The Privilege of the Loo – On Bathroom Distribution in Airplanes

When Swiss International Air Line recently released the seat map of their new Airbus A350 fleet, a real advantage of flying first class almost immediately came to my mind. Despite there are (at most) four first class passengers, they only share one bathroom. This quota must obviously feel like the real luxury for economy class flyers, who have to queue significantly before the landing to empty their bladder. I somehow felt that this needs to have a closer look and I compare some planes and airlines. I will have a look at narrow-body and short-haul aircrafts as well. However, I feel that this analysis is more worthy for larger airplanes in different configurations, where there is also a fixed assignment from a seat to a certain class.


How I did the Analysis

In order to perform the analysis, I had to take two assumptions about passenger behavior:

  • The passenger is respectful. Whenever there is a division between two classes in the plane, typically a curtain, the passenger will not cross it. This for example means that you don’t use the first class toilet as a business class passenger, if it is clearly divided. If there is a curtain within the same class, i.e. due to a galley, I will not take this “barrier” into account.
  • The passenger is using the closest toilet. This is especially important for some cabins, where the premium economy and the economy cabin is not separated. The opposite would be that a passenger might take a longer route, e.g. because there are more bathrooms in this area or because less people share this toilet. In reality, I guess that passengers also tend to use a toilet in the front of than one behind them. I don’t split rows. If a row is right in the middle the pax is going to a toilet in front of him. Passengers also unlikely cross galleys in my assumptions.


Performance in Detail based on the Swiss A350 Cabin

Unfortunately, the graphics above does not give exact row numbers as Swiss will finally apply to it. Not too surprisingly, you see that the First Class is a real loo luxury heaven:

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
First 4 1 4.00
Business 49 2 24.50
Premium Economy
Economy (front)
4 31.50
Economy (rear) 68 1 68.00
Total 247 8 30.88

You also see that the people in the rear have by far the worst experience, based on my assumptions. However, due to the high number of bathrooms in the middle of the plane, my assumption that people use the closest distance toilet is likely wrong. If I would just add three rows (equal to 27 additional seats), you get a more balanced view:

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
Premium Economy
Economy (front)
+ 3 rows
4 38.25
Economy (rear)
– 3 rows
41 1 41.00

Unfortunately, there is no given source for that – but the Wikipedia article about aircraft lavatories states that there is an absolute minimum of (in average) 50 passengers per aircraft. Swiss is way better than that mark in their new plane. However, if I concentrate on the economy class and use the weighted average, i.e.

the average over the whole basic class is not too far from the value.


Analysis of Different Airlines and Aircrafts

Of course, it is impossible to do an exhausting analysis of the number of passengers per cabin. I picked a couple of airlines and cabins for my analysis. The analysis is typically done using or seat maps provided by the airlines themselves.


Swiss A340-300

Link to seat map:

The A340-300 is not too frequently in use any more globally – but I felt that I first pick two more types of Swiss long-haul aircraft for my analysis. You already see in this count a typical characteristic: the toilets in the middle of the cabin are typically accessed from seats in front and in the back of the lavatory. If there is no separator, which is preventing passengers from going into certain direction (like a curtain or galley in my model), this is typically where the premium economy is located. One of the key perks (also to me) is that you leave the plane earlier after landing than standard class passengers. However, you feel to buy this treat with less comfort in the air… At least in these digestive moments.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 2 First 8 2 4.00
4 12 Business 42 2 21.00
20 37 Premium Economy
Economy (front)
2 52.50
38 45 Economy (rear) 60 2 30.00
Total 215 8 26.88


Swiss 777-300 ER

Link to seat map:

I stick with Swiss and opted for the Boeing 777-300 ER for two reasons: first of all, it is a a rather modern aircraft. Secondly, it is a Boeing. Are there manufacturer-specific advantages or very different distributions? Not really. Even though there are four toilets in the middle of the plane you see where you can expect the longest queue to the loo.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 2 First 8 2 4.00
4 17 Business 62 3 20.67
20 45/46 Premium Economy
Economy (front)
4 48.50
46/47 52 Economy (rear) 56 2 28.00
Total 320 11 29.09



Lufthansa Airbus 350-900 (48C/21E/224Y configuration)

Link to seat map:

Due to all several acquisitions, Lufthansa has multiple configurations for their Airbus A350 fleet. Also due to the fact that this configuration does not come with a First Class cabin, the average of passengers per toilet is significantly worse. Apart from that, you see that there are no major differences to the characteristics before.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 8 Business 48 2 24.00
12 34 Premium Economy
Economy (front)
4 44.75
35 42 Economy (rear) 66 2 33.00
Total 293 8 36.63


British Airways A350-1000

Link to seat map:

After having Lufthansa Group airlines in this posting so far only, time to add some of their peers to this posting. The longer version of the A350 is coming with ten bathrooms in the British Airways configuration. Very nice quota for Club World / business class travelers, while the World Traveler Plus / premium economy cabin is again located in the worst zone regarding my analysis.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 17 Business Class 56 3 18.67
20 59/49 Premium Economy
Economy (front)
4 48.75
51/50 59 Economy (rear) 80 3 26.67
Total 331 10 33.10


