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For safety purposes all airlines make you go back to your seat when you are in the toilet just before landing.

But, what if you really had to go and don't come out even after persistent knocking. What protocols do flight attendants follow in such a situation?

UPDATE (6 August, 2015): Here is some recent news about how a pilot in Sweden handled the situation.

  • 7
    This is one of the reasons why the seatbelt sign comes on so far in advance. – Kate Gregory May 8 '14 at 14:14
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    If need be, they can tell the captain that the cabin isn't secure, and the plane will abort the landing and go around. Don't expect to be popular after this... – Gagravarr May 8 '14 at 14:19
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    Are you sure they will go as far as to abort landing? – Prometheus May 8 '14 at 14:21
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    @Gagravarr Actually the opposite most likely to happen, they might declare emergency landing and get a priority and land ASAP. – Nean Der Thal May 8 '14 at 14:56
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    @dbkk that might happen if the guy is not responding well. That what I meant. BTW, I work for an airlines and I know the rules of unruly passengers and I know what steps the captain can take. – Nean Der Thal May 9 '14 at 13:57
102

One of the steps of preparing the cabin for landing is checking that all passengers are seated and buckled up, no passengers are using the toilets and toilets are locked (it can be [un]locked from outside). The reasons behind checking the toilets for passengers during landings and takeoffs are related to both safety and security.

The safety related reasons are obvious, landings can be hard and you sitting in the toilet can be dangerous. Security related reasons are also obvious, the aircraft is closer to the land and most likely over a city, which make the sabotage plans have bigger effects.

What will the crew do

  • The crew will knock on the door, and ask you to come out.
  • They can also unlock the door from outside and open it.
  • They can remove the whole door easily if you were to keep locking it from inside (lavatory doors are equipped for this).
  • The crew will also inform the captain about the situation, depending on the crew judgment, they can call security upon arrival, or call the onboard air marshal.

What should you do

  • DO NOT resist by any means, not verbally and not physically.
  • If they ask you what are you doing, tell them the reason clearly, do not say vague stuff like "I do not feel well", just say it clearly, something like "I have diarrhea".
  • If they want to open the door to make sure, open it for them, if they try to open the door from outside, do not resist it. Most likely they will take a quick peek and close the door.

Once they are sure you are simply doing nothing wrong, they won't escalate it.

Remember, the cabin crew will deliver the message to the captain depending on the first impression they get, that impression can be a threat impression, or a a guy with bad stomach impression. The captain will react according to the first call since it is a landing which is considered a critical phase in the airlines business, the reaction can be as extreme as declaring an emergency landing, or as simple as "tell the guy to hang on to something".

Finally, the reaction will be different from one airline to another, country to another, crew to another. In some countries I would expect the reaction to be extreme in the name of security, while in some others (like in Asia) the crew might be more understanding. In any case, the crew are humans, and they do understand human needs.

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    @JoErNanO for me it is a bit better than letting strangers interrogate me.. – Nean Der Thal Sep 21 '15 at 14:12
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    +1 for "Most likely they will take a quick peek and close the door" – Firee Jan 1 '16 at 6:47
  • The best way to tell strangers about your diarrhea: youtube.com/watch?v=CKjaFG4YN6g – johannes Sep 17 '16 at 13:17
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I landed sitting on the toilet on Tuesday in Atlanta from Amsterdam. Don't eat smoked salmon on your flight. Ouch. I actually told the flight attendant that I couldn't wait and she just told me to stay put until the plane stopped. I held on tight and honestly it wasn't that bad aside from the cramps.

  • I don't think this is actually allowed, glad you were okay but I think this is against the guidelines as the cabin is not secure. – Burhan Khalid Jul 31 '16 at 11:08
  • Did the other passenger's give you curious glances? – Firee Aug 17 '16 at 10:17
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They'll open the door; all door locks can be operated outside, usually by flipping open the 'occupied' panel

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From my experience on a transatlantic flight:

First they knock: knock, knock, we are landing sir. Me: OK.

Few minutes later: they knock more: knock, knock, knock, we are landing sir, you need to return to your seat. Me: I need 5 minutes.

Few minutes later: they bang on the door: bang, bang, bang, SIR, YOU NEED TO RETURN TO YOUR SEAT IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!. Me: I'm almost done.

Few minutes later I open the door, get out and everybody in the plane starts staring at me and I'm like Hi :)

  • Sounds like you should have explained why you needed more time. – David Richerby Jul 30 '16 at 10:14

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