While flight attendant duties have not changed, a new announcement at United Airlines has flight attendants fearing unreasonable expectations from passengers about the cleanliness of lavatories.
United Airlines Flight Attendants Concerned About Implied New Lavatory Cleaning Duties
In a memo to flight attendants reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly, United notes a new in-flight announcement will be added addressing the cleanliness of lavatories onboard:
“We frequently tidy the restrooms, but if you see one that needs attention, please let us know.”
Furthermore, United is now providing a new “tidying kit” onboard that includes:
- metal tongs – to collect trash on floors of lavatory
- dustpan and handheld broom – to sweep up debris, glass or other refuse
United points to clean lavatories as an essential benchmark of customer satisfaction:
“Cabin cleanliness is a key component of customer satisfaction. The work you do to tidy the aircraft during the flight greatly contributes to overall cabin cleanliness, so we want to make sure you have the tools you need.”
Flight attendants are instructed to check lavatories every 30 minutes to ensure supplies are restocked and the lavatories are in a presentable appearance. The memo states:
“To enhance the tidiness of the lavatories for both customers and flight attendants, make sure one of the 30-minute tidying checks is accomplished after the main meal service, in between crew rest breaks and before the pre-arrival service.”
But the new onboard announcement and tidying kit has caused concern and frustration amongst many flight attendants. Contractually, flight attendant lavatory duties are limited to:
- wiping up standing water on the counter
- restocking supplies
- picking up loose paper towels
- ensuring the trash flap is closed
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents United flight attendants, told members:
“We do not wipe up liquid on the floor, disinfect flush buttons, door handles, toilets or other commonly touched surfaces; that is cleaning.”
The AFA has resisted the new announcement, expressing fear that it creates unrealistic expectations:
“For example, should a passenger inform a Flight Attendant that a lavatory “needs attention” and that “attention” requires intervention that would extend beyond the scope of our traditional tidying duties, there could be a resultant, unrealistic expectation that Flight Attendants will clean the lavatory. It might even result in an entirely inaccurate perception the Flight Attendants did not address the issue.”
To address this, United has instructed flight attendants to remove a lavatory from service should it reach a state that requires cleaning beyond the scope of flight attendant duties.
The United memo was dated 08 September and although I have flown United several time since then, I have not heard the new onboard announcement once.
United Airlines’ flight attendants are not happy about a new cabin announcement that implies they are responsible for keeping the lavatories clean. According to their labor agreement, they are only responsible for limited “tidying” duties. Whether flight attendant should clean the lavatory is a whole different issue.
If you do see a dirty lavatory on a United flight, remember that flight attendants are not necessarily to blame…another reminder that we must all clean up after ourselves.