United Airlines Updates Its Lavatory Policy

Filed Under: United

As noted by @BrianSumers, you’ll soon have more freedom to relieve yourself on United Airlines flights…

Everyone can now use United first class lavatories

As of November 1, 2020, United Airlines customers will be allowed to use lavatories anywhere on the plane, including in a different cabin. In other words, economy passengers can use first class lavatories, and vice versa.

This policy is intended to reduce lavatory lines and prevent crowding in the aisle, and United says it’s due to feedback from flight attendants and passengers, and it was reviewed by the Cleveland Clinic. Previously United required passengers to use lavatories only in their ticketed cabins.

The United inflight announcement about lavatory usage will be adjusted as a result, and flight attendants are now instructed to say “please use the restroom located in your cabin when possible.”

Some might think that the airline is sending mixed messaging here when it comes to coronavirus risk with this policy change:

  • Airlines claim that the risk of catching coronavirus on a plane is virtually non-existent, because everyone is wearing masks and there’s good air filtration
  • That being said, if you can avoid people hovering over others in tight spaces (rather than everyone facing in the same direction next to one another), that seems like a reasonable precaution

What’s the right lavatory policy?

Historically airlines have had differing policies on this. For example:

  • American Airlines has long had no restrictions on which lavatories passengers can use, with the exception of international flights to the US, where passengers need to use the lavatory in their ticketed cabin
  • Delta Air Lines has long required passengers to use the lavatory in their ticketed cabin

Here’s my personal take on lavatory usage:

  • I have no issues with economy passengers using the first class lavatory if the process is well managed
  • The logistical challenge is that as a first class passenger you typically can’t congregate in the galley or by the cockpit, so it’s often best to stay seated until the lavatory opens up
  • At the same time, a line of economy passengers often forms for the first class lavatory by the bulkhead, making it difficult for first class passengers to add themselves into the lavatory queue, so to speak

Whenever this topic is brought up I can’t help but think of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode where Larry is flying first class and tries to use an economy lavatory, only to get told by a passenger that the lavatory is reserved for economy passengers.

Bottom line

United Airlines is now allowing passengers to use lavatories in any cabin, so you’re no longer restricted to using lavatories in your ticketed cabin. This is intended to minimize crowding and waiting for the lavatories. I think the policy in general makes sense, if the process is well managed.

What’s your preferred airline lavatory policy?

  1. What a shame!

    If I’m a PAYING first class passenger, I don’t want the dirty, poor, low-level plebs from Economy to mess up the loo and introduce their poor-people disease bacteria into my environment.

  2. I don’t like it. More people using the lav means it will be filthy in no time from so many using it plus I’ve been in first when a line forms so that I had to get in line to use it. Doesn’t happen when each cabin uses their own lavs. Why pay first class fares if treated like economy?

  3. @Max, fly private!
    I personaly find this a poor visibility. There are enough restrooms on a plane and if your on a flight, let’s say a 3h flight, I still don’t get it that most people need to go one or two times to the restroom. On my last flight, a four hours flight I saw a guy 6 times go to the restroom and he hadn’t any fisical problem, he just told it was entertainment. So for me it’s cristal clear, you use the restroom in your cabin and no queue, if the lav is occupied you just wait until the guy leave the restroom. An aisle is not a meeting room.

  4. Does this apply to UA International flights? In the past UA as well as AA are strict about coach passengers even being in the Business or First cabin.

  5. Being a 27yr.former flight attendant I believe the first class lavs should be reserved for 1st.class. Having a line of people continually in the aisle streaming by your seat is annoying. Having that lav available is a privilege you pay for. Unless it is an emergency stay in your own cabin. Too many looky loos up there helping themselves to other 1st class amenities while they are waiting,not to mention an empty seat if there is one.

  6. Maybe it’s time to install doors to separate first class from economy instead of curtains to keep people out of first class inflight. I shouldn’t even have to look at those people.

  7. @Nelson
    “ I saw a guy 6 times go to the restroom and he hadn’t any fisical problem”

    You can diagnose Prostate problems with a cursory glance? Get you!

    Maybe he told you it was for fun to avoid discussing his medical problems with a nosy stranger?!

    Old men often get waterworks problems. The two most common complaints have the prosaic names of Frequency and Urgency. And it’s not at all uncommon to have both.

  8. I’m not a snob but I can’t tell you the number of times I waited for the F service to be completed and then had to wait and wait while Y paxs lined up for the lav, including parents with small kids. BTW when I seated in Y I use the Y lavs. Like yesterday when I was seated in the first row of Y I still walk to the back of the plane.

