Yellow airport toilet sign
Airport toilet sign | © Paul Green

Have you ever wondered about the hidden reality of plane toilets? Most passengers rely on them whilst flying to exotic destinations; however, the actualities of the onboard facilities are a little grimmer than you might think. From nightmare toilet stories to valuable pieces of advice, there is much to be uncovered.

Uncomfortable truths

Whether you are a frequent traveller or not, it is likely that questions surrounding a plane’s toilet functions may have crossed your mind at some point. It is no secret that these are not the most hygienic settings in the world; however, do we know the true extent?

Since Covid-19 erupted worldwide, cleanliness and sanitation have been at the forefront of everybody’s mind. That being said, one former cabin crew member shared some uncomfortable truths with Sanctuary Bathrooms. With the aim of high turnover, the flight attendant explained that cleaning the aeroplane toilet is often lower on the list of priorities. This means that extensive scrubbing is not always general practice besides “a quick wipe down straight before a flight” and the occasional checks during it.

This might seem even more alarming, added to the fact that although planes usually empty the waste from their holding tanks after the aircraft has landed, during some extremely busy periods, it can take a couple of days for the tank to be emptied. Despite the fact that the toilet bowls are disinfected and deodorised by a blue liquid called Skykem, that is not exactly a pleasant thought.

A plane toilet with the toilet lid up.
Plane toilet | © Stuart Dee/Getty Images

An unwanted forecast

In the rare cases where waste is not emptied upon landing, frozen sewage can sometimes accidentally leak from an airborne plane. In even rarer cases, the aircraft may not reach a high enough altitude for the sewage to freeze. One unfortunate Windsor resident recently discovered this in the worst way possible when they woke to find their garden had been covered in raw sewage after a plane had expelled waste mid-air.

The council’s aviation forum revealed that though they had encountered reports of frozen sewage falling from planes, they hadn’t come across incidents involving “raw sewage such as this situation.”

The incident is thought to have been due to a fault with the aircraft.

The dos and don’ts

As well as exposing the dirty secrets of our flying toilets, the anonymous former flight attendant also suggests that passengers always wear a mask when using the toilet onboard a plane and never brush their teeth. This is due to the lack of clean air circulating in such a small space. She went on to advise against touching any of the toilet surfaces (including the seat) and to always carry hand sanitiser.

We can only hope that the current lack of Covid rules will not prompt a further easing of hygiene expectations when travelling on planes.

Have you experienced any nightmare toilet situations while flying? Let us know in the comments.


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