A video went viral this week of passengers being removed from a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. The flight returned to Minneapolis where it was met by police. Passengers cheers as a man and woman were led off the aircraft.
Apparently the woman needed to use the lavatory shortly after takeoff. She got up, but a flight attendant spoke up — we don’t know exactly what was said. The woman and her travel companion escalated things to the point where the pilot decided to set the aircraft back down at its point of origin.
A denial of a bathroom request shortly after takeoff from MSP appears to have precipitated what turned into a raucous affair aboard a Delta Air Lines flight that resulted in two passengers being arrested and the pilot turning the plane around in mid-air Wednesday, according to officials and a passenger aboard.
Here’s the thing, the incident may have been a misunderstanding and savvier passengers would have known that everyone could get what they wanted in the situation. You see, it’s usually ok to use the lavatory while the seat belt sign is on.
When a plane is on an active taxiway you need to stay in your seat, otherwise the captain usually won’t move the aicraft. But if you’re in the air, it’s another story.
To a 98% approximation, flight attendants don’t actually care if you use the lavatory while the seat belt sign is on. They have to tell you that the seat belt sign is on. They cannot tell you it is ok for you to use the lavatory.
I watch passengers, over and over, asking permission. The flight attendant cannot give you permission. Because what if something bad happened? That’s on them and the airline. But if they advise you that the seat belt sign is on and you go anyway it’s pretty much on you.
Now, of course, you must follow flight attendant instructions. So if they actually do tell you to sit down, you’d best do it. But most of the time passengers think a flight attendant is telling them to sit down when they’re just saying the seat belt sign is on. Occasionally I see flight attendants saying ‘the seat belt sign is on’ while making faces and motioning passengers into the lav.
If you can wait until the seat belt sign is off, that’s better, right? But if you can’t, and sometimes you just have to go, go. Try to avoid doing so right after takeoff, right before landing (as in the first and last 5 minutes!). And once you’re in the lavatory, do your very best to avoid this happening.
And don’t assume a flight attendant is saying ‘no’ and then jumping to offense, arguing, or threatening. That never ends well. Instead just say, “yes, I understand, and unless you specifically tell me that I cannot use the lavatory I am going to go because it’s an emergency.” Then go, unless you hear instructions to the contrary.
A totally different question of course is whether it’s ok for coach passengers to use the first class lavatory. And please always wear shoes into the lavatory.