Alaska Airlines’ Strange New DC Flight Bathroom Rule

Filed Under: Alaska

Airlines have added significant restrictions on flights to & from the DC metro area over the coming week, ahead of the presidential inauguration. This follows some unruly behavior that we saw at airports and on planes around January 6, both before and after the violent riots in DC.

For the coming week we’re seeing airlines add restrictions on flights to & from DC, ranging from banning alcohol onboard to prohibiting the checking of firearms.

Alaska Airlines has just added restrictions for its 31 weekly flights to the DC metro area, and there’s one restriction in particular that caught me off guard.

Alaska Airlines’ restrictions on DC flights

Alaska Airlines has announced that it’s temporarily implementing additional safety measures focused on keeping employees and passengers safe. This policy kicks in as of today (January 15, 2021), and no exact end date has been published. Here’s what the airline is promoting:

  • Increasing mask enforcement on the ground and throughout the journey
  • Limiting the number of tickets purchased on flights to & from the DC metro area
  • Banning checked firearms on flights to the DC metro area
  • Requiring that all passengers traveling to & from the DC metro area stay seated one hour after takeoff and one hour before landing
  • Adding additional personnel to support compliance
  • Preparing procedures to ensure compliance prior to departure and takeoff, and for turn-backs or diversions, should the circumstances warrant
  • Introducing a dedicated command center to monitor every phase of the journey and to quickly respond to and resolve any incidents

Alaska Airlines note that it currently has 304 people on its active ban list. All of these restrictions are being added at the same time that the US FAA is threatening to jail or fine anyone who misbehaves on a plane. I’d also expect that federal air marshals are being assigned primarily to DC flights over the coming days.

The temporary restriction that’s most surprising

Most of these restrictions seem reasonable and logical enough. The rule that is catching me and others off guard is the one requiring all passengers to stay seated for the first and last hour of the flight. Why is this so strange?

  • This is a restriction that was introduced for a few years after 9/11 for flights to & from DC; however, at the time the rule was just to remain seated for 30 minutes after takeoff and before landing in DC
  • In an age of reinforced cockpit doors, what exactly is this intended to stop?
  • What’s the logic of the first and last hour, rather than just the hour either arriving into or departing from DC? And what is the fear, that someone plans a hijacking?

I suppose the general concept is that the more people remain seated, the less likely they are to cause trouble and get into confrontations. At the same time, this seems entirely arbitrary, especially since the main implication here is that people won’t be able to use the bathroom.

Passengers might be at a departure gate an hour before departure, then it might take 30 minutes to get to the runway, and then passengers have to stay seated for an hour. It’s reasonable that people might have to use the bathrooms during that phase of flight, which is also why this seems a bit unreasonable, as I’m not sure what problem this is intended to address.

All that being said, my conclusion here isn’t “governments around the world are coming together to fully control their citizens and take away all freedoms.”

Hopefully this is just a temporary policy, unlike the liquids ban, or how we have to take shoes off at security, both of which started as temporary measures, but are still around.

Bottom line

Airlines are introducing a variety of restrictions on DC flights. Arguably the most interesting restriction is from Alaska Airlines, which will require passengers to remain seated for the first and last hour of the flight.

This does make you wonder exactly what problem Alaska Airlines is trying to address here. If there were credible evidence suggesting there was a planned hijacking, or something, then you’d think this policy would be mandated federally, rather than by an airline.

What do you make of Alaska Airlines’ forced seating policy on DC flights?

  1. Yes unique rule but due to the amount of high-level threats, I support all safety measures. In comparison, AirBnB cancelled ALL bookings in the DC Metro Area – thousands of cancellations.

    Be safe and travel forward!

  2. What this person wrote above about “white men” was just disgusting from a low life human being.

    On to the subject. After 9/11 passengers were not allowed to get up 30 minutes before landing. This mean’t that all shuttle flights did not allow passengers to get up. But with one hour someone is going to need to go to the bathroom and the FAs are going to be able to tell someone to “hold” it for a minutes.

