With airlines trying to squeeze as much capacity out of every aircraft as they can, bathrooms are being downsized in favor of more seats. With this in mind, could the next development see urinals fitted on planes?
We hear more than our fair share of stories about loos. From the customer who demanded to use the business class toilet because of his size, and then wanted a clean-up too, to flight disruption due to faults with the bathroom plumbing, it seems we’re mildly obsessed with taking care of business at 40,000 feet.
However, with a strong focus right across aviation of ‘densification’ (read: squashing in as many passengers as possible for profit), we’re lamenting the loss of the bathrooms where you could actually turn around, and asking what’s next for the loos on planes?
The shrinking airplane bathroom
The trade-off between bathroom space and seats for passengers is nowhere as apparent as on the 737 MAX. American Airline’s 737 MAX configuration squashes in a whole 172 seats, including 16 which are first class. This makes for not only a pretty cramped passenger experience, but also means the loos have lost a bit of real estate too.
This particular configuration allows just two lavatories for all 156 economy class passengers. Not only is that a pretty tight toilet to passenger ratio, but the bathrooms themselves are just 24 inches from wall to wall. Passengers have been known to become wedged inside, having to twist themselves into pretzels to find an exit route.
They’re not the only one maxing out the MAX either. Ryanair are looking to capitalize on passengers per flight by outfitting their 737 MAX with no less than 200 seats! This will leave passengers with just 28 inches of pitch, and although they’ll have three bathrooms, there’s no way they could be any bigger than American’s.
And it’s not just the 737 MAX either. No more toilets are being added to the 777s which are being retrofitted with 10 seats across, something which has happened at BA, United, Delta and Cathay Pacific to name just a few. That’s an increase of 11% more passengers with no additional bathroom facilities.
If you compare older aircraft to the new models, the difference is clear to see. A reporter for the New York Times went ahead and did this, and found that, on an older 757-300, the lavatories measured 41 inches long by 35 inches wide and around 75 inches high.
On a modern 737, this was shrunk to just 39 inches long, 24 inches wide and 77 inches tall. We don’t really care about the height, but in terms of floor space that’s a difference of around three and a half feet!
Well, maybe some care about the height, because in many bathrooms that 77 inches of height is only in one area, as these poor travelers will attest.
This is THE smallest airplane restroom (I’m 5’7) pic.twitter.com/MUfvyz6K5p
— PBat (@PaperBatVG) October 7, 2016
Happy thanksgiving from all of us here in the airplane bathroom! pic.twitter.com/A5ec3Vogip
— Matt Ingebretson (@mattingebretson) November 22, 2018
Sometimes when you’re tall, trying to use the tiny airplane restroom looks like a performance art piece. pic.twitter.com/1hJ6IHLOwH
— Derek Mears (@DerekMears) April 15, 2016
Oh. I’ve missed you tiny airplane restroom 😅 pic.twitter.com/CzNm2gZfRo
— Yoshi Sudarso (@yoshi_sudarso) August 1, 2016
Something which was floated back in mid-2018 at the Crystal Cabin Awards could be the answer to all our problems. Brought to us by the well-known Zodiac Aerospace, it’s called the Durinal.
This whacky idea involves ripping out one of the on board bathrooms and replacing it with TWO urinals. The mock-up looks horrific. I mean, how do you even close the door?
Unsurprisingly they didn’t win the award and no carriers have specified the Durinal for their aircraft. YET.
You can check out the Durinal in all its glory at around 1.10 in the video below:
All joking aside, the math does actually add up. Apparently, us ladies take on average one minute 30 to take a leak. That’s down to all the disrobing and sitting down we have to do, not to mention the wiping of the seat. Men, on the other hand, take around one minute.
Although the Durinal wouldn’t benefit the fairer sex directly, indirectly it could reduce queues and congestion on board. However, mathematicians are quick to point out that you’d need twice the number of regular toilets as urinals to see any notable improvement.
One thing’s for sure; guys, if you do travel on an aircraft with a urinal, be sure to put your shoes on before you go to the loo, because that’s definitely not water on the floor.