There’s advice on how to dress for a flight, how to deal with a terrible seat neighbor, how to pass the time and tips for nervous flyers, but do you give much thought to airplane bathroom etiquette? It may seem so trivial, but when you think you might be on a transatlantic or intercontinental flight that could mean you’re in the air for 24+ hours with maybe 300 people, airplane bathroom etiquette takes on greater significance. Now that it’s more important, here are the rules we should try and stick to and hope all the other passengers do too.
Sure, you had to take 3 months of yoga prior to your trip just to be able to contort yourself, and perhaps your belongings like a purse, into that small space. All for the sole purpose of fulfilling one of the most basic human needs. Despite your pride in a newly acquired flexibility, display some airplane bathroom etiquette and lock the door. No one needs to see you in the middle of ‘downward-aiming-dog’.
Before you board the aircraft is the best time to go. The facilities in the terminal are larger and more comfortable. The crowds are also smaller, so you’ll be less rushed. Once onboard the airplane, take offs and landings are not good times to go. You can delay operations and reap the scorn of scores of anxious passengers. Also avoid going when the meal or beverage carts have been wheeled out. You are not getting past them, so just stay seated until they pass.
The airplane loo is neither the time nor the place for complicated routines; hair, make-up or otherwise. Leave reading material at your seat. To paraphrase a popular online university, “get in, get it out, and get ahead”. The line that formed as soon as you stepped inside will be forever grateful for your perfect airplane bathroom etiquette.
If you are seated on the aisle, the travelers in your row will have to get by you from time to time. There is literally no other way for them to go about it. Being rude or snotty helps no-one. If the prospect of continually having to move your feet or look away as someone squeezes by bothers you very much, remember you have options. Plan ahead and travel first or business class, or pre-book a window or middle seat. If none of those are possible, try to remember it’s no party for those on the interior either.
Other passengers are not there to watch your children, and should never be put in that position. Would you do the same thing in a restaurant or at the movies? You shouldn’t. If you are not traveling with a partner or older kids, ask a steward to keep an eye on them or take the little tykes along. Using the facilities with kids in tow will take some practice and you may have to use extra hand sanitizer for them afterwards, but think of it as part of the adventure.
Airplane bathroom etiquette is also about being polite. Lines for the loo are a reality of modern flight. If you have to stand in one, keep chit chat to a minimum and avoid being brash or rude. The eyes you roll on the way in may well be downcast as you slink away from the air-pollution of your own making. Additionally, if you can afford to let someone with an emergency, toddler, or medical condition go ahead of you by all means do so. Karmic potty points are well worth accumulating.
This is not the jungle, so “take only pictures and leave only footprints” does not apply. Basic hygiene and lavatory etiquette rules should still be adhered to. In fact, there should be no photos or footprints at all if you can help it. Release the plug on the sink basin; wipe down the tiny sink exterior and throw used tissue in the trash. Hide your shame and flush the toilet. Seriously, flush the toilet.
Cabin crew do their best to try and keep everything clean and tidy, so please do your bit by following the protocols of airplane bathroom etiquette. Have you any stories of airplane bathrooms to share?
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