Will shrinking aeroplane toilets stop fat people flying? – commentary

The new 61cm-wide lavatories found on some US flights can free up space for six additional passengers. But some may not be able to close the toilet door

Getting smaller … aircraft toilets.

Getting smaller … aircraft toilets.

If you cannot afford to travel in any class above economy, flying generally sucks, either a little or a lot, depending on your tolerance level. But it especially sucks if you are too wide for the airline’s design.

Just getting to your seat can be a challenge, as your hips pinball from seat to seat on each side of the aisle, as if you are riding the teacups at a funfair, but with added bruising.   

If someone is standing up to put things in the overhead locker, there is a decision to be made about whether it’s worth trying to squeeze past.

Everything is just slightly too small: the seats, the overhead lockers, even the bathrooms – and those, it seems, are getting even smaller.

The Washington Post recently reported that, on some newer planes flown by American, Delta and United airlines, the bathrooms in economy class are just 61cm wide: about 25cm narrower than the average portable toilet, and roughly the width of the average dishwasher. Your face might be the only thing you can poke in there comfortably – which makes it a poor design, considering what a passenger is likely to need the bathroom for.

As bodies get bigger and aeroplane spaces get smaller, the wide among us have come up with workarounds. Armrests that turn us into sausages can be pulled up, or slowly encased into the soft flesh of our sides until we go numb. We can ask the flight attendant to get us a seat-belt extender, if security has confiscated the one we brought with us, as can sometimes happen. But squeezing into a tiny toilet and closing the door behind us? Not workable.

Unlike the pinball manoeuvre of squeezing down the aisle to your seat, or the side-to-side samba shuffle necessary to get big hips past the armrests, fitting into a space just 61cm wide is not just a challenge – it is almost impossible. It is not like missing out on an option for the in-flight meal – a bathroom is as essential as a safety-compliant seat belt, or the air that is pumped in to the cabin. If airlines are not willing to make space for us, bigger passengers may have no option but to reconsider booking a flight at all.

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On November 30, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    They would soon have us all standing if the safety regulations allowed.

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 30, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    For the bathrooms, what’s needed are a few people willing to leave the bathroom doors open as they use the toilets.

    The other passengers may complain but you can’t throw the “fat people” off the plane. The airlines may get the message.

    A few years ago when I came to Canada, vehicle parking spots were about the size of today’s handicap spot; you could safely open your vehicle door.

    They have reduced the size of parking spots to the effect that you have to be very agile to get in and out of your vehicle without banging the other person’s vehicle.

    Have you tried parking at Walmart in Guildford?

    Not only do you have the small parking spots to worry about but you also have those pillars to watch out for.

    You stand a good chance of at least ripping your mirror off.

    There must be some fun in making life difficult for travelers.


  • Clyde Duncan  On November 30, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    The airlines may be concerned about the “payload” ???

    They could only charge by the weight if it is classified as “cargo” …

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