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One of the latest casualties of the Great Squeeze in Economy is the airplane bathroom. On American Airlines’ new 737 MAX — and now being installed on AA’s 737-800s — the economy bathroom measures just 24 inches from wall to wall. The bathroom is so small that a passenger grumbled on the inaugural American Airlines 737 MAX flight that there’s barely enough space to turn around inside.

Economy bathroom on American Airlines 737 MAX.

But, for passengers that don’t want to put up with the tiny AA economy bathrooms, there’s another option: use the first class bathrooms instead.

That’s right, on all domestic AA flights and AA’s international flights departing the US, passengers can use the bathroom in any cabin. That even goes for first class passengers using the economy bathrooms, although you might have to face the wrath of economy passengers if you do.

While traveling in first class on a flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Los Angeles (LAX) this week (again for just 8,750 AA miles), I was patiently waiting in my seat for the first class bathroom to open up. But, one after another, economy passengers kept coming through the curtain to use the forward lavatory. At one point, the line for the first class bathroom grew to four passengers deep — all from economy.

I understand there may be various reasons for passengers to use the forward bathroom: passengers with limited mobility or families with children might need the extra space, or someone might just have an urgent need to go while the drink cart is blocking the aisle to the rear lavatory. But, I assumed that the general rule was that passengers were supposed to “use lavatories in their ticketed cabin.” After all, that’s the announcement I know I’ve heard on some domestic AA flights.

So, I took to Twitter for the primary reason Jack invented it: complaining about a company. American Airlines’ excellent social team was quick on the reply:

Before I could respond, a fellow passenger said exactly what I was thinking:

For clarity, I reached out to an American Airlines spokesperson about the policy. Turns out, the AA social team is right. And, it’s not just domestic flights where economy passengers can use the bathroom. Here’s American Airlines’ lavatory use policy by flight type:

  • Domestic flights: passengers may use the lavatory in any cabin
  • International flights departing the US: passengers may use the lavatory in any cabin
  • International flights returning to the US: it’s TSA policy to require airlines to direct passengers to use lavatories in their ticketed class of service

While this has long been AA official policy, don’t count on it being applied uniformly. And always follow the instruction of the flight attendants. Just because you’re correct about the policy doesn’t mean that you won’t end up on the wrong side of the law when you land.

Featured image by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty.

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