Paying to Pee: Have the Airlines Gone Too Far?

Ryanair's plan to charge for its bathrooms has been called inhumane.

ByABC News
April 12, 2010, 4:29 PM

April 13, 2010— -- Irish discount airline Ryanair's plans to charge to use the toilet might be a great cost-savings move, but it has been met by skepticism and outrage from critics who call it inhumane.

"It's one of the most absurd ideas I've ever heard," said Steven D. Soifer, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's School of Social Work.

The extra fee for the bathroom, plus the Ryanair's desire to remove two of the three restrooms to add more seats, causes problems -- especially for people with medical conditions, Soifer said. His studies include Paruresis, also known as shy bladder syndrome, where people are not able to urinate when in the presence of others. Soifer said, for instance, that a passenger might really struggle inside the sole airplane bathroom if they knew there was a long line of people waiting in the aisle.

The airline plans to charge either 1 euro or 1 British pound (about $1.30 to $1.55) to use the toilet for flights scheduled for one hour or less. By eliminating two of the three bathrooms on the plane, Ryanair plans to add six extra seats.

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That could cause major problems for somebody with incontinence who is constantly running up and down the aisle to use the bathroom, Soifer said.

"Who is going to be passing out euros or giving change? To me it's insanity," Soifer said. "Using the bathroom is a basic bodily necessity."

The airline has different hopes.

"By charging for the toilets we are hoping to change passenger behavior so that they use the bathroom before or after the flight," Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara told London's Daily Mail.

Soifer half-joked that if Ryanair does actually go through with this plan he will hop on a flight, be the first to use the toilet and then stay in the bathroom the remainder of the flight in protest.

And he's not alone in seeing potential medical issues with the new pay toilet plan.