  3. “ Passengers might be at a departure gate an hour before departure, then it might take 30 minutes to get to the runway, and then passengers have to stay seated for an hour.”

    Considering Alaska boards about 2 hours before departure, that’s a long time to be seated for

  4. We’re on high alert. Enhanced security at the airport, boarding , and even Air Marshals is enough. Not sure about the effectiveness of these added inflight restrictions aside from no alcohol.

  5. Every security measure the airlines, airports and government ever takes always falls somewhere on the continuum of “very effective” to “not effective but makes for nice theater.” I’d say the 1 hour rule is pretty far on the theater side of the continuum. The rule against arms in checked baggage is closer to the “effective” side (not because it prevents passengers from accessing their guns during the flight, but because it prevents them from bringing guns to the airport to begin with).

  6. @joe chivas and you’ve seen trump’s female supporters? And no apologies however the vast majority of his cult followers are Caucasian

  7. All airlines had the same rule for DC airports after 9/11 but in that case it was only I think 30 minutes before landing in DC and the first thirty minutes leaving DC

  8. The solution doesn’t match the threat. A polite reminder and threat is what is mostly needed.

    “Passengers are asked to respect fellow passengers and crew on the flight. This includes mask wearing and maintaining a pleasant and quiet atmosphere. The Captain has been instructed to not land in the Washington, DC area should there be incidents aboard but land at an alternate airfield. Again….(repeat about alternate airfield).”

    In other words, fight too much and you won’t get to DC but will land in Pittsburgh.

  9. Governments around the world are coming together to fully control their citizens and take away our freedom #1.

    Also #2.

  10. How about just handcuffing all passengers to their seats and making them wear black hoods for the duration of the flight. It can be like the TWA hijackings in the 80s. I think I’m going to cool it with AS for a bit and send some of my money AA’s way for the next couple months…..unless they adopted these absurd rules also.

  11. Everything sounds reasonable taking in consideration the threats that are out. Flying is a privilege not a right..
    If you really need to use the restroom. Use it in the airport and minimize your liquid consumption. I try to avoid the airplane bathrooms anyways. People still walk barefoot into those Petri dishes… let’s all be civil and be respectful. Not everything should be political
    And if hate masks and rules Just drive w out your seatbelt. So you feel free

  12. Crazy, if I had to travel to DC with restrictions like this as only option, I’d go out of my way to avoid such as flying to another airport such as Philly, NY, etc and then driving a rental car or Amtrak into DC.

  13. @ Joe Chivas,

    Absolutely disgusting ….. seems you approve of racism as long as it comes out of your mouth, so much for principled discussion, you just want to inflame, you are no better than the terrorists at the Capitol.

  14. Yes Dan777 – someone making racist comments is noooooooooo better than the terrorists who stormed the capitol. Its high level critical thinking and genius equivalency like this that led to Qanon.

  15. @ Dan777 @ George N Romey — I’m making some moderation corrections here, but given that the group of concern is “violent white nationalist extremists” (as identified by the DHS & FBI as the top terrorism threat to the US for the past several years), I don’t think Joe’s comment was particularly racist. If anything, it’s mildly sexist, but since we’re talking about people who have chosen to commit themselves to violent supremacy by virtue of their race, this is going to come up more and more often.

    I loathe the comparison, but decent people (regardless of race or general political persuasion) should really be denouncing white nationalist violence with all the fervor and ferocity they demanded of moderate Muslims for the past 20 years. Deflecting responsibility with false equivalencies isn’t helpful at all.

  16. David I’m glad you can hold it forever but many other people cannot. Add taxi time or a delay and you could easily be looking at 3 hours from the time boarding started until 1 hr post takeoff.

  17. @ Joe Chivas,
    Your statement is offensive and racist. Maybe you need some sensitivity training. Just kidding, Its all good this is America and you are entitled to your opinion. You have a good day.

  18. @Dan777

    Joe Chivas may have been sarcastic – it was Biden who said this of Obama “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

  19. They had 159 day to get it right in Portland to stop those radical right wing nuts. Glad they finally figured it out to save DC. I never would have guessed to stop liquor service on commercial air flights would prevent mostly peaceful protests.

