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I want to choose a good seat on a 8h+ flight in an Airbus A330-300. I use Seatguru to find it.

My preference (if I check in fast enough) would be the next row behind the lavatories row, as there's leg space aplenty and I might be able to sleep through most of the hours.

How bad is it to sit next to the lavatories on the long-haul, considering smell, noise and queues?

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A bit subjective, but for the most part it can be answered. I'll try to do so now. –  Mark Mayo Jul 7 '13 at 22:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Mark's answer is kinda perfect, but I will give some extra information as a cabin crew member:

The bad:

  • Lavatory noise (flushing noise is so loud due to air suction)
  • Babies noise, the bulkhead behind almost all lavatories are where baby basinets installed. People with babies usually reserve these seats.
  • Crowd (queues)
  • You can't recline the seat enough (if seated in front of lavatory bulkhead)
  • Not dark enough at night (because of lavatory light when door is open, lot's of lit signs next to lavatories)
  • Usually lavatories are next to cabin crew stations, depending on the airplane type there could be a lot of chimes and calls to the cabin crew station, which means extra noise. Boeing planes in particular are a bit noisy when it comes to chimes.
  • Bad smell.

The good:

  • Lavatory is one step away.
  • As I said before, usually there are cabin crew stations next to lavatories. The good side is, the closer you are to cabin crew the better you get served especially in long flights.
  • If you do not sleep in airplanes, next to lavatories (and galleys) are the social places in airplanes, you can talk to people who are waiting for their turns or just stretching their legs there.
  • More leg space as you already mentioned (row behind, this is by design actually to give more space to baby basinets)


At the end, it depends on your style onboard airplanes:

  • If you plan to sleep during the long haul: Take a window seat, no one will bother you to get out or in and you can rest your head on the side.

  • If you plan to stay awake to watch a movie or read a book: Take an aisle seat away from toilets.

  • If you plane to be awake for other reasons: Get a seat next to lavatories.

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Nice work guys! I'll award you the check mark, as I plan to go narcoleptic. Got an extra opinion on 42D/G where there might be a little more legroom to the side? ... and the thin black lines in from of the legroom seats imply baby bassinet mounts, right? –  arney Jul 8 '13 at 14:58
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@arney if you plan to sleep this will be bad idea, people in the middle will keep waking you up if they want to go to toilet or move. Also, stretching your leg to the sides means you blocking the aisle, either cabin crew will ask you to move them inside or people will step on it all the way. Go for A or K seats (window seats) if you plan to sleep. –  MeNoTalk Jul 8 '13 at 15:36
    
Not necessarily on Boeing 767 flights, which do not have bulkhead seats next to the lavatories (the middle seats just continue, and there are lavs right next to the middle seats. –  damryfbfnetsi Aug 13 at 19:48

Firstly, be aware that there are three possible lavatory placings - at the front, midway in the plane, and at the back. The lavatory row at the back is 'special' as it's something people don't always realise - this row usually doesn't have reclining seats. Well worth noting. I regularly choose the back of the plane to get away from the kid-aisle with the bassinets further forward, but each flight has its own areas with their own merits. As a result of where I tend to choose, I am often near a bathroom.

However, it sounds like you're asking more about the mid-way lavatories, so I'll just describe lavatory seats in general.

Personally, I have anosmia (no sense of smell), so that side of things isn't a problem. Obviously the stronger your sense of smell, the worse it's going to get if there are issues with the bathroom.

Next, there's the inevitable queue. Although most planes have those handy signs to tell you when the toilet is in use, people still like to get up and queue - either because it's urgent for them, or even just to stand for a while and stretch those legs. What this means as a person close to the bathroom is that you constantly have people standing next to you, bumping you accidentally, watching your tv, chatting to each other right next to you, or potentially (horror!) even trying to make smalltalk with you! If you're trying to sleep, this can be very frustrating.

Nwxt there's the noise from the bathroom itself. You'll rarely hear actual ... 'functions' inside, but you will hear the flush, and some people have a tendency to slam the door open and make a racket.

It's also worth noting, as I alluded to before earlier, that midway bathrooms can sometimes be near the aisle with the bassinets and babies. This can be noisy and distracting as well.

So, long story short - if, like me, you don't even try to sleep on planes and have no sense of smell, I prefer the back of the plane (but not the very back row) and the aisle seat so that I can get up and wander a bit. If you like to sleep on a plane, don't watch movies, and have a stronger sense of smell, you may find it a very problematic and frustrating flight.

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During a flight from New York to London I was assigned to seat 27B in an American Airlines B777 - the row directly in front of the lavatories. (http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/American_Airlines/American_Airlines_Boeing_777-200_A.php).

There was hardly any inconvenience from smell or from queues (at least nothing that I noticed). However, the noise was pretty annoying. It wasn't very loud but every two minutes or so you would hear the "swoooosh" sound from behind.

All in all not the best flying experience I ever had but also not totally unbearable.

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Do you recall people queuing from line 30 onward? –  arney Jul 18 '13 at 12:45

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