|New accessible bathroom rule could raise flight prices. Beginning in 2035, newly built single-aisle aircraft with at least 125 seats will have to include bathrooms that are fully accessible to people in wheelchairs, per a mandate announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday. Existing planes will be unaffected unless they fully replace plane bathrooms after the regulation takes effect.
“We are proud to announce this rule that will make airplane bathrooms larger and more accessible, ensuring travelers in wheelchairs are afforded the same access and dignity as the rest of the traveling public,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement.
By 2026, newly delivered single-aisle airplanes will have to include grab bars and accessible faucets, door locks, and call buttons, as well as minimal obstructions for an onboard wheelchair to get there.
Implementing the new requirements will require planes to have fewer seats and, as a consequence, raise fares for everybody, airline trade groups Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association told the Transportation Department last year.
Fully compliant solutions would require the loss of at least three seats and possibly six seats, as well as galley capacity and workspace, they said. “Excluding the costs of implementation…the impacts on U.S. passenger airlines” would be “approximately $1.4 billion per year in lost revenue upon total industry-wide implementation” and “the conservatively estimated annual impact on foreign carriers would be approximately $250 million.”
Making airline bathrooms accessible to people in wheelchairs is certainly a good thing. But it still falls under the rubric of things that airlines could implement on their own accord (Airlines for America spokesperson Hannah Walden said U.S. airlines had already been “voluntarily working with the disability community, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders for seven years on solutions”) and with a solution more narrowly tailored, like implementing larger bathrooms on select planes rather than all of them.
The government has no business issuing such a wide-reaching mandate that will raise costs for airline passengers and companies alike.
But the Biden administration has been weirdly fixated on all the rules surrounding air travel. At times it seems like President Joe Biden is trying to situate himself as travel agent in chief. During Biden’s State of the Union address back in February, he pledged to make it easier for Americans to “afford that family trip” by doing things like “making airlines show you the full ticket price upfront and refund your money if your flight is canceled or delayed,” banning “surprise ‘resort fees’ that hotels tack on to your bill,” and prohibiting airlines “from charging up to $50 roundtrip for families just to sit together.”