Skip to content

Proposed rule would improve accessibility of airplane bathrooms

March 19, 2022
3 min read
Proposed rule would improve accessibility of airplane bathrooms
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The Biden administration announced a plan to implement rules that would require airlines to make restrooms more accessible to all passengers.

The proposed rule notice filed Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), would require carriers make at least one lavatory on new, single-aisle aircraft large enough to accommodate passengers with disabilities. In a statement, the department called this rule one of its “highest priority initiatives,” arguing it advances equity and reduces discrimination.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

As of now though, it could be close to two decades before the changes start showing up on new planes.

At present, U.S. code only requires carriers make a lavatory accessible on planes with more than one aisle. In other words, the rules would apply to large planes like a Boeing 777, 787 or an Airbus A380 and plenty of other aircraft. Specifically, the rules require a restroom space large enough for a passenger with a disability to approach, enter and maneuver within the lavatory, with access to all facilities.

Related: What does accessible travel mean to you?

The same rules do not exist for single-aisle aircraft which, which the DOT pointed out, operate “the vast majority of domestic flights,” including a large number cross-country flights. The DOT said this often leads to disabled passengers choosing to dehydrate themselves before a flight to avoid needing to use the restroom. Often, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, disabled passengers will choose not to fly at all.

Last summer, TPG reported on some of the challenges passengers face while navigating airports and aircraft in a wheelchair.

(Photo by Gilmanshin/Getty Images)

Gabrielle deFiebre, whose wheelchair was damaged on board a flight from New York to Phoenix, told TPG in an interview how she approaches travel, with her concerns about using the restroom in mind.

“I don’t eat very much or drink because I can’t access the bathroom on the plane,” she said in 2021. “I obviously can’t drink [alcohol]. I don’t want to risk having to use the bathroom.”

Related: These are the most wheelchair-accessible cities around the world

“This rule would make airplane lavatories more accessible for passengers with disabilities, and bring us one step closer to the day when air travel is possible for everyone,” Buttigieg said in a statement Friday.

The changes have been the topic of discussion for years. According to the DOT, 2016 negotiations with several organizations, including the National Disability Rights Network, Association of Flight Attendants, Airbus and airlines led to an understanding that the rules would apply to new planes ordered 18 years after the final rule is implemented. The DOT is planning to hear input later this month, though, at which point it may choose to accelerate that timeline.

Related: Tips for finding accessible home rentals

Through the DOT, the Paralyzed Veterans of America organization also issued a statement on Friday, in which National President Charles Brown said the he was “pleased” by the rule, and added, “We must have lavatory access as soon as possible.”

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases