Hey, you already pay to use the bathroom on flights: In defense of Ryanair’s proposed “pay to pee” scheme

Before your head explodes with indignation at Ryanair’s recent proposal to charge passengers about $1.65 to use the bathroom on flights, let me inform you of something you may not have considered: You already pay to use the bathroom on every flight you take.

That’s right, American Airlines charges to use the bathroom, and so does Southwest, British Airways, Uzbekistan Airways, Rwandair Express, Trans Air Congo, and every other airline in the world. The cost of using the bathroom– and yes, there is a cost to using the bathroom– is included in your ticket.

But Ryanair’s proposed a la carte-style pricing on bathroom use, what Gadling’s Tom Johansmeyer refers to as “pay to pee,” transfers the bathroom cost from your ticket to the bathroom itself. And I, for one (literally, I think I’m the only one), applaud the airline’s move.

After all, why doesn’t it make sense that only those who use the bathroom should pay for it? Why should people who rarely use the bathroom on planes subsidize those who have the bladder capacity of frightened salamanders?

Before you accuse me of being a heartless capitalist (a charge I do not entirely deny), let me point out another bonus of the pricing scheme: Charging for bathroom use at the lavatory itself, rather than including it in the price of the ticket, will cause people to conserve resources.

How so? Well, when people are presented with the fact that going to the bathroom has an actual cost, they might decide to “hold it” for a while instead of downing five bottles of water before a flight and peeing every ten minutes. (Think about it: If your bathroom at home were somehow coin-operated, would you use it more or less frequently?) This means less water will be used for flushing and washing hands, and less paper will be used for drying hands and… that other thing paper is used for.

Sure, Ryanair’s proposal might make you feel like you’re being nickel-and-dimed to death yet again by an airline. First luggage surcharges, now you’ve got to pay to pee. But just as it’s more fair for people who check two bags to pay for it rather than be subsidized by other passengers who pack more economically, it’s also more fair for only those people who use the bathroom to pay for it.

As for me, I’ll hold it.