The Etiquette of Using the Lavatory & Being Blocked by the Snack Cart

by SharonKurheg

It doesn’t matter if you’re on terra firma or 35,000 feet in the air; when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Getting to/from the lavatory on a plane takes some advanced planning. Is the “buckle seat belt” light still on? Which lav is closest to where you’re sitting? Which one is unoccupied? And, of course, is there a snack/drink cart between your seat and the lav?

That last one – if food and beverage service has started – can be a tricky situation because once the carts are in the aisle, it’s going to be a good several minutes until the flight attendants are finished. So what IS the proper etiquette?

The question came up on Reddit not long ago after a passenger had a not-too-pleasant time with such an experience:

Posted by: u/okeeokeeokee

Flight Attendant Drink Cart / Bathroom Etiquette?

While I always try to avoid using the bathroom whenever the drink carts are out / service is about to start, turbulence for the first 1.5 hours of a 4 hour flight changed that today, and well… nature was calling.

I was able to get out with no problem, but by the time I was moving back to the seat a cart was blocking in path. When I asked them if it’d be possible for me to get by, they told me “I’ve already moved it once for someone else and I’m not moving it again until I’m done with my section,” then proceeded to take 20 minutes before I was able to get past and go back to my seat. I understand it’s frustrating to have to maneuver it around, but am I wrong to be upset to have to stand in the aisle for that long? Is there something else I’m supposed to do here when getting up during cart service, or did I just happen to catch a FA on a bad day?

I strongly suspect the flight attendant in question may have been having a bad day, because that’s not how it usually happens. More often than not, the FA will simply move the cart forward or back enough so you can get back to your seat (much like how the FA in question “…already moved it once for someone else.”)

It wasn’t a question that “went viral” by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it only had 17 replies. About half of them suggested hanging out in the galley until the FA was done. One person suggested “following” the FA, about a row behind, until they were up to your row (that idea got shot down real fast):

  • I would ask one more time politely, then if that doesn’t work stand right behind her. Not like an inch away, but maybe one row. — Badgerst8
  • Being a d**k to the FA is the wrong answer, boys and girls. — Biscotti-MiemMiem

However the answer I thought was potentially the most helpful came from a Redditor who said they were a FA:

  • As a FA, ask again. If they deny, then say you don’t feel safe being out of your seat and unbuckled any longer and you’d like to return to your seat. I honestly don’t know why some of my colleagues make this job harder than it is. Also, if you are so inclined, complain. — intheclouds247

This is probably the most perfect response considering that turbulence is getting worse and more unpredictable due to climate change.

So as etiquette goes, the flight attendant should be willing to move the cart. But if they’re not, bringing up safety might be your best bet.

Feature Image (cropped): Saschaporsche / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Billy Bob December 27, 2023 - 7:08 pm

In some cases I can go all the way around depending on the plane.

Rog December 28, 2023 - 1:18 pm

This is the “great game” played on flights almost everywhere. You either have had a water you gulped at the TSA check, or in the coffee shop/Bar before boarding. By the time the plane pushes back, taxis, and gets to 10,000 feet “ya gotta go.” The fact that you need to get the jump on the seat belt light to use the toilet, while the FA’s are readying their beverage cart, is irony. Same thing happens on landing. I just fly out of my seat and hang back until the cart is out of the way, or preferably fly in 1st to avoid all this nonsense, that I’m too old for at this point.


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