Dear Passenger: We're Sorry You Had to Piss in the Barf Bag

SkyWest Airlines has apologized to passenger James Whipple, who used a barf bag to relieve himself in-flight.

The reason: They had prohibited him — and all other passengers — from using the airplane’s lone toilet because (wait for it…) a light was out and they didn’t want to delay the flight in order to replace it.

Mr. Whipple, who had enjoyed “two really big beers” at the Salt Lake City Airport, was apparently remarkably discreet: “No other passengers noticed Whipple using the bag, but a flight attendant asked him about it and told the captain, who called airport police.”

What tipped off the flight attendant? The sighs of relief? The shouts of “Whoo!” and “Shake and bake!” perhaps? (We’re speculating here.)

The airline, which provides commuter-jet service to Delta, apologized afterward, and gave him a voucher. Good luck cashing that in, Mr. Whipple!

As an aside: Thumbs up to USA Today for using the phrase “two ‘really big beers'” not once, but twice in their article, to describe the source of the urine. MARK ASHLEY

Passenger who urinated in air-sickness bag gets apology from airline [USA Today]

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  1. ptkdude says:

    Ok, so the light in the john wasn’t working. Notify the passengers, and warn them they piss at their own risk in the dark. I’m sure virtually any man on that plan could’ve at least hit the sink.

  2. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m not sure what exactly the flight crew would have been happy with. Peeing in a bag discreetly or letting ‘er rip all over, soaking pants, seat, under seat and creating a urinal stank.

    I think he deserves a medal, myself. NOT a police call.

    (Though: thank the GODS he didn’t have to go #2)

  3. Hoss says:

    What tipped off the flight attendant? He would have to dispose of the steaming bag, wouldn’t he?

  4. bluebuilder says:

    At least he hadn’t eaten ‘Two really big helpings” of Indian food before his flight.

  5. superlayne says:

    Disgusting. This is why I’m scared of public to semi-public transportation. This and the homeless. D: Urine is nasty.

  6. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’ve been on a flight where a similar thing happened. I just thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t develop the Texas-two-step halfway into the flight. As trai_dep said, what the heck is somebody supposed to do if they have to take a screaming #2 halfway through the flight?

    If that were the case, I think the burned out light would be the least of anyone’s worries.

    Sure, the flight’s only an hour…an hour following a meal of airport food. Enough said.

  7. facted says:

    I’ve luckily never encountered such a scenario as this, but all I can say is: disgusting. Let people judge for themselves whether they’d rather pee in the dark or not at all. Holding your urine for a long time (which it could be, depending on the flight) could be dangerous to your health!!!

  8. NeoteriX says:

    @superlayne:

    Urine is also actually quite sterile.

    (for most healthy people)

  9. MonsieurBon says:

    @NeoteriX: Yo, urine is sterile _to you_, not to everyone else. As in, nothing in your urine isn’t something that isn’t in your body already.

    Or so I’ve heard. :)

  10. Bay State Darren says:

    The light was out in the WC, huh? Everytime I’ve seen the flight attendants open the overhead compartment with the blankets and fire extinguishers and such, you know what else I’ve seen in there? A flashlight! I’m pretty sure that’s useful in the dark. No I don’t know how one would hold it while whizzing, but in 30 seconds, you could Macguver a way to attatched to something in the loo.

  11. zeiche says:

    Why did they have to call the police? Did they think urinating in a bag could be part of some terrorist plot? Questioning? Are you kidding? Don’t the police have better things to do?

  12. TPK says:

    I’m still appalled that the poor guy had to endure questioning by the police! What are they questioning him for? Are they going to charge him with a crime for having functional kidneys?

    What would happen if the passenger called the attendant and said “This is happening right now! Do you want it to be here, or in the commode?”

    And even more important, there are people who have legitimate medical issues in this area. You can’t just ignore them and hope they go away.

  13. Bay State Darren says:

    To be fair on why he was questioned by law enforcement, last I heard, and I don’t want to test it, public urination is considered a criminal offense in most jurisdictions. Although I suppose one could argue for a justification defense here.

  14. kimsama says:

    @MonsieurBon: Actually, it is sterile, in that there shouldn’t be any bacteria in it (unless it picks some up at the exit point, eww). Urine is mostly water and minerals, so it’s not just sterile to you but sterile in general.

    There was a really interesting book on germs by some doctor on the Daily Show once…wish I could remember the name — but if you read it, you’ll see that most of the bacteria on any part of people gets pretty much everywhere. So probably that guy’s urine was cleaner than the seats on the airplane. Or the airplane trays.

    Eww, I’m going to be a hypochondriac forever after reading that book.

