to go home early.  Stop being a wuss, we are nowhere near the Andes.

So as I watch other passengers guiltily file past row after row of casually judgey fliers I start to realize that there is a severe lack of etiquette of using the in flight bathroom.

Now on the ground there is a common understanding of basic bathroom etiquette (buffer urinals, no eating and to tip an attendant).  In the air it seems to not be as well known. So I am going to spell out a few basic guidelines.

Firstly, if your flight is less than 3 hours you really shouldn't be running to the bathroom.  On my flight there were 5 people that sprinted to hit the head as soon as the fasten your seatbelt light went out.  This followed a grueling 45 minute sit on the tarmac (thanks LaGuardia) and around a 15 minute ascent. 

Now if your math skills arent great, that means ONE hour after leaving an airport that is FULL of bathrooms, fliers are already breaking the seal.

Take a leak, visit the little boys room (hate that one) or take a squeege (love that one) while you're on the ground.  This bathroom is for emergency use only.  Take it easy on the coffee and don't drop your Airborne into a 55 gallon drum of Poland Spring and then try and pound the whole thing because you "can't afford to get sick".  Stop it.  You're better than that.

Next up are those that line up outside the bathroom.  Seriously.  Does the whole back of the plane need you in their personal space because you need to tinkle?  Toughen up.  This is most common after the 15 minute maul of the beverage cart service.  People actually line up on either side of the cart to ensure that they hold their coveted spot.  This leads to awkward passes in the aisle very reminiscent of the classic "as I pass do I give him the ass or do I give him the crotch" scene in Fight Club.

Then there are those that are in such a rush to leave their 30,000 foot sarcophagus that they don't close the door behind them.  As the sole occupier of the back row that leaves me with the options of either staring at and smelling the bathroom or closing it for you.  If I close it for you that basically makes me the bathroom attendant and, as previously mentioned, on terra firma that man deserves a tip.

(Some notable exemptions: the elderly, small children and their parents, the flight crew and pregnant ladies.  These people are all have a medical rationale, a lack of reasoning or are on their job.  Have at it.)

So as you fly, hopefully to a locale that is a bit more exotic and cultured than Greenville, South Carolina, be mindful of those at the back of the plane.  Use a little common sense, plan a bit and don't leave your courtesy behind at your port of departure.

Oh, and for the love of God....don't take a dump.