Oh Please. “Due to Heightened Security…” Says the Stewardess

So I was flying home from L.A. last week and the flight attendant announced, “Due to heightened security, passengers in coach” — yours truly — were expressly forbidden from going to the bathroom that might be closest to us, and required to march to the back instead. Apparently, if we took a few mincing steps forward, bladders full, this could all too easily be construed as rushing the cockpit to execute the pilots and commandeer the plane.


My question: When is security no longer “heightened”? It’s been over a decade since 9/11. Is the answer NEVER? We’re supposed to consider all privvy-pointed passengers as potential terrorists for the rest of our days?

Meekly I walked to the back bathroom and waited in the longish line. Relief came not in the john, however, but here. Knowing I could blog about this never-ending drumbeat of fear and someone might understand. – L.

(Pre) OCCUPIED (with terrorism)

(Pre) OCCUPIED (with terrorism)

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38 Responses to Oh Please. “Due to Heightened Security…” Says the Stewardess

  1. SKL October 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    I agree, it’s like wondering when my interest rates on my savings accounts are going to go back up. Ha!

    I used to love flying to DC because you were not allowed to go to ANY bathroom within half hour of takeoff or landing, (which is almost the entire flight from where I live). If there was a lot of air traffic backup or fog or whatever, you were within half an hour of landing/takeoff for 2-3 hours. I like to drink coffee when I travel, but it was a risky proposition when I was traveling. :/

  2. Rob C. October 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    I remember years ago being told I had to use the bathroom in the back of the plane because using the one in front meant that I, a lowly coach flyer, would have to walk through the first class section to get to the bathroom in the front.

    They probably started using the “heightened security” excuse because while people might argue not being allowed to disturb first class with filthy coach presence, who in their right minds would argue against heightened security?

  3. Michelle October 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Be careful — spending too long in the bathroom can look pretty suspicious, too! 😛

  4. anonymous this time October 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Haven’t heard of this one lately. Maybe it’s different on Air Canada.

  5. Jane October 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    I guess they’re assuming that terrorists all fly coach…

  6. Joanne October 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Have you heard the “keep the window shade up” during take off or landing due to safety yet? I’ve gotten it a few times recently. Sometimes it is the whole plane and other times it is just for passengers over the wings. It seems to be random and I can’t fathom what safety concern this is suddenly taking care of.

  7. Susan October 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    So annoying. Even more so when I think of the likelihood that this is just an excuse to keep the first class bathrooms more “exclusive.”

  8. Brooks October 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    I fly a lot, and this usually depends on the airline. Some are more honest (in sync with what Rob C. said below) and just say that the front bathroom is for first class only.

    All airplane cockpits have door locks, so the bathroom “rule” is bogus.

  9. Andy October 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Maybe it was dirty or broken. Security seems to be go to excuse these days anytime someone does not want to reveal the real reason.

  10. Eileen October 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    I flew last month and noticed the instructed us to use only the bathrooms in coach, but they didn’t frame it around security. I just figured that first class didn’t want us in their bathrooms.

  11. Kate October 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    So were you on red alert? Orange, green or yellow?

  12. GeoffreyW October 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    The episode “Drum Head” from Star Trek – The Next Generation always comes to mind when stories like this pop up, which is quiet often lately.


  13. Earth.W October 22, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    The Queensland State Government has created powers to rip into motorcycle clubs involved in criminal activities but the laws are written so loosely that any person wearing a work uniform could go to prison. The Government is arguing that bikers are terrorists.

  14. Earth.W October 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Terrorism by releasing chemical fumes that assaults the nostrils.

  15. hineata October 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    @Michelle – boy, that is actually pretty scary. Sending F16s if you stay on the loo too long. Some Muslim women who have been subjected to certain forms of female circumcision can take twenty minutes to urinate – I was stuck on a plane while pregnant behind a Somali woman, and ended up so desperate a very kind man let me jump the place in his line.

    And these are Muslims, whom we know are all terrorists – would they shoot the plane down these days ‘just in case’?

