Disgraceful: Air Canada Doesn’t Know Basic Lavatory Etiquette

On domestic US flights I hear announcements all the time asking passengers to use the lavatories in their “ticketed cabin” only. And while you don’t want to disregard flight attendant instructions — you could find yourself in Guantanamo — I also rarely see this enforced.

While in general I think there should be a preference to use the lavatory in your ticketed cabin, rather than just “whichever is closest to you” (so someone in the bulkhead of coach should still walk to the back of the plane to use the lav) I also think there are clear exceptions to this.

  • During drink service in the economy cabin, when the drink cart is blocking the aisle especially on a narrow body aircraft. If you can’t get to the lavatory in your cabin, you can use the lavatory you can get to.

  • When the line to use the lavatory is long and you cannot wait. Exigent circumstances should entitle you to use the lavatory that’s available. You don’t want this to happen.

I also think this is a very U.S. approach you have to ascertain the norms of the airline you’re flying. A coach passenger on airberlin was arrested for using the business class lavatory.

Apparently my rule that ‘if the drink cart is blocking the aisle it’s ok to use the forward lav’ doesn’t apply on Air Canada. This is awful: (HT: Ken A.)

An Alberta woman says a return flight from Nova Scotia to Calgary last month went wrong after her granddaughter was prevented from using the closest washroom, leading the toddler to wet herself and sit in her own urine for about three hours.

Copyright: ronniechua / 123RF Stock Photo

A flight attendant told the woman and the 3 year old, “I can’t have you coming up here anymore.”

The woman and young girl had used the business class lavatory earlier in the flight. Maybe they shouldn’t have if the aisle wasn’t blocked. But in this case she certainly should have been able to because “midway through the 5½-hour flight.. Ruby needed to go but a service cart blocked her access to the washroom at the rear of the plane.”

The woman hadn’t brought a change of clothes for the girl. Air Canada has offered:

  • a 25% discount on her next flight
  • a $200 voucher
  • toys for the young girl

But what the grandmother wants is an apology “from the flight attendant directly.”

One Member of Congress believes use of the lavatory is a right and introduced legislation to prohibit airlines from charging for it although no airline has actually ever tried to do this.

One other thing to know is 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. (Here’s how to fix a stinky lav.)

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. Perhaps the line is long because certain bloggers are in there again adding to their restroom selfie collection. 🙂

  2. Grandma should have been better prepared. Who takes a freshly potty trained, ALMOST 3 year old, on a cross-country flight without a diaper or change of clothes? I’m not a parent, and even I know that is common sense. So the cart was there, did grandma ask if they could move? Or did she just assume she could take advantage of a feature from a class of service she did not purchase? Business class passengers pay extra for privileges like having a less used bathroom. It’s listed on AC’s website as a feature of Business class. https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/fly/onboard/cabin-features/north-america-caribbean-business-class.html

  3. So why post a goofy pic of yourself in the bathroom.for this (and every other bathroom story)

  4. You might mention that the adult requested seats near the bulkhead between business and economy; she took her grand-daughter forward to the business class lavatory twice ; and on the third attempt was asked by the flight attendant to please use the facilities in the economy cabin.
    This whole ” piling on the airlines” has to stop. I don’t put my carryon in the business class overhead and I do plan my fluid intake knowing that I am sharing facilities with a lot of incontinent passengers.

  5. So who gets on a plane with a three-year-old and doesn’t have extra clothes in case of an accident? Heck, I even have backup in case I dump my drink on myself.

    Poor planning on your part doesn’t make it the airline’s fault when something goed awry.

  6. I’m going to assume that rhose of you posting sarcastic comments on here are neither parents or frequent flyers…. I am both. I spend 5 days a week on the road and board as many as 10 aircraft a week. I have dierg level rewards with 3 different airlines and rarely if ever find myself in the coach cabin. That being said, I cannot find it in myself to beleive that there is a single rational person out there that would begrudge a toddler the use of a restroom in any class of service. This was nothing more than a flight attendant on a power trip and she should be terminated and black listed in the industry and air canada should offer a much more heartfwlt apology.

  7. Non parents who attempt to school real parents in child rearing make me laugh my head off.

  8. Air Canada is horribly strict on this. You’d think they could use some discretion and make exceptions where appropriate. No one should have to wet themselves waiting, no matter their age.

