Starting November 1st, passengers traveling on United Airlines flights will be able to use the first class lavatory, regardless of which class they are traveling. In a memo to employees, the airline confirmed the change as a way to reduce queuing and crowding around bathrooms.
The memo, which has been shared on Twitter, continues to say that cabin crew should ask passengers to “Please use the restroom located in your cabin when possible.” However, when there is overcrowding of one restroom, passengers can move around the cabin to use a different toilet, even if it means passing from economy into first class. Previously, United passengers could only use bathrooms in their ticketed cabin.
In a statement to Simple Flying, a spokesperson for the airline said,
“The updated policy allows our flight attendants more flexibility to let customers use another lavatory during certain situations. That may include when there is a line for one lavatory but not another, when the service cart is in the aisle, etc. We’ll continue to ask customers to use the lavatory in their cabin via an onboard announcement, but we’ve added “when possible” to the announcement in order to reflect the increased flexibility.”
Toilets or middle seats?
The airline has said this should reduce the number of people using the same restroom and prevent crowding and queueing in the aisles. However, the reality could be that people just start crowding the first class restroom instead. Several customers online are voicing concerns that this will actually result in more people moving about the cabin. For many, the policy seems unnecessary, considering the airline doesn’t block middle seats
Maybe this will stick around after the pandemic? @united says it is now OK to use any bathroom, including the one (gasp!!!) in first class. From the employee communications: pic.twitter.com/lPDIbd4sqw
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) October 29, 2020
According to the memo, United has changed its policy based on feedback from both passengers and crew. The question will be whether the change will continue after the pandemic subsides. Other airlines such as American have long allowed passengers to use whichever lavatory they choose. However, Delta Air Lines restricts passengers to the toilet in their class.
There doesn’t seem to be a right answer when it comes to restroom policies. This, in itself, can cause confusion if you regularly fly with different airlines. While many passengers will undoubtedly be happy with the policy change, many seem to think the reasoning behind it is a sham.
United Airlines was one of the very few global airlines that did not block middle seats during the height of the pandemic. The new policy seems unnecessary for social distancing when you can spend a seven-hour flight sat next to two strangers.
Keeping planes clean
Psychologically, you might feel better knowing fewer people might have used the same airplane toilet as you, but realistically, that’s not what you need to be worrying about. We reported earlier this year that the tray tables contain ten times the number of bacteria as the toilet flush button. This means that whether or not you can use the first class toilet won’t be the thing that makes the difference.
Despite not enforcing social distancing while seated, United is committed to ensuring its planes are cleaned thoroughly between flights. The airline recently extended its cleaning procedures to include robots. The robots will spray antibacterial liquid over all the surfaces you touch. This includes the toilets and the tray tables and includes armrests, overhead bins, seats, and overhead air filters.
This deep clean will not be used in between each flight and will only happen every week. While the airline is undoubtedly working hard to keep all areas of its plane clean and sanitized, its new toilet policy seems more to do with demand than health and safety.
What do you think of the new policy? Do you think United will keep the policy after the pandemic? Get in touch and let us know what you think.