  16. Earth.W October 22, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Check this out; http://www.loweringthebar.net/2011/09/f-16s-scrambled-due-to-inappropriate-bathroom-use.html

    “In two incidents on September 11 (the recent one), F-16s were scrambled to escort planes on which “suspicious activity” had been reported. The activity: using the bathroom. Frontier Flight 623 and American Flight 34 were escorted to their destinations after passengers either made “too many” trips to the bathroom or stayed “too long.”

    “This is not a good thing.

    “Initial reports as to Flight 623 were that two people had been “making out” in the bathroom, but that rumor turned out to be false. A passenger became suspicious of three people sitting together, one of whom used the rear lavatory for 15-20 minutes and one of whom used a forward lavatory for some shorter time. Although the crew “did not feel threatened,” they still notified the TSA, which reacted in its usual measured way by sending up a fighter escort, just in case.

    “The F-16s tailed the plane to Detroit, where the three were detained and interrogated. An FBI spokesperson later said that it turned out one passenger had just been ill, and the other one was “using the restroom” apparently for the standard reason. Why any of them, let alone all three, had been detained at all was not immediately clear.”

  17. Ben October 22, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    What would be the point of rushing the cockpit? Commercial airplanes had reinforced metal doors on the cockpit to avoid exactly this sort of scenario. Now, not even that is enough?

    If going to the toilet poses a security risk, you’re either too paranoid or a serious mistake was made while building the plane. This airline deserves a prize for incredibly bad customer service.

  18. maggie October 22, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    So you can be detained for taking too long in the head? REALLY?

    And they will send the military out to “escort” the plane?

    I’m giggling and shaking my head here. God forbid you end up with the kind of flu that erupts at both ends, and you then need to clean up before leaving the bathroom.

  19. Liz October 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    When I was in first class, I was told they send all their coach passengers to the back so that we can have a bathroom all to ourselves, and not have a line of people standing right next to our seats. I call bogus, using safety as an excuse.

  20. craftykd October 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Maybe it’s sort of like “higher than normal call volumes”?

    I can’t remember calling a call centre in the past decade where the “call volumes” were not “higher than normal.”

    Does any call centre anywhere ever have “normal” call volumes anymore?


  21. EricS October 22, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    It’s people still living the “what if” lifestyle. No matter how stupid, inconceivable, or ignorant, as long as they can quell their “what if” fears. Yet, most will continue to put themselves in harms way, because they can’t be inconvenienced. ie. texting and driving/walking. Humans, some…many (these days) are just completely dumb.

  22. Chihiro October 22, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    @Joanne -They actually do that so the people not sitting by the window can see out! Nothing to do with safety, really, they just don’t want the middle and aisle seat passengers who are eager to watch the place take off have their fun spoiled by a grumpy window seat passenger. Source-a friend’s mother has been a flight attendant all her life and told me about it.

  23. Thalass October 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Joanne: The window shades being up is so that the hosties can check outside before opening the door, in the event of a really bad landing. For fire or whatnot.

  24. Jenny Islander October 22, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    I’m waiting for the day when a flight attendant approaches somebody who has a reeking, dripping baby at arm’s length and says that passengers have been complaining, and the woman announces loudly, “Well, due to heightened security concerns, there are eight people in front of me.”

    Of course, she and the baby would probably both be detained.

  25. Nicole October 23, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Slightly OT, but generally on the BE AFRAID ALWAYS topic-

    At an elementary school here a plain clothes police officer went into the building through a back door (he was given a key- the schools are locked). He walked through the school, no one said anything to him. Apparently this was VERY BAD and now the schools are telling teachers to call lockdowns if they see someone they don’t know in the building. Everyone is a suspect I guess. The superintendent was very disappointed.