  9. I flew on United First Class in early June from San Diego to Charlotte specifically because I would not have to share the bathroom with the entire plane. Believe me, doubling the cost of the ticket is not worth it to me. Heck, I will go back to flying Southwest [especially if they keep blocking out the middle seat]. I have flown on United, Southwest and Alaska since the beginning of COVID. I never would fly First Class domestically before, guess I will return to the back of the cabin if all airlines follow in United’s footsteps.

  10. Seems to me this erases one reason for flying first in pandemic times, lower density and fewer people walking around near your seat. This has people moving all over the plane. I think it’s a mistake.

  11. When the carts are in the aisle, and the economy passengers can’t get to the back, sure, as when you have to go, you have to go. But I’d have to disagree that the passengers are all wearing masks. On my last 4 flights, there was always someone not wearing a mask, or not wearing it correctly. In the last 3, it was someone within about an aisle of me. Most of the flight attendants don’t want to be the mask police, from what I’ve seen. They will enforce it if someone complains, but otherwise tend to leave things alone.

  12. Love how all these rich, privileged babies are getting in a tizzy about having to share the restroom with people sitting 10 feet behind then. They should watch the movie “The Help” and get back to us.

  13. I don’t fly UA these days but on AA in F the policy hasn’t been a problem on most of my flights. My only issue is when a line forms in the First Class cabin. Normally, the FA will make people line up in Economy while waiting to use the lav in F which is the correct way to do it. And if a passenger seated in F wants to use the lav they get to cut the line.

    More to the point in these COVID days, I really try to avoid lavs on Domestic flights due to the small, enclosed poorly ventilated space being a high risk proposition for aerosol transmission of the virus. When I do use them, I wear an N95 mask. And I absolutely do not want unmasked people breathing down on me waiting in line. This happened on a flight two weeks ago and I had to ring for the FA to enforce the mask policy. Air travel during the pandemic is lousy for a whole lot of reasons and I can’t imagine it improving any time soon.

  14. This is a bad move for many reasons.Security,health, during covid all part of the reasons I have been paying for first class tickets to protect myself and the family.
    Even for flight crews to perform their duties without lines and interruptions
    Its a great reason not to fly United ever regardless of the class you sit in.
    I do support exceptions those with special medical needs and permission from a flight attendant
    during peak times when exceptions need to be made.A free for all during covid is not the way to maintain a premium cabin.

  15. Rocking it, United. They don’t block seats, they serve drinks and encourage mask removal for all pax at the same time.

    Agreed with the commenters above. I would think that a large number of people take their masks off in the lav. You’ll never know for sure, but I don’t plan to use them if I end up flying.

  16. I was on a recent UA PVR-SFO flight and there were multiple passengers wearing masks below their noses. The woman sitting right next to my partner even started to doze off with her mask around her chin, so I went to the back of the plane to ask the flight attendant to ask the passenger to properly wear her mask. When I got to the rear of the plane, the FA was standing there going through photos with another FA on her phone and SHE wasn’t wearing a mask as well.

    Contrast this with AS flight we took down to PV and things couldn’t have been more different – middle seats open, FAs enforcing masking, very clear protocols and procedures. UA has always been a terrible airline, and it’s no surprise they’ve gotten worse during COVID.

  17. Eh, I’m fine with it as long as people don’t congregate in the aisles. Even pre-COVID, the business class restroom on domestic flights wasn’t anything extraordinary compared to the main cabin ones other than maybe slightly nicer soap and lotion. It’s not like the difference between bathrooms in airport lounges versus those in the terminal.

    Delta has sort of made this unofficial too, as they don’t close the “curtain” any more between first and coach, allowing those in C+ to walk to the bathroom upfront.

  18. I think it’s a bad idea. There will be a constant line for the FC lav. People just wanting to see how special the lav is in the front.

  19. The new United policy on lavatories is distressing and absolutely bad news for passengers in First/Business Class! Passengers pay a much higher price to sit in premium cabins along with other travel and flight amenities. With the new lavatory policy, these premium cabins will see a heavier passenger flow with longer queues from Economy. I believe the new policy was adopted because of low passenger numbers in premium classes especially on global routes along with possible less complaints from these customers. Also, it’s an added marketing perk for Economy passengers at the expense of passengers in premium cabins. I would respectfully suggest United place more lavatories in Economy; thus, greatly minimizing wait time for these customers while continuing services and comforts for passengers in premium classes! In the meantime, I encourage United to rethink this policy which will make traveling in premium classes less appealing and rewarding!

