The Mile High Club is about to get a little harder to join.
According to a new report in Bloomberg, airlines are shrinking the size of their bathrooms in an effort to cram in more seats. Boeing’s new 737 Max aircraft jetliners, and some older, retrofitted models used by United and American Airlines, have bathrooms that clock in at about 22.4 inches across at a passenger’s chest level when seated, an American Airlines rep told Bloomberg. For those playing along at home: That’s 3.1 inches narrower than the previous models, and it’s so diminutive that the LA Times dubbed it almost unusably small.
Of course, the incredible shrinking bathroom trend has been going on for a while now. Back in 2015, Boeing reduced the bathrooms on its 777 planes to add an additional 14 seats. Bloomberg, meanwhile, reports that “American could generate about $400,000 a year for each seat it adds to a plane” and “JetBlue has estimated that boosting capacity on its A320s by 12 seats to 162 will increase annual revenue by about $100 million.”
That’s a lot of money to be added to the bottom line (heh).
While the accountants and c-suite executives at the airlines may like the cost-benefit analysis of tiny bathrooms, anyone who has to deal with the irate passengers who are forced to squeeze into them does not. One flight attendant rep told Bloomberg that shrunken lavatories lead to the “general decline of the in-flight experience” and “increased incidents of air rage.”
This is all bad news for anyone who needs to, say, change a diaper on a plane or require crutches or some other mobility device. It’s also bad for anyone who simply happens to be wider than 22 inches across. The FAA probably doesn’t care, either. It currently has no requirements for bathrooms on single-aisle airplanes, but it does require double-aisle planes to have at least one handicap-accessible restroom.
Until that changes, airlines apparently want you to cross your legs and hold it.