Coach Passenger Arrested for Using Business Class Lavatory

My own view is that passengers should be accommodated in their ticketed cabin first. But extenuating circumstances — a drink cart blocking the lavatory, a long line — make it ok to use the lavatory in a different cabin.

Also that it’s usually ok to use the lavatory when the seat belt sign is on; what’s more important is what it smells like when you’re done.


Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Lavatory

Still, the most important thing is that you must follow crew member instructions regardless of whether those instructions seem reasonable to you. That’s a lesson a woman learned while flying from Vienna to Abu Dhabi.

An economy passenger entered the business class cabin when she felt ill and the lavatory in back was in use.

On exiting the toilet, she was confronted by cabin crew, angry passengers, and one of the captains…where she was handcuffed after an argument ensued.

The pilot then took the decision to make an emergency landing into Erzurum Airport in Turkey.

[She said] “I suddenly got nauseous and rushed to the lavatories. First the passengers interfered, then the flight personnel and they argued with me, and eventually they handcuffed me. They then abandoned me in Erzurum, a place I could not even find on a map if I tried. I was left all alone. At that point, I broke down into tears.

Of course, the airline tells a different story. They say that:

  • “all the economy toilets were available” though I don’t think I’ve ever been on a flight where that’s true and have no idea how the airline would even know it was the case.

  • “[T]hat Ms Kmetova was told in a ‘friendly’ manner by staff that she was not supposed to use the business class cubicle” though I suppose that depends on the definition of friendly.

  • The passenger “reacted in a very aggressive manner, and began to shout, scream, kick and try to bite staff, as well as clash with fellow passengers.”

According to Road Warrior Voices, the passenger has been banned from airberlin and NIKI. I can’t imagine she’d be flying them anyway.


Emirates A380 First Class Lavatory

My two takeaways:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is a pitiful example of how elitist and awful our society has become. She was ill, period. According to this story, she went into the lav, she was confronted by the PASSENGERS and the crew upon exiting. What the hell? Are they going to beat the price of admission to first out of her? Why confront someone after the fact? Let her return to her seat quietly, inform her that she is not to enter the FC area again, end of story. And it makes sense that you are paying for a FC SEAT on the plane, restroom facilities should be readily available no matter WHICH class of seat you are flying in. Would they rather her become ill in the aisle where the ENTIRE plane would have to deal with the smell the remainder of the flight? Common sense and basic human compassion are sadly lacking in our society today.

  2. I certainly hope she was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in prison. This is really outrageous behavior.

  3. At least one side is not telling the full truth here.

    Still, had to smile opening this link, knowing there’d be photos of Gary in airplane bathrooms 🙂

  4. Gary, you really need to do something about your headline writer (or need to fix it yourself if you write them). Was this woman arrested for and charged with using the business lav? No, she was arrested for her actions toward the crew and other passengers. I am quite sure that if she had quietly gone about her business and returned to her seat, she would have been fine. Quite certain that no captain, particularly not a German one, would divert a flight because somebody from economy puked in the business lav. Her version of events fails the test of logic.

  5. @Penny and @Kimmie – Everytime a passenger gets kicked off a plane, it seems to be an excuse to rant how elitist and unreasonable travelers and staff are. But the unreasonable and entitled ones here are those who feel free to disregard crew instructions and justify *BITING* people as somehow okay. Plenty of folks have used the wrong restroom – sick or not – and not gotten arrested. Logic would lead one to call into question the veracity of her story.

    @Greg, no. Niki has business class on its longhaul flights, including this route. http://www.flyniki.com/en-GB/site/landingpages/airberlin-yourfare.php?cat=3

  6. This is a pitiful example of the increase in narcissism where people think rules/requests are for everyone else but them. Use the damn bathroom in the cabin YOU chose to fly in.

    I was on a recent Delta flight that had 24 seats in FC and I paid for my upgrade to first. It was a two hour flight and one of the rare times I had to use the bathroom. As God is my witness, I watched as the first five people that used the first class bathroom came from coach. I was in the window seat and did not want to block the aisle but after the fifth bathroom-crasher I did get up and wait. Sure enough, by the time the bathroom opened up another coach pax was waiting behind me.

    I fly a lot and this was hardly a one-off experience. I would venture to say that on DL domestic flights at least 40 to 50% of the first class bathroom use comes from coach. Give a narcissist an inch and they’ll take a mile.

  7. While people who read these blogs are well-traveled and know what’s what, I’m sure a lot of casual flyers are not aware that the FC lavatory is for FC passengers. I’m not sure I did for the longest time. Signage is not obvious if it exists at all, notwithstanding the fact that most people don’t go around planes reading signage. There are rarely any announcements to that effect. Passengers are facing front so that’s the most obvious relief point they can identify when the need arises. It also saves them from having to keep looking back (and desperate) for the length of the queue. Is it really a stretch to think that logistically, it would make sense that passengers at the front half of the plane use the front lavatories? Unless confronted by a flight attendant in mid-attempt, how does one come across this knowledge?