  20. ben-lucky we do not queue in the USA we line up, one queues in europe and other places not in the USA. and one should be able to use any bathroom on the plane and the bathrooms should be big enough that more than a 10 year old is comfortable in them.

  21. If you pay first class fares, you should get first class amenities. This mean less traffic in First Class for the restroom.

    United should just make it easy on itself and it’s customers. One class. No amenities. Done.

  22. I P Freely and ratio of passengers to lavatories is an important reason for me to upgrade or pay for a premium cabin . This is a terrible move and a disincentive for me to choose a premium cabin on shorter and non polarized routes where I don’t care about the seat.

  23. I fly First on United rather frequently and never really cared when economy passengers used the lavatory because I’ve been on flights where just a couple first class passengers used the forward lav during the flight and like 5+ passengers were turned away, whom were most likely seated in Economy Plus. Being a frequent passenger in that ‘cabin’ as well, I know the majority of the seats are typically occupied by Premier members or people who paid premium for the extra legroom and location. United should’ve changed this policy by stating that only passengers seated in First or Economy Plus be permitted the use of the forward lavatory. That would not only add benefit to the already expensive EP experience, but give a special nod to the loyal Premier passenger.

  24. I’m not a snob nor privilege. I pay for comfort and environment. I pay extra for first or business class to have peace and some privacy so I can get well rested and have available clean restrooms when I need it without long wait. Having people streaming through the cabin to use restrooms and with small childrens will create noise and filthy restrooms. Why would I pay extras for that??

  25. As an elderly male physician with prostate problems I fly first class mainly for toilet access. The problem is there are line-ups because some people take 15 minutes or more while others need a minute or two.
    A larger toilet for men including 2 urinals and an extra allotment of women only washrooms might be a solution.

  26. Stupid idea. I prefer up front, and work hard for it. Also part of the reason now at Covid times is, that I eventually can have a single window seat, with maybe somebody passing by once in a while, preferably another passenger from the same cabin, because I attribute higher awareness and respect to them, and therefore feel more protected. I don’t want anybody to line up beside my seat, breathing down at me, and staring at whatever I have up front that they don’t have back there. I pay to be away from those folks, just like I use restrooms only in lounges, because the public restrooms in US airports usually are so gross, they make me do a U-turn the moment I walk through the entrance. And please don’t give me the ‘snob’ comment, I have flown in Eco extensively for over 40 years, That was enough.

  27. Agree, it’s not a matter of sharing that is the problem, but generally speaking the first or business class lavatories are bigger and sometimes nicer and I don’t want to have to share them considering I paid more for my ticket. Even if I used points I still somehow paid in order to earn enough points. And I wouldn’t want to wait on a long line either.

  28. I must say, I’m disappointed in the human race! What has happened to our world, no more kindness. Who care who uses the lavs. We are all humans! Lucky for those who can fly and pay for first class but you are the same humans in coach and first class. First class just has more $$$ to spend.
    Sad for our world!
    Good for United!

  29. This is what happens when you have enough middle management in a company.

    While Airline traffic was down and these people had nothing to do, they came up with this brainiac of an idea.

    I will not be flying United, so I could care less.
    This will NOT catch on in Asian carriers.

    I refuse to fly US based airlines, I could careless what they do.

    I feel they will be changing back very soon as those in the front of the plane will stop flying because of this annoyance.

  30. Personally,, I don’t care because I gave up on United years ago and won’t fly them anytime in the future.

  31. As a freq flyer and 1k on long haul flights, I think it’s a bad idea. You pay more for seating, better food, less crowding, and expedited/easier BR access. The toilets are cleaner becos less passengers have access to them. On ANA flights the attendants keep the toilet areas immaculately clean…I don’t see the UA attendants doing this at all, especially the way the staffing and duties are made. Not sure that it is in the FA job description either. Are UA as a company going to add additional risk and exposure of infection to more bus class ppl by having more passengers coming thru the cabin and adding more contamination to surfaces?
    On short haul domestic flights, it would certainly add more ppl up front, and the FAs and pilots area would have more congestion. I also think that the new policy would be very difficult for the FAs to “manage well” either on int or domestic flights.
    UA may well lose bus class passengers as a result, for those that have the choice to fly other carriers, as most existing ones would see this as a degradation of service with increased risk of infection. They should have surveyed their freq flyer market prior to implementing this change.

  32. No, it doesn’t make sense. I pay extra for first class for a quieter, more unique experience. Not to have babies crying waiting to use a first class bathroom. Thanks, United, I’m Delta all the way.

