What’s Happening to Airplane Restrooms?
If you are flying anywhere this summer on vacation, you might want to plan accordingly, if you think you might need to use the plane’s restroom. The problem is there are fewer restrooms on airplanes today than there were in the 1990s and on top of that, they are getting smaller.
Let’s take a look at the stats:
In the 1990s, a jetliner such as a Boeing 737 was designed to have four restrooms for every 150 passenger seats. The assumption was that on average, the plane would be 65 percent full meaning that each restroom would be shared by about 24 passengers. Not too bad.
Today, this same jetliner has just three restrooms for every 160 seats; it is also assumed 80 percent of the seats will be occupied, but in recent years that number is closer to 100 percent. So this means 43 passengers will be sharing those three restrooms, almost double the number 20 years ago. Not too good.
Plus, these restrooms are getting smaller. Boeing has found a way to redesign airplane restrooms making them about 20 percent smaller. The air carriers love this because it adds 14 more seats to the plane, meaning 14 more paying passengers.
And there is another problem evolving. Many airlines are reducing connection times between flights. Whereas the goal was to allow passengers about two hours if changing flights, airlines are trying to cut that in half. This means passengers have less time to use airport restrooms when making connections, resulting in more of them needing to use the plane's restroom once on-board.
And we need to point out one more thing. U.S. flight attendants are rarely required to clean restrooms. If someone gets sick in the restroom, they will close the restroom, but it will not be cleaned until the plane lands.
So, with more people on-board, using smaller restrooms, with less time to use airport restrooms between flights, and no one cleaning the restrooms, what can we do to make sure we protect our health especially if traveling with youngsters?
Among the steps to take are the following:
Know where the restroom germ hot spots are located. The most germ-ridden areas of an airplane restroom are, in this order, the restroom door locks, the door handles, the toilet flush button, faucet handles, soap dispensers, and the area surrounding the trash compartment.
Clean first, then wipe. Always bring disinfectant wipes with you when using the plane’s restroom and wipe down all the of the surface just mentioned; however, the process will be even more useful if you take a paper towel, warm water, and use the hand soap provided and clean these surfaces first. This will help remove contaminants so the wipes can just finish the job.
Wear shoes. According to one flight attendant, it's “disgusting” how many passengers today do not wear shoes when using the restroom. This same attendant says that at the end of a flight, it is usually the restroom floor that is, using the same word, the most “disgusting.”
Cleanup after yourself. It appears that if some passengers take the time to cleanup the restroom after use, it encourages the next passenger to do the same. Because it seems that passengers are responsible for the restrooms while the plane is in the air, this is probably the best way to help protect your health and the health of others on board.
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Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, having owned, operated, and then sold three contract cleaning companies in Northern California.
He is the author of two books about the industry and continues to be a frequent writer for the industry.
Robert is now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, which provides communications and marketing services for organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries.