United Airlines temporarily adjusting inflight lavatory policy

Nov 3, 2020

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For years, many airlines have restricted passengers from accessing a lavatory outside of their ticketed cabin.

Generally, crew members cite security as the reason behind that particular policy, though it also has the benefit of limiting traffic in premium cabins — business- and first-class passengers don’t have to worry about a constant flow of travellers passing by their seats. On United Airlines, that’s about to change.

Last week, United communicated a temporary policy shift, as shared by travel writer Brian Sumers, matching an American Airlines policy we uncovered in 2018.

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As of 1 November, customers will be permitted to access a lavatory outside of their ticketed cabin. The move seems intended to help minimise congregating in the aisle, and, according to Sumers’ tweet, was reviewed by medical experts as part of United’s partnership with the Cleveland Clinic.

A United spokesperson confirmed the shift, explaining:

We’re continuously looking at new ways to enhance safety for everyone on board the aircraft and based on feedback from both our flight attendants and customers, we’re temporarily updating our lavatory usage policy beginning 1 November. 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 lav 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.

United’s making it clear that this adjustment is temporary. While the airline’s statement stops short of confirming that the shift is a COVID-19 safety measure, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume a connection.

One thing is clear, though — for as long as this new policy is in effect, if there’s a long wait for the economy lavatory, it can’t hurt to ask to use the one up front, instead.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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