  33. One of the reasons I fly First Class is not to have to look at or think about the repulsive peasants sitting behind me. With this sickening decision, I might have to contemplate the existence of these human filth, and worse, be exposed to the remnants of actual filth excreted from their revolting bodies. These bottom rung humans should not be entitled to enter my cabin, rightfully attained by me, not through payment but by my skillful manipulation of credit card rewards, any more than the serf should be able to enter the King’s Chamber. Shame, United, shame.

  34. As a 1K and MM for many years and flying (before Covid) once a month to Europe I decided (reluctantly) to switch to European airlines (KLM or LUfthansa) for paid business class, as with the latest requirements for 1K I could not meet those anymore. This bathroom policy is the last straw. As soon as I have used up all miles and pluspoints that’s it with United.

  35. This is incredibly trivial.

    If anyone is upset about this, they should reconsider what’s important to them.

  36. Fly Asian airlines. They enforce the separation of the cabins. The efficiently block the cabins INCLUDING the ridiculous back and forth of FLIGHT ATTENDANTS that happens on US airlines. Crappy planning, when a FA has to RUN to economy to get supplies for first. The constant back and forth, running and talking is disruptive, and is endemic on US based airlines.

    Fly Asian airlines for a peaceful experience.

  37. One would think that if UA wanted to solve the problem they defined, that the installation of another lav or two would provide the solution. However, rather than provide improved service, they decide to degrade the service provided to first-class passengers. This “problem solving” methodology is typical of U.S. airline management today.

  38. Once again, the SIMPLE solution would be to add a restroom or two. It’s easily done. But United finds it easier to tell its flight attendants “you can handle it.” So the flight attendant becomes the bad guy and enforcer. First-class should be sacred, NO ONE from the back allowed. Business-class is another thing, but there isn’t enough room in First to have people milling about, waiting. You have to assume that the passengers in first-class would agree, even demand privacy. They deserve it. They PAY for it. This is another stupid rule made up by inflight management, most of whom are idiots (or bad flight attendants trying for management positions.) What the airlines need are STOUTER barriers between the cabins. Have you SEEN how passengers TRASH airplanes and the facilities? I have. When I started in 1972, you could actually turn an aircraft with almost NO cleaning. THAT doesn’t happen anymore.

  39. I travel every month for work. I strictly fly first class. It is not because I am wealthy.

    I pay three times more for the first class ticket then fir a coach ticket.

    I. Pay the difference fir comfort, I am a tall man. I also like the ease of boarding free first and exiting first. In addition there is a convenience of having the restroom close by and no lines to use it. Bad enough The there is no longer food and drink service.

    If they add a policy to allow everyone access to the first class bathroom. What am I really getting for the extra $500.00 I oww as y fir my first class ticket?

  40. @OneMileataTime @united I strongly object with your new lavatory policy! I always PURCHASE a 1st class ticket when I fly for the perks including a 1st class only lavatory. This is not how you treat your premium passengers! #SF803122.

  41. I agree with every other passenger flying fc I fly no other way and we pay fc prices for a reason and the airlines UA being one of them taking more away from their fc passengers except reduction in airfare it’s not fair I pay for this and we shouldn’t be treated like what I paid for if I wanted to be in economy with the bottom feeder I would pay for that everything in fc is starting to suck now from the meals that were hardly edible before to garbage I won’t feed my dog UA needs to rethink there fc policy this is why the internationally own airlines are so far ahead of our US airlines fc is fc period.GET IT TOGETHER UA

  42. this is anotger united “innovation” first introduction $25,000 new spending limit for 1K up from 15,000 then to show how much the care take away bathroom rights! seems like United had enough of high too many high paying members. they are trying to push us away. i am already on delta diamond. Thanks to United’s very competent manegment team and new innovative loyal member pissing loyalty system. and they wonder why people don’t fly them? what a joke !

  43. I think this is a bad idea to implement during the pandemic. Part of the value proposition of FC is to have fewer people in your space. I had intentionally sought out routes served by E175 aircraft where the FC seating is 1-2 so that I could reserve a single seat in advance and have exposure to fewer people. Now I risk having many people coming and going through the aisle and congregating right next to my seat as they wait for the RR. I don’t like this policy change at all.

  44. Th elogical solution for narrowbody aircraft is to add a set of mid-lavs, right behind F-class. Most aircraft are plumbed for this already, just deactivated as the lav is a modular item replaced by a couple rows of seats. An F class congregation of pax waiting does increase a security threat for when the piloto has to go. Are flight attendants going to clear the aisle and send the waiting pax back to their seats so the piloto can go? Is UA going to reduce the f class fares by 25% due to loss of fclass privilege?

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