Next On The Airline Chopping Block: Lavatory Sinks?

Disturbing news from Horizon Air: rising costs have apparently forced the airline to replace lavatory sinks with a “lone bottle of hand sanitizer glued to the counter.”

The New York Times explains:

…a recent short hop I took on Horizon Air set a new dismal standard for cost efficiency.

The lavatory had no sink.


It did have a lone plastic bottle of hand sanitizer glued to the counter.

The proposed passenger bill of rights recently thrown out by the United States appeals court would have provided travelers with “food, water, fresh air, power and working restrooms on any flight that has left the gate and been on the tarmac for more than three hours.” That document didn’t feel the need to expressly define restrooms as including a sink within which to wash one’s hands.

The article then goes on to discuss the impact of airline aesthetics on the customer experience. Yawn! Let’s talk about the sink.

We’re not ones for extremist speculation, but let’s consider a hypothetical.

The Era Of Sinks Has Sunk!: That’s right, gone are the days of hand washing in airplanes. It’s outdated, unnecessary. Besides, it’s not like you need to wash your hands before the meal service.

And with oil cresting $140 per milliliter, it’s too expensive to haul all that weighty worthless water when airlines can instead turn hand washing into a money maker. Money maker, you ask? Sure! What if passengers use up the one glued-on bottle of hand sanitizer? What will you do then?! Buy a new personal-size bottle of sanitizer, clearly. $5 per bottle, available alongside snacks and headphones.


This Particular Sink Was Broken: This option is boring and consequently wrong. This sink is obviously a flying harbinger of doom.
Plan accordingly.

Fear of Flying [NYT]
(Photo: Bryan Burkhart)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Manok says:

    what’s next? An eggcrate on the floor to sit on instead of those expensive seats we have now?

  2. Manok says:

    i meant milk crate, neeed coffee baddddd

  3. hypnotik_jello says:

    A hole in the fuselage to take a crap in, rather than spending fuel to transport the crap back…

  4. RuthMerula says:

    I encountered something similar on an American Airlines partner flight — on
    one of the shabby little Embraer jets: there was a sink but it didn’t work,
    so instead there was a pop-up container of hand sanitizing wipes glued to
    the counter.

    On at least two of the flights I’ve been on, the seat cushions were in such
    dismal shape we had to put the American Way magazine under the cushions to
    keep the metal structure from jamming us in the behind the entire flight.

  5. Parting says:

    Eeeeewwwww!!! Hand sanitizers aren’t as affective as the classic soap and water wash.

  6. Sempera says:

    Er, I thought they WERE more effective? I’m the crazy one that doesn’t trust the soap in airline bathrooms and will wash my hands and then proceed to use my own hand sanitizer. Well, until those are banned too, I guess.

  7. Parting says:

    @Sempera: Nope, unfortunately these types of sanitizers are only partially effective when compared to soaf and water.

    However, doing both is good too (since you touch handles after washing your hands).

  8. Dobernala says:

    @Sempera: Soap and water actually wash dirt away. Sanitizer just kills some germs, thats it. If you’re doing #2 and need to clean your hands afterwards, I think you can understand what I mean.

  9. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    Don’t give them any ideas!

  10. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Just wipe your hands on the back of the seat in front of you. I’ve been in planes that smelled like that anyways.

    Maybe cut back on executive salaries and perks instead?

  11. Myotheralt says:

    @hypnotik_jello: You have to think about how the guy on the street feels about this too. Imagine you are walking your dog, when all of the sudden you get knocked out by a piece of shit. Also, the pilot would have to fill out a TFOP (things falling off plane) report.

  12. dragonfire81 says:

    There should be a law saying airlines and travel companies MUST provide a working sink and toilet for customers.

  13. Benny Gesserit says:

    A certain Canadian “code-sharer” with Greyhound who shall remain nameless (koff koff Acadian) did something like this a couple of years ago.

    If you’re LUCKY there’ll be a few scraps of toilet paper available and a handful of moist towelette hand sanitized packets in the non-working sink having been pawed through by previous patrons. (Bottle glued to the counter – luxury!)

    Of course, with rest stops now and then, lack of “facilities” on a bus is marginally less heinous.

  14. thesabre says:

    @Sempera: Most hand sanitizers are simply anti-bacterial goo. Sure, they will kill strep and staph (which don’t even transmit via oral-fecal route), but they do nothing to common viral strains like influenza, rotovirus, and norovirus.

    All it will take is one norovirus outbreak on a plane, since it spreads via fecal contact, and they’ll think differently about not providing a sink.