British Airways A380-800

Link to seat map:

As you see in the examples above, there are similar characteristic throughout different planes and airlines. The configuration impacts the quota slightly. Thus, I felt to check out some different plane payouts. Of course, one of the most unique planes nowadays is the Airbus A380, due to its two full deck construction. As the airlines use that space very differently as well, I felt it might be interesting to see if the figures of this massive plane are different. In the upper deck, British Airways is having a rather large section of Business Class, followed by World Traveler Plus and Economy. I did not find information if the toilets are fully separated between these classes. If my assumption that they are is wrong, there are four toilets for a total of 159 passengers (39.75 average), which is not bad, but also not top notch.


Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
50 59 Business Class 53 3 17.67
60 68 Premium Economy 55 2 27.50
70 83 Economy 104 2 52.00
Total Upper Deck 212 7 30.29

For the lower deck, I am quite sure that the four toilets in the middle of the plane are indeed divided between Business Class and Economy Class (two toilets each). I also saw the galley as a barrier for the passengers. Overall, the lower deck is having a slightly worse toilet distribution, but the values are overall very similar.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 4 First 14 2 7..00
10 15 Business 44 2 22.00
20 31 Economy (front) 119 2 59.50
35 42 Economy (rear) 80 2 40.00
Total Lower Deck 257 8 32.13
Total all A380 469 15 31.27


Qatar Airways A380-800

Link to seat map:

How does this analysis look like for a plane from another airlines? I checked it out with Qatar, also because they are one of two airlines I am aware of who installed the Premium Lounge or bar in the upper deck. Thus, there is just a very minor block of economy in the rear. Even they have an amazing loo coverage. 13.75 passengers per bathroom is of course outstanding.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 2 First 8 2 4.00
10 22 Business 48 4 12.00
25 32 Economy 56 2 28.00
Total Upper Deck 110 8 13.75

Qatar’s A380’s lower deck is economy only (they don’t have a Premium Economy at all). Overall, Qatar does care nicely about their customers, but again you see that negative peak in the middle of the plane.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
40 49 Economy (front) 84 3 28.00
50 73 Economy (mid) 239 4 59.75
75 83 Economy (rear) 82 3 27.33
Total Lower Deck 405 10 40.50
Total all A380 515 18 28.61



Singapore Airlines A350-900 ULR

Link to seat map:

This one might look like just another Airbus A350. However, I opted for this layout because Singapore Airlines uses the ULR (Ultra Long Range) version for their direct flights from Singapore (SIN) to the two New York City airports (JFK, EWR). The two longest scheduled flights of the world do feature business class and premium economy only (read my SQ A380 Premium Economy review). My model is definitely not appropriate in here as it assigns one toilet only to the read part of the business class cabin. Nonetheless,  a plane-wider average of 26.83 passengers per toilet is truly amazing. Even with five toilets only, there would be a share of 32.2 pax per toilet. Sanitary luxury above the clouds.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
10 17 Business (front) 23 2 11.50
19 29 Business (rear) 44 1 44.00
31 42 Premium Economy 94 3 31.33
Total 161 6 26.83



La Compagnie A321neo

Link to seat map:

As I went for Singapore Airlines’ most special plane, I just had to have a look into La Compagnie. You might not know the French carrier – they operate business class only flights from Paris-Orly (ORY), Nice (NCE) and Milan (MXP) in their Airbus A321 fleet. 76 people share three loos – which is top of my analysis. Due to having two toilets in the rear and the way my model is set up, the rear section does get a bit too much comfort credits again.

To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 10 Business (front) 40 1 40.00
11 20 Business (rear) 36 2 18.00
Total 76 3 25.33

By the way, the former British Airways BA1 all business class service from London City (LCY) to New York (JFK) even had three bathrooms for 32 people (10.67 plane average).

Ryanair B737-800

Link to seat map:

I picked Ryanair to have a European long cost carrier in this list. Finally, the figures look bad – but you have to be straight: three toilets is a standard configuration in the Boeing B737-800 (no MAX) – many established and reputed airlines will have similar figures in their short and medium haul narrowbody fleet. KLM’s configuration of the same plane features 186 seats, for example (62.00 pax per bathroom). Due to their Domestic First seats in the front of the cabin, some US-American airlines do likely likely look better in that regard though. Delta’s Boeing B737-800, for example, comes with a total of 160 seats (average: 53.33).

