At 5-foot-8, Eddie Santos is about average size, but on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Washington, a trip to the plane’s lavatory left him feeling like Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians.
It was a tight fit.
“I had to twist my shoulder just to get in,” he said. “It was uncomfortable.”
Flier Melody Arganda was able to squeeze inside, but she said the space was so narrow her thighs brushed against the walls.
“Absolutely ridiculous,” hrumphed the retired teacher from Riverside, Calif. “If I were any bigger, I wouldn’t have fit.”
Flying has become a game of inches, with airlines trying to squeeze as many passengers as possible on planes. They have made seats smaller, shrunk legroom and now, as Santos and Arganda discovered on a recent cross-country flight, made the bathrooms so small an average-size person feels squeezed.
On some of the newer planes flown by American, Delta and United airlines, the bathrooms in coach are just 24 inches wide. For comparison, that’s roughly the width of the average dishwasher or the size of Kim Kardashian’s waist.
By comparison, the average porta-potty is roughly 34 inches wide. Same with the stalls in the women’s restrooms at Reagan National Airport.
According to the manufacturer, the new-style bathrooms free up enough space to fit six more passengers onboard.
Delta was the first to introduce the smaller bathrooms in 2014, but the shift gained more attention late last year when American began using new jets equipped with the tiny lavatories. United debuted theirs in June.
Joseph “Pep” Valdes, a parking executive from Los Angeles, who is 5-foot-10, described his experience trying to use the bathroom on a recent American flight to Washington.
“If you are one inch taller, I don’t know how you’d get in there,” he said. “I saw some big guys [on the flight] and wondered . . .”
Travelers and consumer groups have bemoaned the downsizing of personal space on planes for years, watching as the average seat, once 18 inches wide, shrank by an inch and a half, and the distance between rows went from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches — 28 inches on some airlines.
But bathrooms? Really?
“Given the trend line in the decreasing of personal space, this is just another instance of the airlines treating their customers as profit points, not as actual people,” said John Breyault, a vice president of the National Consumers League. “I challenge any airline executive at any airline to have to change the diaper of a screaming infant in a two-foot-wide bathroom.”
(Note: The tiny bathrooms are equipped with pull-down changing tables. But fitting an adult, a baby and a diaper bag in the space would require some maneuvering.)
At 6-foot-1, Zach Guimond, a manufacturing engineer from Iowa has grown accustomed to being squeezed when he travels. But on a recent flight — he can’t remember the model of plane — he found himself in a bathroom so tiny, he had to lean to one side to fit inside.
“Not only was there barely enough room to turn around, the ceiling was sloped, and I couldn’t even stand up straight,” he said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”
He pulled out his phone and scrolled to a selfie he had taken. His head is angled against one of the walls, a grimace on his face.
Shirley Sosin, a retiree from California, remembers the good old days of flying when “you could put our makeup on” in a plane bathroom. “Men could shave. Things have changed,” she said.