My grandma was in economy class on a full Air Canada flight. The bathrooms were, unusually, very occupied, and were accompanied by long lines and passengers waiting. They soon became filthy; she saw egesta on the floor and toilet in some of them. She asked the cabin crew if the bathrooms would be cleaned, but they just put paper towels to hide the egesta without cleaning.

So without asking first or explicit permission, she walked up to use the business class lavatory, where the Service Director chided her:

Madam, use the lavatories in Economy. Please refrain from using the lavatories up here.

My grandma apologized, and tried to explain the long waits and the filthiness, but he still chided her the second time:

I already told you not to use this class's lavatory.

In such unusual cases of filthiness and unavailability, can economy-class passengers use business-class toilets?

I ask this for reputable airlines in general. American Airlines permits this gambit, but other airlines' stance is unclear. If Air Canada loathed this, why'd they compensate this grandma?

  • 5
    By saying AA allows this but not AC, haven't you answered your own question?
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 7:12
  • 7
    Man i love your gran, she travels more than i do :P Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 8:15
  • 2
    Why is this question so downvoted? Could someone comment?
    – user82257
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:44
  • 1
    what was the airplane type? Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 20:56
  • 7
    @user82257 it’s being downvotes because the OP has asked a number of questions all along the lines of, “my grandma/relative was flying in economy and X happened, can I use the business class lavatory/seats if I don’t want to remain in economy”
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 22:59

3 Answers 3


This is a very interesting question!

Now, your grandmother was in Economy Class, so had no right to visit the Business toilets, if not said otherwise. (I doubt there are any regulations that the situation changes if there are unusually long queues).

In this situation, she should ask. I don't understand if she asked or was "caught" sneaking into the bathroom (I presume the latter). Sometimes people asked, stick to the rules, sometimes they make an exception (it may or may not be allowed for them to make an exception) escpecially if your grandmother looks old and/or unfit. However, they tend to be more unfriendly if you just go there without asking.

Edit: In the comments, jpatokal suggests that the grandmother should inform the cabin crew that the bathrooms need to be cleaned. This is also a good solution (in addition or instead of asking).

  • 1
    Alternative option: she should inform the crew that the economy class toilets need to be cleaned. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 7:10
  • @jpatokal She did ask: please see the last sentence in my first para. that I edited to clarify this.
    – user13759
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 22:55
  • Yes. You can say that she " was "caught" sneaking", but she wasn't acting sneakily. She thought that using the business-class washroom was warranted in such cases.
    – user13759
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 22:56
  • @Greek-Area51Proposal She asked after trying to use the business-class washroom. It would have been better to tell them first, and then ask for permission. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 23:09
  • @jpatokal You're correct. I think she was probably too irked at Air Canada's bad service to ask.
    – user13759
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 23:13

Sometimes, but it'll depend on the airlines.

For example on Qantas domestic flights, 737s have 2 toilets at the rear for economy and 1 at the front for business class. It's announced this way.

However, every flight you observe at least a couple of passengers from economy using the front ones. Sometimes the crew will just ignore it, but it depends on the rule and probably (although I don't know) on the passenger and how they're doing it, to some extent. Asking first probably wouldn't go amiss.


If you purchase an economy ticket, you have the right to access the economy lavatories when it is safe to do so (i.e. when the seatbelt sign is off).

However, you must purchase a business/first class/etc. ticket in order to have full access to their respective lavatories. And of course, this comes with a price.

In the event of an emergency (related to needing the washroom, not the plane), there may be allowances for certain passengers to use the business/first class lavatories if you request for it and the other lavatories are not busy. Most flight attendants should understand. However, if you are constantly asking this, or there is no obvious need for your request, they will most likely decline. After all, they are not required by any means to comply with your request.

If the lavatory is dirty, it is not their job to clean it. If the lavatory does not have enough supplies (e.g. soap, paper towels), they should provide/restock upon request.

All in all, try not to bug flight attendants about lavatory usage, especially when they are busy. If it is truly a problem, remember, they are doing you a favor if they let you use other facilities, and they are not obliged to do so.

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