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 17 Front of Cabin 95 1 95.00
18 33 Rear of Cabin 96 2 48.00
Total 191 3 63.67


Norse B787-900

Link to seat map:

Having a focus on European low-cost carriers, I felt that Norse’s intercontinental fleet might be an interesting one. The cabin has a premium cabin in the front, which somehow is similar to a premium economy. Apart from that, there are 282 economy seats in their Boeing B787-900 Dreamliner. There is one toilet in the front of the economy cabin, four in the middle and two in the back of it. Even if you criticize your model, it likely means that you create quite a lot of movement in the cabin. Norse is having the worst quota on the widebody side of my analysis. However, the premium cabin comes with two sanitary locations for just over 50 passengers. If the loo distribution happens to become a key criteria for selecting your carrier after reading this post – the first rows of the Norse cabin might pop up on your list.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 8 Premium Economy 56 2 28.00
9 17/18 Economy (front) 75 1 75.00
18/19 33/34 Economy (middle) 141 4 35.25
34/35 42 Economy (rear) 66 2 33.00
Total 338 9 37.56


Lufthansa Boeing B747-800

Link to seat map:

Last, but not least – and indeed the last plane I also checked out when I prepared the post is the Lufthansa Boeing B747-800. There were several reasons for it. Majorly, I wanted to have a look at the other two deck airplane series  Apart from that, I am just about to have a plane on this configuration soon. Finally, though, the main deck configuration is quite interesting and I was curious about the result. The upper deck, though, is not too much of a special thing. Lufthansa uses the higher part of the Queen of the Skies for Business Class only. You may have quite a bunch of drinks there. Less than eleven passengers share one toilet – that’s amazing.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
81 88 Business 32 3 10.67
Total Upper Deck 32 3 10.67

Coming to the lower deck. Lufthansa uses the front of the plane for their eight first class seats, followed by additional business class passengers. However, the plane layout requires three rows of economy passengers before there are four rows of premium economy. Feels a bit like an airplane configuration sandwich. The majority of the lower class bathrooms is in the rear of the Boeing, though. Apart from a rather weird distribution of seats and bathrooms, the average in that section is not too well. In my model, the weighted average (see above) for the economy cabin is 48.67.

Row To Row Class Pax max Bathrms. Pax / Bath
1 3 First 8 2 4.00
4 11 Business 48 2 24.00
16 33 Economy
Premium Economy
2 67.00
34 Economy 142 4 35.50
Total Lower Deck 332 10 33.20
Total all B747-800 364 13 28.00


My Conclusion

Would the distribution of bathrooms influence my future booking behavior? Likely now. However, I feel it is quite interesting to see how much the average over all cabins of the plane differs. Of course, any configuration with a lot of business class or even first class seats should be expected to be at the top of list (which is not always the case). A lot of the outcome of this posting also depends on the general structure of the (empty) airline and how you can configure it ideally. Bathrooms don’t earn money on a plane. However, too few of them might impact your customer experience. Similar to the seats the airlines use (including the seat width and pitch and their recline), the number of loos in a certain way reflects your attitude towards the customer, doesn’t it? Here is the list of averages for all planes I analysed above.

Airline Aircraft Avg. (Total)
1 La Compagnie Airbus A321nei 25,33
2 Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 ULR 26.83
3 Swiss Airbus A340-300 26.88
4 Lufthansa Boeing B747-800 28.00
5 Qatar Airways Airbus A380-800 28.61
6 Swiss Boeing B777-300ER 29.09
7 Swiss Airbus A350 30.88
8 British Airways Airbus A380-800 31.27
9 British AIrways Airbus A350-1000 33.10
10 Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 36.63
11 Norse Boeing B787-900 37.56
12 Ryanair Boeing B737-800 63.67

Additionally, I have to say that a key driver for me doing this posting was the analysis of the premium economy cabin. I use this class rather frequently. And, indeed, I very often had to wait quite long (especially before landing) for a loo. Yeah, it is a premium economy cabin and not a reduced business class service. But still, you paid more money than other passengers. You do get better service in other regards, but just in  very few cases, the premium economy quota of passengers per bathroom is better than the total average:

Airline Aircraft Avg. (P.E.)
1 British Airways Airbus A380-800 27.50
2 Norse Boeing B787-900 28.00
3 Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 ULR 31.33
4 Swiss Airbus A350 31.50
5 Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 44.75
6 Swiss Boeing B777-300ER 48.50
7 British Airways Airbus A350-1000 48.75
8 Swiss Airbus A340-300 52.50
9 Lufthansa Boeing B747-800 67.00

Bad message: I don’t like that – but there is hardly anything you can do against it. The premium cabin has to be in front of (the majority of) economy class seats. It is one of the key perks to me to get out of the plane quicker than the rest and thus, for example, have a better time at immigration. Vice versa, you are typically behind business and first class – which means you are close to the middle of the plane aka the worst location for this kind of passenger needs.

On top of that, my model may be weak, but this characteristic location of the premium cabin also often means that your assignment to the “best toilet” is mostly the nearest as well and thus right in the section I felt you are going to anyway. Premium Economy simple means Pay more, shit later. Nevertheless, enjoy the other perks of that cabin.


Title picture: Swiss A350 cabin layout, copyrighted by Swiss


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