Why are airline restrooms getting smaller?

Airline lavatories are getting so small, going to one requires yoga moves. Source: Shutterstock.

AIRLINES IN THE US such as American Airlines and United Airlines are putting smaller restrooms on their planes.

“Just a few inches smaller than what passengers are used to,” they say, but the restrooms were not that big to begin with in the first place.

Although the decision is probably here to stay, the move has sparked complaints from pilots and cabin crews, and of course, travelers.

Let’s face it, not everyone knows yoga and even those who do don’t want to feel like going to the restroom in an aircraft is an entire yoga exercise.

Plus, washing your hands in a super tiny sink in such a compact place would make for a very wet and messy affair.

American Airlines’ lavatories on its new aircraft are about 22.4 inches across at a passenger’s chest level when seated, 3.1 inches narrower than the previous models.

The economy class restrooms on United Airlines’ fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 have also been said to be “shockingly bad” and “especially narrow”, and that it’s almost impossible to reasonably wash both hands at once in the sink.

The airline’s 737s offer two or three different-size lavatories, including one in the premium cabin. However, the larger restrooms aren’t available to economy passengers. the bulk of the passengers on the aircraft.

So, what gives?

Well, airlines are maximizing cabin space to squeeze as many passengers as possible into planes.

Source: Shutterstock.

According to aviation systems maker Rockwell Collins Inc., space savings in its Advanced Spacewall restroom can allow for an extra of a row of three seats and seven inches more cabin space.

That extra row of seats doesn’t sound like much, but Tronos Aviation Consulting Inc.’s managing director Gary Weissel has estimated that American Airlines could generate about US$400,000 a year for each seat it adds to a plane, based on average fares and typical aircraft usage.

JetBlue, on the other hand, has estimated that boosting capacity on its A320s by 12 seats to 162 will increase annual revenue by about US$100 million.

Considering the lucrative returns, other airlines may soon follow suit.

Source: Shutterstock.

But at what cost?

Cabin crew have been criticizing the smaller restrooms for contributing greatly to the general decline of the in-flight experience for passengers.

To add on, a tighter squeeze will also pose a real predicament for disabled travelers (at a time when companies and brands are trying make travel more accessible, no less), parents with children, and plus-sized people.