United Airlines has introduced a new onboard announcement in which flight attendants ask passengers to provide feedback on the cleanliness of the onboard lavatories. The hope is that if a passenger notices one of the restrooms is dirty, they can tell a flight attendant who will promptly fix the issue in the moment.
The problem, however, is that actually cleaning the toilets goes beyond the scope of United’s flight attendant contract so a dirty lavatory might actually go unfixed.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has warned United that the announcement might be creating “unrealistic passenger expectations” because customers might expect a flight attendant to get out a mop and bucket should they report a dirty lavatory.
In fact, apart from a general tidy-up, the best that a flight attendant might be able to do should they find a lavatory particularly dirty is to block it off until cleaners on the ground have an opportunity to work their magic.
That’s not to say that flight attendants don’t have any responsibilities in keeping inboard lavatories tidy. Their list of agreed jobs include:
- Wiping splashes of water from the counter
- Restocking supplies like toilet roll and paper towels
- Picking up any loose paper towels
- Ensuring the waste bin is fully closed
Their responsibilities do not include wiping up spillages on the floor. Nor do they include disinfecting flush buttons, door handles or other commonly touched surfaces – even during the pandemic.
Thankfully we now know a lot more about how COVID-19 is spread and the fact that transmission from touching infected surfaces is incredibly rare.
United’s restrooms are still getting a thorough clean between every flight but despite a new onboard announcement, the responsibilities of flight attendants haven’t changed. So if you are on a United flight and you notice a lavatory is dirty, don’t blame the flight attendant – blame the passenger who left it in that state.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.