  8. Wait a minute! So if she threw up in the aisle waiting for a bathroom to open up would that be humane? I once wasn’t allowed to speak with my husband . He was in first , I was in business and they said I couldn’t speak to him. Unless we met in the galley or they would deliver our msgs. It was in Cathay. They applogigised profusely but said it was all US bound flights. I was able to visit my children in Business whilst I was in first and vice versa in the Asian bound though. No common sense these days !

  9. Recently, flying economy on an American Airlines domestic flight, a flight attendant told me that next time I didn’t have to walk all the way to the back of the plane and could just use the first class lavatory. Who knows if this is American policy or just this flight attendant.

  10. If you are in coach and you have to be sick, run up to first class and puke on anyone who complains that you are in first class.

  11. @Marvin — Logic would dictate that unfamiliar passengers not cross a closed curtain between economy and first/business cabins.

  12. To avoid any future potential issues like this (saving money & fuel for any plane diversion) , the airlines should install a secured door the same as the cockpit door on its first class/business cabin and secure it once the airplane take off. By doing that, no economy class passengers will dare to access to first/business cabins and use the privileged restroom reserved for first/business passengers. That will save lots of money for any future potential plane diversion because of this restroom usages by non-first class passengers. But when unfortunate plane crash event is going to occur, not sure if first/business class passengers will have much better survival rates than the passengers of economy class. You won’t see that happen like “Titanic” – only the first class passengers got lifeboat access when other classes of passengers were waiting to die.

  13. Wasn’t there a lawsuit in federal court years back which determined that Y passengers could not (reasonably) be denied access to FC lavatories? Obviously, this would apply only to American flag carriers, but maybe (?) also to any carrier operating in US airspace.

  14. I agree with some of the earlier comments. I have flown frequently with both Air Berlin and Niki and their staff are very helpful but somewhat Germanic in their insistence on the rules. If she says she felt ill, I certainly give the lady the benefit of any doubt, but my guess is that she became abusive when the cabin staff told her she was using facilities she was not entitled to use and she should not do it again. What did she think the sick bag in the seat back pocket was for if not puking into? How many times have we who regularly fly in Business or First seen that? Many of those in the back seem to feel they have an entitlement to go wherever they want on the plane, not to mention the blankets and other equipment they “forget” to take out of their overstuffed carry-on when they get off. I wonder how these items only seem to jump into Y class baggage!

  15. The bottom line is if you want to use the first class bathroom then buy a first class ticket. People in first class don’t want rift raft coming in and out of their cabin.

  16. Sorry, but this is shocking and elitist behavior from the other passengers and crew. Handcuffed for using the 1st class restroom? No wonder after that she reacted as she did. Really stupid to have to make an emergency landing for this.

  17. So, what are the folks at the front of Economy suppose to do when the FAs have the aisle(s) blocked almost the entire time the pilot has the seat belt sign on (or for at least a good length of time?
    Not that it probably matters, at least on UAL, most of those would be Premiers in Economy Plus who just lost out in the lottery to be up front in FC.

  18. It varies by airline. I had a situation similar to this about 12 years ago (2003). I was on a returning home to Miami after visiting family in Uruguay. I was on an Aerolineas Argentinas flight from Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza International Airport when I had to use the bathroom. I was seated in the very front of economy class and the nearest bathroom was right in front of me in business class. I had to use the bathroom really bad and there was a long line for the bathroom in economy class. One of the flight attendants (who was the flight crew supervisor) told me it was all right to use the business class bathroom. As soon as I finished using that particular bathroom, I was given a lecture by another flight attendant and given a warning about using the business class bathroom. I told her that one of her colleagues gave me permission. She said that couldn’t have been true, etc., etc. So I told her it was the lady who was attending to the business class passengers. I flagged the flight crew supervisor and told her what happened. Afterwards, an argument ensued between both women. Talk about an entertaining and fun flight. I didn’t feel too bad about it because I wasn’t the only one who had troubles with the flight attendant who was arguing with her supervisor.

  19. I suspect the “illness” is something that was concocted after the fact. Some people decide they resent not being allowed to use the first class bathrooms and try to use them to make a point.

  20. @rolo, I was on a flight from Dulles to ATL last week (in the cheap seats) and the cart was blocking the single aisle almost the whole flight. The FA told us to use the lav in B. (I was so self-conscious I wanted to tell everyone in Biz I “had permission” but it never really came up.)
    @mark, “rift raft?!” Oh my.

  21. It is not elitist to arrest a passenger who “reacted in a very aggressive manner, and began to shout, scream, kick and try to bite staff, as well as clash with fellow passengers.” She didn’t get in all that trouble just for using a different bathroom, it was her reaction. She has no one to blame but herself.

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