Home Travel Can You To Go To The Bathroom When The “Fasten Seat Belt” Sign Is On?

Can You To Go To The Bathroom When The “Fasten Seat Belt” Sign Is On?

by SharonKurheg

One time when Joe and I were flying from JFK to MCO, we couldn’t help but hear the conversation in the row directly in front of us.

We had hit a pocket of turbulence so the “fasten seat belts” sign was on. But one of our fellow passengers apparently “had to go,” so she asked the flight attendant if she was allowed to get up to use the toilet.

The FA said she wasn’t allowed to give her permission but if she (the passenger) were to get up to go to the lavatory, she wouldn’t stop her.

It reminded me of a photo I saw on the internet a long time back that I always thought was adorable…I don’t know the details behind the note, but I assume it was a similar situation.

PC: No idea. I saw it on the internet with no photo credit

So what IS the deal?

If you had coffee with your breakfast and travel constipation hasn’t set in yet (or maybe you’re just getting over it. Or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to deal with it), or if you made sure to thoroughly hydrate before you got on the plane and now it’s time to get rid of that excess fluid, and the “fasten seat belt” sign is on, ARE you allowed to get up and go to the bathroom?

Technically, no.

According to the law numbered as 14 CFR § 121.317(Passenger information requirements, smoking prohibitions, and additional seat belt requirements):

(f) Each passenger required by § 121.311(b) to occupy a seat or berth shall fasten his or her safety belt about him or her and keep it fastened while the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign is lighted.

But you know as well I do that bowels and bladders can’t read laws.

And that’s where things go into a gray area of sorts.

Technically, a flight attendant can’t give you permission to go to the lavatory when the “fasten seat belt” is on. But if you do get up to go, they only may or may not try really hard to stop you (especially if you explain your dire situation), because they’re just as human as you are and understand that sometimes you gotta go when you gotta go.

That being said, there are times when you definitely shouldn’t ignore the “fasten seat belt” sign. Don’t get up if there’s active turbulence or if a pilot has instructed flight attendants to take a seat and prepare for a bumpy ride, take-off or landing. If your plane is taxiing, taking off, or landing, those are never good times to remove your seat belt or attempt to go to the bathroom (most airline accidents [not the bowel/bladder kind] happen during those phases of the flight, and your actions could endanger everyone’s safety and cause the take-off or approach to be aborted).

If getting up is truly dangerous for you (and anyone you could potentially fall over) because you’re standing/walking/in the lavatory while the sign is on, the flight attendant may well ask you to stay seated after all. If they do, by all means do what they say; the last thing you want is to disobey a flight attendant’s instructions.

So, CAN you?

Technically no.

But depending on the situation, the flight attendant may or may not stop you, especially if you explain the situation.

That being said, it’s generally not recommended that you get up when the “fasten seat belt” sign is on.

If nothing else, make sure you “go” before you get on the plane 😉

Feature Photo: Martin Abegglen / flickr

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Tom July 21, 2021 - 3:41 pm

I find that US flight crews often leave the seat belt sign on for the majority of the flight. It’s just less hassle and risk for them, plus it gives the FAs the right to yell at people most of the time if they choose to. Lazy, I think. In other countries, it’s not uncommon for the seat belt sign to go off a few minutes after takeoff, assuming smooth air is expected in the climbout.

SharonKurheg July 21, 2021 - 4:01 pm

Wow. Gives them the right to yell at people? Lazy? Really? Before you make accusations like that, you might want to sit down and talk with some members of flight crews, both U.S. based and from other countries, and get the actual reasoning. Because we both know what happens when one assumes… (or just makes stuff up, for that matter)

Randy July 23, 2021 - 2:37 pm

With all due respect, I have noticed the above also when flying international carriers.

Stephen Parker July 21, 2021 - 9:11 pm

Level flight and smooth air, go or pee on the floor?


Taxi, climbout, landing, it’s shaking your teeth? Stay put and see how long you can hold it.

FA yells at you? Sit down and wait for them to dissappear. Explain your predicament to the other one.

Mike Malone July 22, 2021 - 10:45 pm

Yes, because the alternative is a bigger problem…..clean up in row 37!

Randy July 23, 2021 - 2:39 pm

Had a flight on AA last month and, as we were taxiing in to DFW, not one, but two different people got up to use the restroom. I had never seen that before, much less twice on the same flight.

SharonKurheg July 23, 2021 - 4:10 pm

Maybe they were together and had the same bad chicken 😉

JS December 31, 2022 - 6:28 pm

There are a few times I’ve had to get up and go with the seatbelt sign on. Usually that means passing a flight attendant who is either in the vicinity of the galley or in their jumpseat. I tell them I understand the sign is on, but I need the restroom to prevent a medical issue. I’ve only really had to do this when the crew does a few rounds of pre-departures and then, in the most recent case, the pilots kept the seatbelt on all the way from Atlanta to Denver (and the crew did not serve the meal in First “for safety reasons” which is another topic…).

What gets me is that even after all that, you are closing the lavatory door and they make a P/A either as you go in or come out to the whole airplane with the reminder about the seatbelt sign. That’s just rude.


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