FAA orders removal of all airplane bathroom oxygen masks

Yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a directive instructing the removal of oxygen masks from every single commercial aircraft in the United States.

The reason? A “potential security threat”.

No specifics were mentioned, but apparently, the oxygen generator used in the airplane bathroom could somehow be used in terrorist attacks – and this was serious enough to order every one of them removed or disabled. The most likely scenario is that the oxygen generators would be used to create a massive fire, too fierce to be put out by current extinguishers on the plane.

Thankfully, rapid decompression events that require oxygen masks are quite rare But from now on, if you are in the lavatory during one of them, you’ll have to make your way back to your seat to get some oxygen. And remember, always fit your own mask before helping others. Houston’s KPRC got a statement from the FAA, published after the jump.

[Photo: Flickr/Danquella Manera]

FAA’s Full Statement

“The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently required the nation’s airlines to disable the oxygen generators located in all aircraft lavatories to eliminate a potential safety and security vulnerability.

The airlines completed the work on the 6,000 aircraft in the U.S. fleet on Friday, March 4.”The FAA, along with other federal agencies, identified and validated the potential threat, then devised a solution that could be completed quickly.”In order to protect the traveling public, the FAA eliminated the problem before making the work public.

Had the FAA publicized the existence of this security vulnerability prior to airlines fixing it, thousands of planes across the U.S. and the safety of passengers could have been at risk. This proactive measure will help keep travelers as safe and secure as possible.”Rapid decompression events on commercial aircraft are extremely rare. If there is a sudden loss of cabin pressure, pilots are already trained to guide the aircraft to a safe, breathable altitude as quickly as possible. Flight attendants are also already trained to assist passengers to quickly access oxygen – including those in the lavatories.”Lynn Lunsford Mid-States Communications Manager Federal Aviation Administration

Mother attempts to flush newborn baby down airplane toilet

A 25-year-old medical student has been arrested in Northern India after attempting to flush her newborn baby down the toilet.

The woman was flying home from Turkmenistan when she gave birth in the bathroom. Upon landing, she left the plane, leaving the baby in the toilet.

The entire toilet had to be removed, and surgeons at a local hospital used a saw to remove the newborn from it. According to doctors, the baby is in critical condition.

The mother was arrested in the airport and has been transferred to a local hospital where she was reunited with her baby.

Once doctors declare her fit, they’ll investigate her motives, but it appears she had been studying medicine in Belarus and did not want to return home with a baby.

[Image from Flickr/dpstyles]

Asian airline puzzled by mysterious mid-air toilet clogs

Any time you put 300 people in a metal tube, the strain on the in-flight toilet system is going to be immense – but Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific is having more than just a bit of trouble.

The airline is actually dealing with a huge mystery. Their toilets are so unreliable that a Hong Kong bound flight had to make an unscheduled landing in Mumbai, India when all ten of the bathrooms became clogged and unusable.

The 278 passengers on the “crappy” flight were delayed for 18 hours. But to be honest, I’d rather spend 18 hours in Mumbai than 18 minutes on a plane with no bathrooms.

In other incidents, two other Hong Kong bound flights had to refuse boarding to a substantial amount of passengers when all the bathrooms on one side of the plane stopped working.

All these incidents are on the Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft, and Cathay Pacific is said to be working overtime to figure out what is causing the problem. A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman suggested that passengers may be to blame.

‘You would be amazed at what we find in the pipes when we clean the system – not just face towels but medicine bottles, socks and even children’s stuffed toys,’

Until the real reason is uncovered, engineers are carrying out deep cleaning treatment and replacing pipes.


“Passenger created” toilet clogs delay flight for 10 hours

Remember those signs in the airplane bathroom that politely request that passengers refrain from throwing anything into the bowl (other than the usual stuff)?

Well, apparently passengers on Biman Bangladesh airlines saw it, but either ignored it, or decided to see what would happen if you stuff it full of bottles, cups, paper and sanitary napkins. And they didn’t do this to just one of the toilets, but all five of them.

The major clog in this airplane plumbing resulted in a 10 hour delay in taking off from Dhaka. The plane was London bound, and the plumbing job only took 2 hours, but by then they would have arrived at London past its nighttime curfew.

Wing Commander Asaduzzaman, who is in charge of engineering at the airline, blamed retuning Bangladeshis for clogging his toilets.

This crappy problem (pardon the pun) is just another blow for the airline, since the United Nations recently advised their own staff to avoid flying them because of safety concerns.


