I love Comedy Central’s Key & Peele — I think it’s one of the funniest sketch comedy shows out there. As View from the Wing wrote about yesterday, just this week they had a skit entitled “Turbulence.” In it, a guy gets up to use the lavatory on a plane when the seatbelt sign is on, and gets into a hilarious argument with the flight attendant.
Here’s the clip (which does contain some profanity):
Not only is it a funny clip, but I think it also gets at an interesting topic. It’s certainly not “illegal” to get up and use the bathroom when the seatbelt sign is on:
- Nowadays we seem to see more and more pilots leave the seatbelt sign on longer. I’ve even had some pilots just leave it on the whole flight, even on longhauls. I think that’s sort of reckless by the pilots, since they’re less likely to be taken seriously if there actually is serious turbulence up ahead.
- You’re not violating any laws by getting up when the seatbelt is on.
- Instead, what you should be more concerned about is not following crew member instructions.
In other words, flight attendants have different ways of asking you to be seated. Sometimes I’ve heard flight attendants say “I’m required to inform you that the seatbelt sign is on, which means you’re supposed to be in your seat.” If you continue to use the lavatory, you’re not violating any regulations. Instead the flight attendant is simply having you acknowledge that they informed you the seatbelt sign was on, and what that means.
Now, if a flight attendant actually says “you need to be seated” and you don’t listen, then technically you’re violating FAA regulations. Will there be a punishment in practice? Probably not, assuming the air is fairly smooth, the request isn’t made several times, and you’re not being ridiculous. It certainly becomes more of an issue when you try to use the lavatory while the plane is taxiing to the runway, though (as I’ve seen happen many times).
So in general there isn’t a problem with using the lavatory when the seatbelt sign is on. Try to avoid it when possible, but if you’ve gotta go you’ve gotta go. If the flight attendant gives you direct orders to sit down, try and do that. If you really have to go, simply try to reason with them — “I really, really have to go.”
What has been your experience with getting up on planes while the seatbelt sign is on?