The Bathroom or a Glass of Wine

Flying coach on the plane home from Europe last weekend, I had to have a glass of wine; so I paid $6 and was hit by the airlines’ revenue-increasing, pay-by-the-piece policy. I asked a flight attendant when the airline would start charging for use of the toilet and got a laugh, but no answer.

USA Today had a poll asking people, “Would you fly on airlines that charge for access to the restroom?” Most respondents said no, but I bet that people wouldn’t let this bother them, they wouldn’t alter their flight plans, and they would pay for use of the toilet.

Pricing the bathroom would reduce the quantity demanded; some people would wait and race off the plane to the airport bathrooms (unless airports started charging also). But I would think that the demand for using a plane’s bathrooms is fairly inelastic, so that — except on short flights — behavior wouldn’t change very much.

Of course, if airlines started charging for bathroom use, it would affect their sales of drinks, since drinks and bathroom use are complements. So perhaps charging for bathroom use is not a good idea; airlines’ revenues might even drop!

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  1. Crossing legs and gritting teeth says:

    Perhaps bathroom use should be free to those who purchase beverages.

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  2. Marie says:

    Couldn’t charging for the bathroom be seen as discriminatory against pregnant women? It’s not like there are other choices when you are on an airplane.

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  3. Heinrich says:

    I think passengers would find charging for bathroom use objectionable.

    I could very well seeing the FIRST passenger paying to open the door and then overriding the locking mechanism, allowing the remaining passengers to use the bathroom for free.

    This passenger would be the hero of the flight, the “Robin Hood of the Loo”.

    Or passengers would merely hold the door for the NEXT passenger in a co-operative effort since the mindset would be, “we are all on this plane together”.

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  4. Mariela says:

    I would happily pay, and even pay double, for the bathroom, if they would speed up the “you are now free to move about the cabin” notification. Is it just nostalgia talking, or did they used to let you get up MUCH earlier than they do?

    It seems like it takes at least 45 minutes to an hour after lift-off (during what appears to be, to the untrained eye, a very long, slow, fairly flat, uneventful climb to cruising altitude) before the captain gives official permission to potty–plenty fine for most healthy adults who didn’t drink before boarding, but crossed-leg, yellow-eyed murder for many older folks & parents with small kiddos who have to GO.RIGHT.NOW!!

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  5. Greg says:

    Charging for use of the bathroom is unenforcable.

    The first time a passenger has to use the bathroom, but has no cash on them, the flightcrew will either have to give in, or the passenger’s experience will be ruined. That passenger who is denied use of the bathroom will never fly that airline again.

    If you have no money for a drink, that is no big deal. If you are denied use of the bathroom for an extended period of time, that is a very big deal.

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  6. rda says:

    I think charging for the bathroom would be a strong signal that the airline didn’t care squat about anything but profits and would drive me away from that airline unless the prices were so much better to be worth it (and even then, I’d wonder what else they weren’t telling me). In addition, many of the “cost saving” measures airlines have have additional secondary suck factors for travelers: when it costs extra to check baggage, more people are cramming larger bags onto the plane with them, making loading/unloading even slower and more annoying, and making it more likely that I personally will have to fly with my own small bags under my seat, further reducing my legroom, even if I choose to check something. Imagine how many more “accidents” will occur in steerage (I was recently on a plane that smelled like vomit), and how much more likely a baby will be changed on the seat next to you, even if you personally would pay for the lav, or hold it.

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  7. Faye says:

    What about people with bladder problems?
    Pregnant women who need to use the facilities?
    Babies that need diapers changed?

    At least we can bring our own food onto the plane, but there is no pleasant substitution for bathrooms.

    Pretty sure that there will be people who come prepared with portable solutions- not exactly the most pleasant sight to see on an airplane.

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  8. ScotterOtter says:

    “I asked a flight attendant when the airline would start charging for use of the toilet and got a laugh”

    Uh, that wasn’t a genuine laugh. Airline employees get asked that several times a day. Just like when my dad (an airline pilot, ironically) would always ask “What time does the 7:15 movie start?” That never got a genuine laugh either. Just a polite response and rolled eyes after we left.

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