Galley Gossip: Nonrevs, deadheads & commuters in (and out) of uniform

Wanna know the best way to change clothes on an airplane? I bet you do. I’ll get to that in a moment. (Or you can just scroll down to the bottom of this post.) Now that I’ve got your attention…

Have you ever seen a uniformed crew member sitting on the jumpseat and flipping through magazines? Or even worse, watching a movie? Don’t be too quick to judge. There’s a very good chance that lazy flight attendant is a nonrev passenger, not a working crew member. Looks can be deceiving.

Standby – waiting for an open seat on a flight that one is not ticketed on, whether it’s an airline employee or a passenger who is ticketed on a specific flight who has decided to depart at a different time.

Nonreving – (non-revenue passenger) flying standby on an airline employee’s travel passes. Nonrev’s are always at the the bottom of the standby list

Commuting – When an airline employee nonrevs from the city he/she lives to a city he/she is based. Because I commute to New York (where I’m based) from Los Angeles (where I live), I’m an LA commuter.

Deadheading – traveling on company time to cover a trip departing out of a city different from where one is based. This usually happens on a reserve month when a base is short flight attendants. Flight attendant gets paid to deadhead, but aren’t officially working the flight. Deadheaders go to the top of the standby list surpassing ticketed standbys.

Most nonrevs travel in uniform in order to bypass the line at security and bring liquids on board. Others wear their uniform because they’ve just finished a sequence and didn’t have time to change clothes because they had to sprint across the terminal to catch a commuter flight home. While some wear their uniforms because they’re actually going to work as soon as they step off the airplane.

Once while deadheading back to base in uniform, the agent issued me an aisle seat in the front row of coach. I happened to be the last passenger to board. As soon as I sat down a man two rows back started in with, “Why does she get to sit in that seat! I wanted that seat! She’s an airline employee – that’s not right!”

Seconds later the agent asked me to switch seats with the complainer. I sighed, grabbed my belongings, and switched seats. As soon as I settled into the second seat I heard it all over again. Another passenger wanted my seat, a seat they deserved, not me. A flight attendant working the flight leaned over and quietly asked me if I’d be willing to switch. I didn’t have much. I was in uniform. And so I played musical chairs again.

On a different flight a passenger turned around, glared at me, a lowly uniformed crew member sitting in a passenger seat, and yelled, “This airline sucks!” after the Captain made an announcement that the flight had been canceled.

It was hard not reacting to that.

The first thing nonreving airline employees do the morning of their trip is check the passenger load. This takes place seconds after rolling out of bed while the coffee is still brewing. Airline employees will continue to check the standby list constantly throughout the day right up until departure time. Of course passenger loads determine the outfit.

Here I am doing what I always do before a flight, while trying to nonrev from Chicago to New York last week – #88 on the standby list.


My nonreving outfit of choice consists of dark blue jeans and a blouse or dressy shirt when the flights are open and I know there won’t be a problem getting a seat in coach. Needless to say, it’s been awhile since I’ve worn jeans on the airplane. What I usually end up sporting is a nice pair of trouser pants with the same kind of shirt mentioned above – just in case the only seat available is located in first class – or a jumpseat.

At my airline jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops are not allowed to be worn by nonrevs occupying jumpseats or premium cabins. This explains why nonrevs are some of the best dressed passengers on board the airplane and why I can spot a nonrev a mile away.

Even my husband has an official nonrev outfit; khaki pants, a button down shirt, and brown boots. The funny thing about this is he actually refers to it as his “nonrev outfit” even when he’s not traveling on my passes.

Recently on a flight to Dallas, Murphy, a commuting flight attendant based in New York, boarded the airplane dressed in navy blue polyester. I couldn’t help but notice a bundle of clothes tucked under her arm and the sneakers peaking out from under her pants. Quickly she threw her crew bag into the overhead bin and made a beeline for the lav. A few minutes later she exited the bathroom wearing a smile and looking a whole lot more comfortable.

“What’s the secret to changing clothes in the lav?” I asked Murphy as I served her a beverage during the flight. “Like how do you do it so quickly in such a contaminated confined space?” Murphy shared the following tips…


  1. Have your clothes ready to go. That means get them out of your bag before you board the flight.
  2. Change into the shoes you want to wear before you get on the airplane. That way you’ll have less to carry and you won’t be tripping all over yourself in the lav.
  3. Wear (uniform) pants instead of a dress. They’re easier to change out of when you’re in a hurry.
  4. Take advantage of the baby changing table. Use it to hold your clothes. No changing table? Line the sink with paper towels.

Make sure to check out my next Galley Gossip post about a new website for airline employees (and retirees). Until then, here are a few other posts involving the joys of nonrev travel:

Photo courtesy of travelin librarian