U.S. DOT calls for for enhanced accessibility rules for single-aisle aircraft lavatories

  • New rule mandates larger lavatories to accommodate passengers with disabilities and their attendants.
  • The mandate applies only to narrowbody planes with 125+ seats delivered 12 years after the rule's effective date.
  • DOT's decision comes after lavatories on such aircraft have been reduced in size to accommodate denser seating.

WASHINGTON D.C. — To foster a more inclusive flying experience, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has rolled out definitive guidelines specifying lavatory sizes on single-aisle aircraft, Edward Russel from Skift reports. These regulations are especially targeted at ensuring passengers with disabilities have adequate space during their air travel.

The DOT has emphasized the importance of such an initiative, stating, “The challenges faced by passengers with disabilities in accessing in-flight lavatories can compromise their sense of dignity. This can often lead to them reconsidering their travel options, thereby restricting their freedom and movement.”

Under the latest framework, aircraft delivered around 2035 onwards — specifically, those narrowbody planes designed to seat 125 or more passengers — are required to feature lavatories spacious enough for both a disabled passenger and an assistant, with both being about the size of a 95th percentile male. For aircraft already in service, this standard will be applicable only if they undergo renovations related to their lavatories.

In recent years, airlines have been reconfiguring their seating to maximize capacity, a change that has been facilitated by the downsizing of lavatory spaces. Even with these changes, airlines and plane manufacturers have asserted that they’ve kept accessibility in mind. A significant solution they've introduced is the installation of removable dividers. This feature between two neighboring lavatories can be detached to create a larger singular space, catering especially to wheelchair-bound travelers.

It should be highlighted that the DOT had previously mandated the presence of bigger, user-friendly lavatories in twin-aisle, widebody aircraft. With this new mandate, popular aircraft models like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 will be impacted. However, the requirements will not pertain to certain smaller aircrafts, including the likes of the Airbus A220 and the Embraer E-Jet series.

As part of an ongoing effort to ensure a comprehensive air travel experience, the DOT had initiated a public feedback process for this proposal back in 2020. Following its announcement, the rule is slated to take effect approximately by September 24.