  15. ByeBye says:

    Well, is sanitizer going to wash away the shit off my hands when I realize there is no toilet paper on flights either? HMMM???

  16. vastrightwing says:

    Ultimately, flying will revert back to the days that only the privileged will be able to fly. Few will be able to afford it anymore.

  17. forgottenpassword says:

    eventually they are just going to slide us into shelved compartments & use knockout gas on us.

  18. _catlike_ says:

    @hypnotik_jello: Maybe you’re not too far off…

  19. Lorem Ipsum says:

    Soon they’ll just ditch the toliet and make us use those vom bags.

  20. reviarg says:

    @thesabre: Actually many hand sanitizers can inactivate viruses. It all depends on the anti-microbial agent. I’m not certain that triclosan can do anything but ethyl alcohol has been repeatedly shown to inactive viruses. I work with Influenza and when I spike samples with ethanol I end up with non detectable levels of the virus.

  21. bobpence says:

    Because hand sanitizer is alcohol, some Muslims will refuse to use it. (Reports from Britain indicate that some Muslims simply bypass the hand sanitizer station visitors are supposed to use before entering the wards to prevent the spread of MRSA. Of course those with an objection should simply clean with soap and water instead, and we can argue for a long time why they would object to hand sanitizer since they are not ingesting it.) If any Muslims with this objection care to object to this airline practice, it should disappear quickly.

  22. amhenn says:

    It is kind of funny how they get rid of sinks yet still offer free beer and wine during the flight which probably accommodates maybe 25% of the passengers. So I guess if you feel ripped off, have at the free alcohol, because my horizon flight last week, I drank probably 32oz. of beer at no extra cost.

  23. satoru says:

    There’s a difference between using hand sanitizers and soap. In the hospital I work, you usually use hand sanitizers before and after you see patients. However, some patients have signs outside their rooms indicating you have to use soap and water. Usually this is because you will have to handle fecal matter. In these cases hand sanitizers are useless to kill the associated pathogens (aside from the ‘mess’ in general).

  24. Sidecutter says:

    @bobpence: That’s rediculous. Are there seriously people who can’t tell the difference between drinking alcohols and medical alcohols, and see how using one externally to disinfect has no relation to the practice of ingesting the other? Completely different stuff, for crying out loud.

  25. kspray-dad says:

    THIS is why I had my bowels and bladder removed.

    Chinese blackmarket FTW!

  26. BGB-ATL says:

    People (of all religions) need to get the hell over themselves. Just a couple of weeks ago some guy held up a plane because of his blocking the aisle praying, and then had the gall to be all pissed off when they asked him to get up.

    If I have to say “under god” during the pledge of allegiance, and have money that says god all over it (and I don’t complain about it), then you can sit the hell down and pray in your seat, and you can use some hand sanitizer like any sane person would do. If you can’t use hand sanitizer because of your crazy bizarro religion, then take the bus or freakin walk. Nobody cares.

  27. catnapped says:

    @Lorem Ipsum: Pay toilets, FTW

    Just slide your credit card to use the facilities ($25)

  28. synergy says:

    Considering the number of women I see who either just walk out from the bathroom OR only splash some water on their fingertips and call it a day, will this make a major difference in the cleanliness of many people? Every time I see these gross people I make sure to touch the door handles as little as I can. Ick.

  29. jillian says:

    Horizon are a regional carrier. The planes are small. They don’t even have snack service because there’s no time while in the air – their busiest runs are hops between Northwest towns and cities. There’s rarely TIME to use the bathroom during flights, so they’re not as well stocked as say, their parent Alaska Air’s lavatories.

    Also, did I mention the planes are small? Because there’s not much room for water.

    The NYT writer needs to fly something smaller than a 727 once in a while. Or learn that people really aren’t meant to go to the bathroom on the puddle jumper planes.

  30. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    Remember the poll the other day about avoiding flying? THIS is why I’m avoiding it: cheap (or NO service), cramped seats, separate fees for everything, the x-tra large person next to me overflowing into my seat, rude staff, filth/dirt/bugs/rodents on planes and seats, and now of course no sink in the lav. Gross. You can take your flight and shove it.

  31. loueloui says:

    This is so nasty. I can totally see this as starting some new kind of avian virus. Not avian because it came from birds, but because it’s stems from being jammed on a plane with a bucketload of people for hours on end with no handwashing facilities.

    And for the people who use public restrooms without washing their hands- Shame on you. You’ve just handled your junk, or worse! Now I have to touch the door after you, not to mention everything else you will likely handle in the store.

    I’m not an especially squeamish person, but not washing your hands after using the restroom is just nasty. I was ata Chili’s once, and one of the employees walked out of the stall without even looking at the sink. There was none in there either (I checked). I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in the Aviator.

