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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
up vote 11 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. – Heidel Ber Gensis 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. – gparyani Aug 13 '14 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

Old thread that suddenly got bumped, I'll just add a few additional comments to complement the excellent answers:

The first row of a "group" of rows (right after an exit, lavatories, galleys, etc.) is often quite different from the others:

  • You do get more space at the level of your upper body, and possibly at the level of your knees, and nobody will recline into your space.
  • You might, on the other hand, actually have less space for your feet (if there's an actual partition in front of you), as opposed to being able to put your feet under the seat in front of you. On some planes, and depending on your physiology, that means that you might be able to stretch your legs in a normal seat but not in one of these.
  • The tray is usually stowed in the armrest rather than on the back of the seat in front of you.
  • On planes with personal screens, depending on the layout, the screen may be in the armrest as well.
  • This means armrests cannot be moved.
  • This often means that armrests are actually "thicker" than the usual ones, and this limits the width of your seat.
  • If there's a personal screen and it's not in the armrest, it will be on the partition in front of you, which usually means it's further away. Given their small size in coach... Also if it's a touch screen, it makes it more difficult to use.

Regarding lavatories, one of the often decried aspects of seats next to them is people queuing next to them. This used to be a big issue (and still is on certain airlines/planes) with everybody getting up at the same time at the end of the movie(s). Nowadays, with personal screens (especially on long haul flights), people tend to spread out their use of the facilities a bit more as they not all "in sync". There should still be a bit of a queue at the end of the meal service, though.

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