As far as bathroom breaks go, there are not many places more bottom rung than a trip to a toilet on an aircraft. Adjusting yourself in a cramped space smaller than a refrigerator box while unexpected turbulence bounces you about is an uneasy and unnerving experience. And that’s all before a violent vacuum flush so jarring it feels as if it might suck you down into the cargo hold.
To make the most of a sometimes-unavoidable situation, here are seven stipulations for using an airplane bathroom with courtesy and civility to make the experience easier for everyone onboard.
Don’t Make a Mess
Leaving the toilet seat up at home might be your thing, but on a commercial airplane bathroom, it just doesn't fly. For the consideration of fellow flyers, try your best to tidy up after your trip to the lavatory. That includes wiping down the sink, placing used paper towels/tissues in the trash, and leaving the lid down. For those of us who want a little extra cleanliness before braving the bathroom, bring along some anti-bacterial wipes for frequently touched surfaces.
It should go without saying, but the most crucial duty remains. Don't forget to flush! Heck, give it a courtesy flush if needed. Your red-eye will feel more stink-eye if passengers unwittingly walk in on your unfinished business still smelling up the joint.
Don’t Take Forever
If you think airplane seats are uncomfortable, then spending any extra time than necessary in a broom closet-sized bathroom should be downright unbearable. Treat your trip to the toilet like going through a drive-thru: In-N-Out style. Or like an Olympic sprint, fastest time wins, but remember style points count too, so don’t leave a mess like mentioned above. With limited facilities on many planes, long lav lines can form in a matter of minutes; most notably after meal trays are taken away. So be courteous to your fellow flyers and make your reign on the throne a short- one.
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Don’t Forget to Lock the Door
Not everyone likes surprises, especially onboard an airplane. So, do yourself a favor and don't get caught with your pants down by forgetting to lock the lavatory door properly. Not only is it embarrassing for all parties involved. But it can also get extremely awkward if the person accidentally barging in just happens to be your seatmate. That's a surefire way to make that cross-country flight seem 10x longer as you shrink back into your seat.
Don’t Be Rude While You Wait
When you gotta go, you gotta go. But that doesn't give you carte blanche to cut the line or barge in the second someone opens the bathroom door. Flying is stressful as is; don’t compound it by huffing and puffing in line, hoping people will let you skip ahead. And don’t incessantly knock on the flimsy door #passengershaming someone into speeding up the process.
Alternatively, if there is an elderly passenger or family with children that look like they're in urgent need, offer to let them go first. Everyone is in the same tin tube together, and being rude won’t get you to the destination any faster.
Related: How to Prepare for a Flight During COVID-19
Don’t Pick the Wrong Time to Go
Remember when your mom made you take one last trip to the loo before setting out on a road trip. Those principles still apply when you fly. Boarding is a hectic time, and fighting the one-way aisle traffic trying to reach the bathroom while passengers are looking for bins for stashing bags is no bueno. So, go before you get onboard.
If you need to make a bathroom visit in-flight, and it's not urgent. Pick a time when there's a minimal wait, so you're not contributing to the crowd at the back of the airplane. Taking drink and snack service into account is also important. If you're bursting to go and get stuck behind the metal meal cart that seemingly moves in slow motion – it’s on you for not timing your bathroom break better.
Don’t Escape to Vape
We’ve all heard the announcements ad nausea about lighting up mid-air, (which has been illegal since 2000), but that hasn't stopped some e-cigarette and vape users from thinking they’re above the law 30,000 feet up. Since October 2015, the use of electronic cigarettes is prohibited in-flight as well. So, if you haven't flown in the last six years or think that you can sneak a puff in a plane lavatory, think again. Severe fines or even arrests may occur if you're found tampering with the smoke detector or get called out by a crewmember noticing a strawberry-scented cloud billowing below the bathroom door.
Don’t Forget Your Shoes
Would you walk into an airport bathroom barefoot or in your socks? Of course not. So why would anyone think it’s acceptable to do so on board the plane? I get that it’s comfortable to kick off your shoes during a long-haul flight, but if nature calls – tie them back up. Turbulence happens, so if you think it's only water on the floor soaking into your socks, you're sadly mistaken. And to double down on the dirtiness, I've seen some passengers strutting back up the aisle carefree then flopping their filthy feet on the empty seat or tray table next to them. So please, for the health and hygiene of all onboard, keep your kicks on!
Don't Forget to Wear a Mask
Flying during a pandemic means masks at all time are a must. Flight attendants and airport employees are working overtime to ensure that everyone has a safe travel experience. Wearing a mask from the beginning to end of your flight is not only a courtesy to your fellow passengers, but a vital safety measure and mandatory requirement on many airlines.
Even in the relative isolation of an airplane restroom, you should think twice before de-masking. While proximity to asymptomatic infected passengers is the main culprit for in-plane transmission, it is possible to catch COVID-19 from an airplane bathroom. So remember to mask up for your own health and safety as well as that of those around you.