  32. bohemian says:

    Next they will screw the bathroom doors shut like they did ashtrays. Then they will sell you a kitchen can sized plastic garbage bag and an individual packet of hand sanitizer for $9.99, but you will have to hang on to your trash bag until the flight is done.

  33. Lambasted says:

    This is revolting. Airlines have now gone too far. I thought I lived in the United States of the America. One of the most developed countries in the world. What are becoming some third world country where we now can’t even afford to dispense water?! Have I woken up in the Dark Ages?

    If I ever flew on an airline that didn’t provide basic hygiene facilities that would be the last time I ever flew with them again. And now that I know Horizon Air doesn’t, I would never fly with them and no one I know would either. If they can’t even afford water, what else can’t they afford? Maintenance, maybe? Cheaper air isn’t worth my risking my life or catching some bacterial infection from touching a feces laden handle. I think I need to gag now.

  34. Buran says:

    I was on a flight once where the restroom was closed BECAUSE IT WAS OUT OF PAPER TOWELS. Seriously.

    Haven’t they heard of shaking your hands dry? It’s water. It’s harmless.


    How could they have allowed one to be open with no sink!?!?

    File a complaint. Now.

  35. Buran says:

    @BGB-ATL: Religion is a personal issue. Hygeine can KILL YOU if you do it wrong.

    Apples and oranges.

  36. @jillian: Bless you for injecting reason into this discussion. Too late to prevent hyperbolic ranting (see: @Lambasted “Cheaper air isn’t worth my risking my life or catching some bacterial infection from touching a feces laden handle”) about the Evil Airline Industry, though.

  37. ChChChacos says:

    So now when you are on one of those flights that get stuck on the runway for 3+ hours, what the hell are you going to do? You wont have water in the restroom (that you could possibly drink from if times were that bad), you wont have snacks, you wont have drinks. What are you supposed to do?

  38. Lorem Ipsum says:

    @ChChChacos: Cannibalism?

  39. dragon:ONE says:

    Try flying a business jet that has a ninth seat that doubles as the toilet.

    Worst. Trip. Ever.

  40. MercuryPDX says:

    @doctor_cos: Are you crazy? Those perks make being the president of a multi-million dollar corporation worthwhile!!! Do you want them to only own ONE home and only ONE reasonably priced car? Do you want them to live like… -gasp-.. commoners?!?!?!
    @amhenn: Maybe you can use the beer as hand sanitizer.

    @ChChChacos: You should sit down, shut up, and praise Jeebus that the owner of that airline will still be getting a hefty performance bonus that allows him to fly on private jets with working lavatories, good food, free drinks, an ample baggage allowance, minimal TSA screening, and plenty of legroom any time he needs to travel.


  41. MercuryPDX says:

    Damn…. Wrap that entire comment in the sarcasm tag please.

  42. ironchef says:

    silly passenger. Don’t cha know passengers don’t have rights?

  43. Umisaurus says:

    @jillian: While I would normally agree with you, there are situations where sinks will be needed, like if you spill something on yourself. What if you had a baby that threw up during the flight? You’d be wanting some running water then, that’s for sure.

  44. Umisaurus says:

    I tried posting the comment before, but it didn’t show, so…

    @jillian: While I see where you’re coming from, I don’t agree that the “it’s regional! back off” defense applies. Sure, it’s a short flight, but there will be situations when you’ll want the running water. What if your kid throws up? You accidentally spill something on yourself? Trust me — you’ll want a sink then.

  45. rgs says:

    This is a stink about nothing. Horizon flies small planes on short routes. Their smallest plane is a Bombardier Q200 which seats 37 people. There’s not much room on a plane like that for a sink. They’re short flights. Either don’t pee on your hands or hold it.

  46. cyborg5001 says:

    I saw the same thing on a United flight a few months ago. There was a baggie taped over the faucet, and a bottle of sanitizer glued into a holder on the side of the sink, and no paper towels. I guess if you don’t have water, then you don’t need paper towels. So before I sanitize my hands, at least one of them has to come into contact with the same bottle plunger thingy that the last 50-100 people came into contact with after they used the bathroom.
    It doesn’t matter that that hand will very soon be “Sanitized,” its still disgusting.

  47. ByeBye says:

    @Buran: Man, good thing I wasn’t on that flight, wet hands are hazardous to my health.

  48. Ciao_Bambina says:

    If you really do feel strongly about washing your hands in running water, remember that a healthy person’s urine is sterile (and warm!) Although your seatmate might complain about that odd odor when you return from the lav…

  49. mike says:

    @Ciao_Bambina: Urine may be sterile, butt fecal matter is not.