  26. J.T. Wenting October 23, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    “They probably started using the “heightened security” excuse because while people might argue not being allowed to disturb first class with filthy coach presence, who in their right minds would argue against heightened security?”

    exactly, though they now also use it as an excuse to close up the front toilet in low cost carrier aircraft, saving them a few minutes in between flights and a few bucks as they don’t have to pay to have it cleaned, while still technically being within the FAA limits for the minimum number of toilets required.

  27. BL October 23, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    Try to imagine an individual citizen practicing the same security measures routinely justified by institutions. Said citizen would probably end up being forcibly ministered to by a latter-day Nurse Ratched or the equivalent.

  28. Donna October 23, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    I’ve heard this numerous times too. It has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with reserving first class for first class passengers. Safety regulations do mandate that they not close off the coach and first class cabins any more – remember they used to have a curtain – and now people want to mosey up there.

    This seems to fall in line with the boulder story below. People have learned that the buzz word “safety,” especially when proceeded by child, gets people to listen and things excused.

  29. Papilio October 23, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    I’m laughing out loud trying to imagine the pilots being afraid of you. Oh, the terrifying sight of a meek skinny little 50-something-year-old mommyblogger… The horror, the horror!

    More toilet in plane horror on my very first flight: they said we were going to depart ‘any minute’, so I thought I could easily wait until after that to use the bathroom.
    Hah. “Any minute”.
    45-60 minutes later I really couldn’t wait any longer, and of course by that time we were actually going to depart. So my parents told the flight attendant the problem and asked if I could quickly go.
    She reacted as if my parents wanted her to let me do cartwheels in a minefield while dodging bullets. She rather wanted me to wet myself and sit in my wet, stinking clothes for the next 7+ hours. I was 11!
    Fortunately my parents could persuade her, there was a call to the cockpit, and she let me go while the plane was already riding. Of course nothing happened.

  30. Dave October 23, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Are the first class passengers such a threat to the people in coach that we have to avoid them. Is this about security of class snobbery? When will all the foolishness end?

  31. Trey October 23, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Have you seen the leaked documents that says the TSA thinks no one is trying to attack domestic flights?


  32. Jason October 23, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    How were you supposed to get back to your seat without walking back in the scary cockpitward direction?

  33. Emily October 23, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    @Papilio–If you do a quick Google search for “tips for flying with kids,” or similar, a lot of websites actually suggest putting older, continent, able-bodied kids in Pull-Ups on airplanes, precisely because of the long stretches of time on flights when the bathrooms aren’t available, for whatever reasons–“safety,” or “heightened security,” or delays in take-off, etc. Of course, I think this is completely nuts, because the most obvious solution would be for the airlines to stop with the worst-first thinking around bathroom access on airplanes, not to put school-aged kids temporarily back in diapers. Even if the plane was taking off, it’s possible to steady oneself walking up and down the aisles by grabbing the seats on either side of the aisle. If it really is a “terrorism” issue, let’s look at the groups who are more likely to have problems waiting for the bathroom. So far, I can think of kids, older people, and pregnant women. None of those groups scream “terrorist” to me.

  34. Bob Davis October 24, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    Just one more reason to consider Amtrak (if there’s a train going to where you want to go). And for us old timers who remember when we weren’t supposed to used the restroom until the train left the station, this is no longer a problem. Amtrak cars have holding tanks like motorhomes.

  35. Papilio October 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    @Emily: :-O I don’t even know what to say! They must really hate people. (How long before everyone should wear a diaper on a plane?)

  36. Carthage October 25, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    There is nothing wrong with increased security. After 9/11 it was definitely required. The problem is whe they increase it to this level of insanity. What are they going to introduce next? Security is meant to improve your flight experience, not make it unbearable.

  37. Catherine Scott October 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Don’t know if you also know about the regulation about passengers not ‘congregating’ when on a flight to the USA from elsewhere. My husband got the heavy handling because he was talking to a colleague who happened to to be on the same flight to LA.

    Then there was my 50 year old disabled sister who was strip searched because she asked for an aisle seat (because she can’t climb over people’s legs to get into and out of her seat).

    My family and I have made the decision to not visit the US until this rubbish stops.