  9. Message to Air Canada and other real airlines: don’t harsss your customers. Nobody really cares about all your rules and fine print. In this case, figure out how to upgrade your lav’s in coach. Coach customers, representing the bulk of your revenue, deserve a good bathroom, maybe two. (Hint: a clean bathroom on an interstate gas station brings in a lot more customers than a 10 cent per gallon discount on gas. This also applies to eateries.) But if your goal is to compete with Southwest, where all the bathrooms are the same, good luck. Or, just put in good bathrooms so you don’t have to threaten your customers to and from vacation/business/family emergency. And seriously, you are a modern day bus service. We are on your plane because we have to be not because we want to be. And we don’t want to be sitting next to another customer with vomit/tinkle/p**p/whatever because you want to upgrade everyone to business class/first class/coach class. You don’t even have enough seats for everyone to upgrade, so you haven’t really thought this out. And don’t be looking for me to be a customer… if you havent figured this out after United, American, and one other airline(jetblue?), then you are clueless. Even these airlines, operating at nearly full capacity, prefer long term customers over short term revenue.
    One question: was the 3 year old offered a $200 voucher and 25%discount, and were the passengers around them offered that?
    And what were you going to do if the grandma and grandchild had used the business bathroom…have them arrested like airberlin… another airline I will make sure to avoid.
    If you were smart, you would have taken notice of this ‘family’ obviously travelling in a special situation, and figured out how to upgrade them to business for free or given them access to business/first class facilities for their travel. As a real airline, you cannot be that clueless.

  10. I’m pretty sure the readers are on to something, Gary – I’d pay substantially more for 1st class if I got Dr. Evil PJ’s out of the deal, although knowing the airlines, we’d probably be forced to wear Spiderman PJ’s or whatever major studio release was imminent.

  11. To all of you who say it’s the grandma’s fault because she didn’t have extra clothes prepared: this got nothing to do with having or not having extra clothes in your possession.
    What matters is that the AC FA did not allow a toddler to use the closest lavatory available, which lead to the toddler wetting itself.
    This is another incident that proves Air Canada is one of the worst airlines out there.

  12. By their own admission, this was at least the third time in about two hours for their excursion to the business class lav. Based on a typical one sided story, it was probably more like the fourth or fifth time. Either they were abusing the privilege or grandmother needs to take grandchild to a doctor to check for a UTI or other medical issue. And yes, I have flown with all four of my daughters as toddlers, and none of them had to urgently use the lav three times in two hours.

  13. It seems to me that if you politely ask and explain the emergency a flight attendant will usually figure out a way to let you through when a cart blocks the aisle. I agree with the need to be better prepared. What if there was heavy turbulence when the kid needed to go?

  14. Next time sit in the back of the plane near the rest rooms.

    Why would you ever sit in the farthest seats from your rest room is beyond me. Also the child was clearly not ready for this kind of trip with out pull ups

    Air Canada please do Not compensate these people for being unwise.

  15. Canadians are a fractious lot who historically tend to put aside their quibbling feuds only when united in embarrassment and shame from toxic levels of international mockery. What Canada needs to pull itself together now is another Justin Beiber.

  16. “Coach customers, representing the bulk of your revenue, deserve a good bathroom”


  17. I say the shit is going to the same place so who cares which toilet is used. I say use the most convenient.

  18. Speaking of Air Canada, I was in biz class (there was no first) the other day on a trans-Atlantic flight when the FA approached me shortly after take-off and asked what I would like for dinner.
    I responded, and also said I didn’t want to eat for a couple of hours. The answer I got was “We’re not running a restaurant here, do you want it now or not?” That was a first.

  19. Still not sure about bathroom etiquette. I was on an Air Canada Airbus A330 two days ago and got snapped at for not using the rear washroom in economy when the nearer washroom in front was also in economy. This was the attendant’s response to my predicament as a hostage between two drink carts once I got out of the washroom.Her cart was only two rows away from my seat, and when the attendant abandoned it in the aisle, another passenger helped me get to my seat by moving the cart. The piece of business who called herself an attendant called me out royally in front of everyone and warned me “Don’t. Ever. Do. That. Again!!!!!!” I hadn’t touched her blasted cart. So rude.

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