Controversial Economy ‘Travel Hack’ Leaves First Class Passengers Furious

Cue: massive etiquette debate...

A controversial economy travel hack has once again surfaced online. The last time the hack made headlines it got some entitled pointy end passengers furious. One even went online to complain about economy passengers “invading” their precious premium space.

The hack? Watch the video below and find out.

The hack we are speaking of is the second hack in the above video, by flight attendant @katkamalani, who this morning took to TikTok to share three travel hacks that will make your economy flight more comfortable.

“Change the way you travel,” Kat captioned the video. In the video she describes how female passengers can check “secret compartments” in the lavatory for sanitary napkins. She then gets on to travel hack number two – the subject of this article.

“Everyone thinks you can’t use the first-class bathroom but you totally can. As long as you’re not standing in the galley you’re free to use their lavatory.”

The third and final hack is never to accept an airline’s first offer when they’re trying to buy you off an oversold flight. Why? Because you can usually get more.

Kat’s video was only posted half an hour ago, so it has yet to attract many comments. However, judging by the complaints we’ve previously heard (on other platforms and on other threads/forums) about economy passengers using business class or first-class bathrooms previously, we imagine it’s only a matter of time.

To give you a taster, one aggrieved Australian business class passenger (with the username Gjspectre) took to a community thread with the following complaint in 2019: “Of late on 737 business class flights there has been an increasing number of economy passengers strolling through business class and using the toilet.”

Just as an aside – in Australia, our domestic business class is more or less equivalent to America’s domestic first class (or at least it used to be before airlines started making cutbacks, though that’s a story for another time).

“On my last flight to Adelaide a clearly drunk passenger did this three times, with absolutely no resistance from the crew.”

He then added, “I’m not particularly fussed [but] perhaps their announcement at the start isn’t enough? I’ve commented before that Virgin Australia with their white rope deters this effectively.”

Some other users in the thread came to Gjspectre’s defence. One wrote: “Get them back where they paid for I say. Qantas doesn’t have single class service aircraft. They charge extra for convenience and people pay for it with points and/or money. I really don’t see the argument its ok.”

“It’s like the apologists for Qantas who pay 16K for Qantas First and blindly accept their business class unsophisticated F product which does not equate the to super premium fare paid.”

“Even worse,” another added, “is when they queue in the aisle waiting to use the toilet.”

“It’s something the staff could easily address and tell them to go down the back.”

Another wrote: “My observation has been some keen observers wait until the cabin crew are busy or absent upfront and then make their move. Personally, while I do sit in business class regularly on the 737, it’s not something that bothers me.”

“It is a toilet,” another wrote. “But one positive of flying business, is it being less likely to have to wait or queue to visit the loo (Particularly on longer flights). Plus having less disturbance via foot traffic. Not the biggest deal in the world of course, but something which may annoy an airlines premium passengers.”

“Australian culture is generally egalitarian in nature and understand some of the responses here. However, QF could quickly resolve the discontent and grumbling by either delivering on the implied promise or not making the promise at all. Rules are rules and if the crew are ignoring them, that’s not really acceptable.”

In other places around the internet, however, Kat’s point that economy passengers are usually allowed to use the business/first class bathroom (in a pinch), seems to be upheld (though this, in the end, comes down to which airline you are flying, and the discretion of their staff).

The economy travel hack has been discussed in various forums by people from all around the world, with business and first-class passengers everywhere from Australia to Canada expressing their irritation with economy passengers exploiting this grey area (and economy passengers pointing out that people overly exploiting this loophole means that when those that really need to use it try to use it, they might find it shut).

One user in forum travel.stackexchange.com complained their grandmother had been chided by Air Canada staff for using the first class bathroom, when the economy one was dirty and there was a long wait for it, and said that this was really not cool.

On the other hand, a Quora thread pointed out that keeping a divide in some circumstances is completely understandable, saying economy passengers on international flights on premium airlines like Emirates can hardly be expected to gain access to first-class bathrooms, which are furnished with such expensive luxuries as showers, without having paid for it.

Emirates first class bathroom. Image Credit: Emirates

Forbes, however, reported in 2019 (in a context of domestic flights), “First class bathrooms are for all passengers (mostly).”

Forbes reported: “According to their representatives, American Airlines, JetBlue (Mint-class flights), and United do not have any lavatory class restrictions on U.S. domestic flights. Alaska Airlines is a bit stricter, stating, ‘When possible, we ask that guests use the lav [lavatory] in the cabin there are seated in.’ And for the world’s second-largest carrier, Delta, their policy states that, ‘While customers should use the lav in their cabin of service, our crew leverages situational flexibility to support special accommodations as needed.'”

In other words, they’d prefer it if you used the toilet of the class you paid for, but if there’s a big queue, going to the toilet is kind of a human right.

RELATED: Woman’s ‘Gross’ In-Flight Act Sparks Massive Etiquette Debate

Forbes added: “So, why do flight attendants, even if using their own discretion, enforce lavatory class restrictions? For one, there are security concerns, such as a congregation of passengers forming near the cockpit door, which is especially problematic if a pilot wishes to exit.”

“Second, the policy encourages passengers to use the mid or rear lavatories to prevent interruption to food and beverage service, which often starts at the forward area of the aircraft and is ongoing during the flight for the first-class cabin.”

“Third, there’s also a concern for the convenience of first-class passengers, who are generally airline loyalists or paid a premium for their seats, and thus are extra important to the airline’s bottom line. But while there are valid reasons for class restrictions, their fairness is questioned when coach lavatories are unavailable.”

There you have it: a sneaky travel hack. Use the information wisely.

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