  15. Sudonum says:

    @zeiche:
    The cops were called because he violated the rule about carry on liquids. There were more than 4 oz of urine in the bag.

  16. gardencat says:

    @Bay State Darren

    You are right about the flashlight!


    Not being able to use the bathroom anywhere is serious stuff…
    I still don’t understand why they had such a problem with this.

  17. Buran says:

    I was once on a flight where the forward head couldn’t be used because IT WAS OUT OF PAPER TOWELS.

    They couldn’t be assed to tell everyone to shake their hands or rub-dry them?

    Fortunately this was a 737 that had an aft head as well but really, that was beyond ridiculous. As is this. They could have duct-taped a flashlight to a wall.

  18. FLConsumer says:

    Damn, Sudonum beat me to it!

    @kimsama: You would be correct — the urine is FAR more sterile/clean than the carpets, seat-backs, or worse, seats.

    Actually, the head has its own lighting system that would have worked just fine for this purpose — the no smoking sign would have been illuminated and that certainly would have provided more than enough light for such a small space. Personally, I always carry a small flashlight (Inova X1, new style) in my pocket (and yes, I’m still happy to see you) and it’s come in handy far more times than I ever thought it would. 10 hours of light out of it if need be. Whether it’s someone dropping their cell phone/keys at the theatre, or in a car park, or getting stuck in an elevator, it makes a lot of sense to carry one.

  19. Helvetian says:

    I don’t know if I could do that in a barf bag. Wouldn’t that be considered indescent exposure if someone caught you? I’ve been fortunate but can’t imagine really having to go and not being able to.

  20. faust1200 says:

    Urine is indeed sterile but gross nonetheless. There’s no reason that 10 minutes couldn’t have been taken to change the bulb (if it even takes 10 minutes) I am guessing by law they cannot allow you to use the lav if the light is “inop” Every piece of equipment on a plane is listed on whats called a minimum-equipment-list. This tells you if the plane is flyable without the equipment and what to do with the broken equipment if you intend to fly and not fix it. example: Inoperative lavatory bulb-turn light switch to off position, attach inoperative placard to lavatory, lock lavatory. Like I said it’s asinine to fly without a working lav, even on the shorter regional routes.

  21. hemaphore says:

    What about the “Unoccupied/In Use” mechanism on the door?

  22. Terminixsux says:

    I recall reading about Inuit women would all stand around a woman after she gave birth and pee on her genital area becuase it was the best source of sterile liquid available to clean her up. People get all wierd about basic bodily functions. We all make them, so why the big hang ups?

  23. IC18 says:

    I had a similar experience once on a international flight where someone left a used diaper laying flat on the kitchen counter, NASTY. I remember the flight attendent making a big fuss over who did it, there was only three couples on the plane with babies or very young kids, so I know it was one of them, yet no one confessed. The fligh attendents had to spray the whole kitchen area with disinfectors. I was just glad we had lunch before the incedent.

  24. FLConsumer says:

    Most eastern/asian cultures would look at our toileting habits/methods and think we’re dirty.

    First, we sit our ass cheeks right onto the same surface where someone else just had their sweaty ass cheeks. Sure, you can use an ass gasket, but is a piece of paper really going to make THAT much of a difference?

    Next, would you ever try to clean your hands without soap & water? Why would you expect the same to not be true for your bottom end? Eastern/asian cultures use water to cleanse their behinds rather than just smear it around with paper and hope they got everything.

    Personally, while I’ve used (and mastered!) squat toilets and I even accept their medical benefits over our western style thrones, I took the compromise method — I installed modern Japanese toilets. 0.9 gallons/flush, heated self opening/closing seats, and it washes and blow-dries my bum! It does come in handy if I’ve had too many Botulism Bell tacos, if you catch my drift. And then there’s the coolness factor of it all, mainly in hearing the various screams coming from the bathroom when guests start pushing buttons without realizing what they’re getting themselves into.

  25. synergy says:

    @FLConsumer: BWAHAHA! Thanks for the laugh, I needed it at work. Great mental image. heee

  26. FLConsumer says:

    I should add that even with it only using 0.9 gallons/flush, the Japanese toilets haven’t even come close to clogging. We even pitched 1.5 rolls of Charmin Ultra 2-ply in there and it still swallowed it without a problem. Sure beats the 1.5 gallon American Standard toilets they replaced, which required plunging/snaking about 2x a week…and I’m a small person!

  27. ceriphim says:

    @MonsieurBon: Sterile: free from living germs or microorganisms; aseptic

    Whether it’s yours or mine makes no difference in that aspect.