  20. When will this the public wake up – prior to 9/11 when a plane was hijacked the passengers tried to remain calm with the anticipation of the flight being redirected elsewhere. After 9/11 this changed dramatically. Never again will the passengers not get involved to stop a hijacking. The TSA was never needed and now does more harm than good. Just find someone who gets an SSSS on their boarding pass routinely and ask them about their experiences.

  21. When Washington DC had the 30 minute rule, flight attendants would give a ten minute warning. Nothing makes you want to go to the bathroom as much as being told you can’t go. The result was long lines in the last five minutes and some flexibility in timing by the attendants. Flights were not really going to be diverted to BWI or beyond because of some old geezer with an unruly bladder.

  22. re: lavatory-use / use before-boarding and use 90 mins before landing. No rocket science required. 🙂

  23. Hopefully the Trump Terrorists will be neutered after last week – bigger issue may be the state capitols it seems, DC is on full lockdown

  24. Issue adult diapers to all passengers in the check in process. Either that or lors of wet seat cushions are possible.

  25. unfortunately these”adults” act like children with no respect. If you don’t like it fly private! btw Alaska airlines in almost always ontime I’ve never had an issue.

  26. Everyone take a chill pill……….. The flight is 4:30 or 5:30 depending on direction, so there is 2:30 or 3:30 to use the “Biffy”!!! I have never boarded an AK flight more than 30 minutes before departure, so stop over exaggerating!! If you have a bladder issue, wear a freaking Depends!
    As far as the restrictions go, it is more than before, but it’s their airline and if they feel it’s safer, that is their prerogative, correct. If you don’t like it either stay home or fly another airline, that way you free up more space for devoted AK flyers. WaWaWa to all the whiners……. I’m flying on 20 Jan, so I already have made provisions for my first adult beverage at 15-20 minutes into the flight courtesy of my carry-on. Hahaha;-)

  27. @Tiffany. Appreciate you taking Joe’s comment down; however, I disagree with your comment that it wasn’t racist. Imagine if the comment had said Muslim men after 9/11. Would you still feel the same way? We should all strive to not make comments regarding like that for all races. Also if someone who is white believes to be racist isn’t then it racist. Way beyond the scope of this travel blog; however, I love honest discussions about topics like this.

  28. @ Charles S — Yep, and that’s why I took it down. Given the history of Joe’s comments, I believe the intent was for it to me more tongue-in-cheek than anything, and it’s further complicated by the % of [white] [men] who have been taught to believe that equality for everyone else is oppression to them. But I broadly agree with you that if a comment made about a group feels racist to that group it’s better to err on the side of removal, if only to make it easier for more people to have more rational discussions without being wound so tightly.

  29. @Tiffany

    Please try not to be so woke nor American centric as you have plenty of readers outside the US. Some people may get offended by a particular comment but I can assure others are more offended by the censorship.

  30. @ Alan — We try to provide a broad range of content here, and absolutely respect the international audience. But you’re commenting on an article discussing a US airline’s policy on flights to/from the US Capitol, during a time-period in which homegrown white nationalist extremists are trying to overthrow the democratically-elected US government. It’s pretty obviously going to be American-centric discussion?

    Similarly, if you are offended by a private company choosing not to give airtime to racists, conspiracy theorists, folks advocating for violence, etc., the perceived “censorship” may not be the real problem.

  31. @Tiffany your statement “and it’s further complicated by the % of [white] [men] who have been taught to believe that equality for everyone else is oppression to them” Is pretty arbitrary and offensive. This kind of thought perpetuates the myth myth of White male superiority. Tribalism is the problem, not just white men. An example. I was the only male direct report to a female manager. When it came to the staff meetings, I was usually emailed or called by the manager that the two of us have gone over what is important to me, and I don’t need to go to the meeting because it will just be “girl Talk” If the roles were reversed, HR would have walked out the door in minutes. I can go on with many more examples but I think one is enough.