    I smell a lawsuit…and it smells awful…and oddly wonderful.

  50. ahwannabe says:

    @vastrightwing: I’d actually be okay with that. Bring back trains and boats for the rest of us.

  51. madog says:

    The whole soap vs. antibacterial argument ends with one logical conclusion:

    If you have shit on your hands, and you use soap and water, the shit is gone.

    If you have shit on your hands and you use antibacterial goo on it, then you’ve STILL GOT SHIT ON YOUR HANDS.

  52. pauljunk says:

    Shit and piss before you board. Sit in your fuckin’ seat for 4 hours and stop bitching. Everyboday expects to be treated like a princess when they fly. Buy a fuckin private jet or stop bitching. Be thankful that you can cross the continent in 4 hours for a reasonable price.

  53. pauljunk says:

    Shit and piss before you board. Sit in your seat for 4 hours and stop bitching. Everybody expects to be treated like a princess when they fly. Buy a private jet or stop bitching. Be thankful you can cross the country for a resonable price in only a few hours.

  54. triple7 says:

    this is the era of morons leading morons. perhaps this nyt journalist had no idea how different planes are equipped. horizon is a regional carrier that flies smaller planes that often are not equipped with sinks due to the short duration of the flights. these planes have been common among regional carriers for close to 30 years now. MANY regional carriers fly slightly larger regional jets WITH a sink in the lavatory. all of this commentary on a phenomenon that could have been understood perfectly well if the original journalist had just asked the flight attendant why there was no sink.

  55. femmesavante says:

    @madog: Your logic is perfect! Not only do you still have shit on your hands, you’ve only killed the weak germs… adding to the drug resistant strains. =(

  56. hermanfish says:

    It looks like the NYT writer did not contact Horizon Air to get an official statement on this. I fly Horizon at least once a week and have always had a great experience. They typically give flyers a lot of the perks usually reserved for first class for free, like complimentary newspapers and free beer/wine.

    Horizon’s fleet is made up of smaller planes, usually prop jets, so there is much less room than the big 747’s people are probably used to. Before writing an article like this, the writer should have done some research to see if the sinks are even part of the design for the small planes that Horizon uses. I’m not an expert, but I’d assume that the planes were built without sinks before I would guess that Horizon removed sinks for cost savings.

    Horizon is a great airline. It is a shame to see them blasted like this by the NYT.

  57. kable2 says:

    Oh god, the last plane I was on was gross. But it was not the plane it was the people I had to sit next to.

    On the flight out I sat next to a guy that must have been munching on raw garlic, I was almost pukeing from the smell .

    On the flight back home, I was heading toward my seat and I saw a whale of a woman standing next to where my seat was. I started to panic, I was in the window seat and she was in the isle. As I was about to get into my seat she reached in and lifted the arm rest in an effort to commender my limited space for her fat ass. I sat down and quickly lowered the arm rest. I thought it would help me keep most of my seat…..I was wrong. The stewardess looked at me with the kind of look you give an accident victim.

    As I sat there squat into my 1/2 of a seat with the woman oozing over the armrest jiggling and sweating on me I thought back to the good old days of air travel and longed for the garlic man.

  58. The next time I fly will I need to bring my own TP?

  59. parabola101 says:

    No sink… hummmmm, so if the person next to you gets motion sickness and vomits where would they go to clean up? Or will they just have to aim for the airline staff?!

  60. blackmage439 says:

    When United decided to cancel my flight WHILE I WAS ON MY WAY TO THE AIRPORT, for no reason at all, I decided to stop flying. I would rather drive ten hours than deal with that crap.

    Speaking of which. No sinks? That’s disgusting. I see the current future of airlines as Pakistani air buses that always fly with a 20% overbook. Instead of wasting billions on the next supersonic airliner that goes Mach 20 and won’t be near ready until 20 years from now, maybe the companies should be embracing other technologies (or senses of humanity) that make the current state of air travel more appealing.

  61. gamin says:

    Seriuosly, we are going to start steping on a scale and beign charged by the pound

  62. quirkyrachel says:

    Eeewwwwwwwwwwww. Those sanitizer things aren’t meant to completely replace hand washing. Gross. What do you want to bet that an airline will take out the sinks and then some illness breaks out on a plane, and hello lawsuit?

  63. vladthepaler says:

    If the sink were broken, it would be deactivated not removed.

  64. MaytagRepairman says:

    Next they will rip out the overhead bins to “save weight” and then clean up on all of those checked baggage fees they just added!