Bathroom Breaks – part 1

“We’re ‘go’ for toilet testing,” I informed our purser. I used my best, fake NASA rocket launcher voice as I spoke into the A320’s crew inter-phone system, and watched our altitude ascend through the required level. This was funny — but not funny. This fault could have a real impact on our ability to continue the flight.

“Okay, Captain. Standby, I’ll call you back.” The line went dead as he hung up his handset. I waited expectantly while we continued climbing away from Edmonton on a scheduled, non-stop flight to Montreal — if the bathrooms were working, that is. If the toilets did not pass this crucial flush test I wasn’t sure what we’d do next.

Our plumbing issues had started on our previous flight from Vancouver to Edmonton. During that climb-out, our flight attendants had discovered that all our toilets had stopped flushing. By the time they advised me and we’d applied whatever slim checklists we could find to throw at the problem, (I had definitely never practiced this particular fault during flight simulator training); and then communicated with our company maintenance personnel (only to discover that they also had no hidden secrets about how to fix the problem), we were almost in Edmonton. So, flushless, we pressed on and completed that first leg. But our second leg — a four-and-a-half hour flight from Edmonton to Montreal — presented a more serious challenge.

As we spoke over the company VHF radio, I could imagine our maintenance personnel pouring over the complex schematic charts and trouble-shooting diagrams. No sooner had we parked at our gate in Edmonton, than they swarmed into the aircraft’s electronics bay to begin a hurried attempt to fix the problem without delaying our departure. On-time performance is a very high priority in this competitive airline business.

 But so is peeing! Trust me. That’s the important point I kept trying to make. Even though it never appears in any of the complex charts and airline metrics used to define a successful airline, you can bet that no one would book flights on a “no-peeing” airline, no matter how cheap the tickets. There’s such a thing as taking “no frills” service, too far.

The infamously-cheap airline, RyanAir discovered this a few years ago when they proposed to put coin-slots on bathroom doors. Without dating yourself — does anyone recall the bad old days when many public toilets had dime-operated door locks on the stalls? And the practice of slipping under the doors in an emergency, when a dime wasn’t handy, was often necessary? RyanAir, however, was planning to charge much more than one thin dime until the public outcry caused them to back down. Whether it was a real proposal, or just a gimmick to get some newspaper attention, is up for debate. Some airline execs will go to extreme lengths to chisel out a little more profit — if the passengers let them get away with it. https://abcnews.go.com/Travel/Green/paying-pee-airlines-critics-call-ryanairs-fee-inhumane/story?id=10355139

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