  32. @ dan — But in this case we are literally talking about violent white nationalist extremism, where my statement is fully accurate, and not really related to what sounds like a pretty poorly-run department.

  33. There should be a corollary that if you ‘ping’ the FA and ask to be escorted to the restroom in a true emergency situation, it should be allowed. Of course, then people will ‘ping’ en masse just to be trolls or feel SPESHUL that they get to get up while others don’t. People suck.

    As it stands, this sounds like a really good way for Alaska to find itself in a ton of lawsuits. In the last 30 minutes of a flight you’re already in a descent and SHOULD be seated. A thirty minute ‘sterile cabin’ makes all the sense in the world, but unfortunately, most people aren’t smart enough to relieve themselves before they get on a plane.

    There are just too many actionable what-ifs for people with genuine ADA, medical, or physiological concerns.

  34. @Tiffany
    I gave one example of many. I looked at the pictures and video of the riot/protest/trespassing and while it was mostly white males it was not all white males. Tribalism is the issue. However I think we are going to agree to disagree on this issue. Lets get back about travel talk

  35. @ dan — Apologies if I/anyone made it sound like the insurrectionists were all/exclusively white males. That was not the intent, and would not be accurate.

    The driving force behind many of the individuals who chose to leverage the opportunity for violence however, is white supremacy. If you want to consider that under the broader umbrella problem of tribalism, that’s perhaps fineish, as long as it is with the understanding that not all “tribes” are equally prone to violence, nor responsible for the current state of affairs, nor are all the “tribes” what they may initially appear to be.

    In this case, it is a subset of the population that is predominantly white males, who not only embrace the false grievance politics of believing that white men are specifically the victims of unfairness and discrimination, but think violent escalations and harming others are an appropriate way to remedy that and establish what they feel is their rightly-deserved (by merit of their race alone) place at the pinnacle of a Christofascist society, with women and all other men subservient to them (or dead). The very nature of the situation makes it nearly impossible to talk about the problem without referencing [white] and [males] as descriptive words.

    And that really encapsulates the challenges in having this conversation — our language isn’t perfectly up to the task of making the distinctions between people who happen to be part of a group but would reject what is being done in their name, when other people are engaging in violent pursuits using the labeling of said group as justification. But a starting point is for other white folks to give some grace to the inadequacies of the language (recognizing that, unless you are indeed a white supremacist, when people talk about White Supremacy they aren’t talking about you just because the word “white” was included), and join in the condemnation of nationalist extremism.

    But I hear you, for sure. It is unfortunately relevant to travel, because a goal of extremism (of all flavors) is to limit the free movement of people who disagree with them. As violent white supremacy is given more oxygen, I suspect we’ll (all of us, as residents of Earth) sadly be having more conversations through the lens of travel about impacts, precautions, and policies, not fewer.

  36. @Tiffany
    “homegrown white nationalist extremists are trying to overthrow the democratically-elected US government”

    I actually find this statement absurd as if Americans have no idea how real coups are carried out. Americans need to study their history and see just the number of democratically elected governments that have been overthrown by US intervention in latin america which includes Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, Haiti, Honduras, etc. Those were real coups.

    A group of unarmed protesters in halloween costumes is not a threat to your precious democracy. Had they been the US capitol would be a charred ruin of its former self.

  37. @ Alan — Thanks, but I know precisely how “real” coups are carried out. One needn’t have an undergraduate degree in Political Science, nor a graduate degree in post-conflict resolution, with a particular focus on violent nationalism, in order to understand and label this appropriately. But I have both. Using sudden, violent, and illegal means to disrupt the transition of democratic power is the literal definition of a coup.

    It is also a complete miscasting to describe the seditionists as a “group of unarmed protestors in halloween costumes”, but perhaps you aren’t fully up to date on the events?

  38. @Tiffany
    We will have to agree to disagree. I have seen real coups and they are nothing like what I saw on the news of what occurred at the capitol. My understanding is the police even opened some doors and invited them in.
    Please enlighten me on the protestors. I may have missed the latest news as I do not live in the US. I was not aware that they might have been armed.

  39. @Alan – maybe you should educate yourself a bit, because you seem to be the only person unaware of the extent of the weapons carried by the insurrectionists (note: not “protestors”). Also, look at any pic and you will see full tactical gear, not just “costumes”. SMH.

  40. Still with this thread lol

    @UA NYC

    rest assured every Republican is at home right now watching football.

  41. @ Alan — Adding to what @ UA-NYC shared, there were viable pipe bombs, long-guns (including assault rifles), maps of the Capitol (including security tunnels), coordinated radios, tactical gear, etc. We were about 45-60 seconds away from either a shoot-out in the Senate chambers, or elected officials being lynched on the Capitol lawn. This includes the Vice President (with his family, and nuclear attachè), who made it into a safe room about 50 seconds before footage shows their location being overrun.

    Yes, there were some “colorful characters,” and given the sorry state of the media that is of course who gets the news footage, but they were broadly distractions from much of the more nefarious stuff happening. There is already demonstrated intent to disrupt the transfer of power, kidnap/execute legislators, and terrorize the rest until the demand for Trump to be installed as “President” for a second term was met. And at this point I suspect we only know about 10% of what occurred.

    But at any rate, and as all the coups you mentioned are from South/Central America, it’s perhaps helpful to remember that coups (or coup attempts) aren’t monoliths that occur in a vacuum. All the other elements of a country or culture inform how a coup unfolds, and thus they don’t all look the same. The illegal seizure of power from a government is what makes it a coup, not the makeup of the participants or the specific methods used. That it failed, or didn’t have all the elements you’re perhaps used to seeing, doesn’t make it any less accurate a description.

    And we’re not through it yet, so please excuse us all for being a bit on edge.

  42. @tiffany

    Given the protestors left peacefully, I still fail to understand the seriousness of the situation. There appear to have been a few crazies with arms and possibly pipe bombs (your article referred to the authorities as not yet knowing if they were real) but these individuals never entered the capitol.
    I tend to agree much more with the following article:

  43. Yeah it’s done . I don’t see anyone losing sleep over the next four years because Joe Biden is President. Real men move on. Just as if Hillary had won in 2016 instead of a women’s rights march the following Sunday everyone would have been out to brunch.

  44. @ Alan — Respectfully, your failure to understand has no bearing on the actual seriousness of the situation.

  45. @Tiffany
    Unfortunately, how one perceives the actual seriousness of the situation is often defined by the for-profit media.

  46. The hour rule makes sense. Pilots are most busy in the periods around take-off and landing…that’s when there is the most navigation, ground communication, and just the most activity overall as you are closer to other aircraft. Keeping people in seats means less risk of incident at a time when pilots would be busy…and it’s reasonable to ask people to go to the bathroom and plan to stay seated the first hour, so I don’t see the issue. Then, when in mid-flight if something happens, there is less going on and pilot can deal/communicate and plan to divert if needed, while during cruising time. This also makes it so there is one defined/controlled/shorter period for people to get up — it’s about containment and ensuring high-risk activities occur at a time the crew is most available to deal with them.

    The airline is trying to be safe during a very difficult time, we should respect their rules and not be so critical.

  47. That’s a long time to hold for some people with medical situations. Plus there will be a long line for the bathroom. Its dangerous to have that many people out of their seats in line.

  48. @Tiffany

    I hope that you see now that the seriousness of the situation was not what you were led to believe by the mainstream media. I remember months ago when the media questioned whether Trump would even leave the White House peacefully and at that time I was not concerned at all.
    Now I really hope that the United States does not immediately restrict even more freedoms using a minor event such as January 6th as an excuse. Freedom of speech needs to protect most importantly those viewpoints, one does not agree with. Otherwise the first amendment might as well be rescinded. The media’s sole purpose should be to inform not to instruct.

  49. @Alan – Give it a rest buddy. Mansplaining “the media” to a lady who both works in media and already provided you with her relevant background experience doesn’t make you more right, it just makes you more of a jerk.

  50. @Alan
    Why are you so frustrated? Most of us seem to have a different outlook on this matter than you do.

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