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Let’s talk about Delta “#PeeGate”. Who was most at fault? Plus, what about passenger rights?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

tweet from at jesentme Joe Brancatelli
From @joesentme on Twitter

The above is a tweet from the very well regarded travel journalist, Joe Brancatelli. It really is amazing how powerful a statement you can make in 140 charters on twitter. He makes a very valid point.

quick reader poll
From @RenesPoints on twitter

It seems since there were no police (or airport security people)  coming on-board and beating up the Delta passenger last week that the paying customer who had to pee during a 30 minute taxi, and then was kicked off the flight, it is not getting the same press coverage as all the other events recently. Who knows, maybe folks are just used to the airlines treating us this badly nowadays?

I wanted to dive in and share my thoughts on this matter as it really is bothering me more and more. First some obvious points.

Per ABC News Delta has defended the action saying:

“Our flight crews are extensively trained to ensure the safety and security of all customers,” the statement read. “It is imperative that passengers comply with crew instructions during all phases of flight, especially at the critical points of takeoff and landing.”

Now let me say I agree with this statement from Delta in principle. When you are taxiing to and from the runway it is no time to be walking around a jet. Very bad things can happen to you, those around you etc. The place to be safe is strapped into your seat. We must follow the direction of all the flight crews for everyone’s safety!

But let’s think about this for a moment. I want you to raise your hand if you have ever either A) gotten up during taxi to go to the lavatory or B) been on a flight where someone else got up to go to the lavatory (while I can not see you I think all hands have now gone up).

And this is my point. While I was not on the flight I feel for the passenger in question. Adding up the time from the time he took his seat and then the safely briefing then on top of that a 30 minute taxi and you may have to really go to the lavatory if you did not have a chance to go before flight. I landed in LAX not too long ago and we were parked on the taxiway for OVER 1 HOUR! Do you think folks got up to pee? You bet they did, over and over and over!

So who is “most” wrong here? Clearly, to me, it is Delta Air Lines. There was just no reason for this to go the way it did. The worst thing that should have happened was the jet had to get back in line to take off if they were “that” close to takeoff.

Now please understand I am in no way suggesting folks should get up whenever they want to and I have already stated, like Delta, safety first. Beyond that what one person does can impact possibly hundreds of others on the aircraft (including connections etc.) But what happens next in this case is ridiculous.

Delta did not have to return to the gate. They did not have to kick the passenger off and refund his ticket and refuse to fly him on that flight or another one. This was NOT a combative (from what I can see) paying passenger. He just had to go or there would have been an accident in the seat. I ask you, would you like that to have happened and then YOU fly in that seat next trip? Not me! Plus Delta, IMO, just compounded the problem and delay that could have been a short one into a much longer one.

Beyond that this is just one more step toward the fact that the government will start imposing more and more rules on the airlines or some kind of passenger bill of rights since the airlines clearly are being “bullies” to their paying customers. There can be many reasons to turn a jet around, divert, or the like but some rational judgment must be used by flight crews and most times I think that is what does happen – just not this time.

What do you think. Who was most at fault over this situation? Will this, and all the other endless events this month, end up in more government regulation over the airlines? You tell me! – René


Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Do you REALLY lose your place in line if someone gets up to pee? Does the tower have x-ray vision, peeking into the plane?

    • @Joe – Not always but many times, what does happen is, if near takeoff the jet will drive down the runway a bit then pull back in line. Or, if not near takeoff, they can pull “over” and wait till all are seated to move again (or just stop on the taxiway where they are).

  2. Don in ATL Reply

    Delta was wrong. I spoke with two friends here in Atlanta who are flight attendants, and both said they allow passengers to use the bathroom when it is an emergency. They simply notify the pilot who does not move the plane, and then after the bathroom use, everything moves again. They said, there are rules, yes, but you gotta have some common sense when you enforce them. DL even called the FBI who interviewed this guy at the gate, and decided TO DO NOTHING – which is exactly what the FA should have done.

  3. OK…. Seriously now, time allowing, who DOES NOT hit a restroom before boarding a flight? In today’s day and age where we can sit on a tarmac for up to 3 hours, what was he thinking????

    While I don’t think what Delta did was the correct thing to do, it was well within their rights to do so. The man needed to use the restroom and was told that he could not due to safety reasons and to take his seat. After some more time, he got up and used the restroom anyway, disregarding the instructions of the Flight Attendant.

    So now the FA knows that she has a passenger that will not listen to instructions and that could potentially be an issue in a true emergency if one should occur.

    More likely to happen was that the plane was on an active runway and could move at any time. I saw an FA on my flight a couple of weeks ago run for their seat during takeoff, and it could have gotten ugly real fast. If the pilot chose that time to move the aircraft or start to take off, the passenger could have hurt himself or other passenger on the plane, thus making himself a potential danger.

    Me, I am 6’3″ and on 737 or a319/320 the seat belt just fits, so I avoid airplane bathrooms at almost all costs, probably would have tried to do the same thing to avoid a puddle on the seat. Although, I would have asked for an empty cup and a blanket to hide what I was doing and then handed them the cup ;).. Thinking about it, the airsick bag might have worked as well.

    I all seriousness, I would have crossed my legs and waited for takeoff. Knowing that it is a federal offence to not follow flight crew instructions, I don’t want to put myself in that position.

  4. Santastico Reply

    Another FA that felt entitled to make someone’s life miserable. They for the power to do that so very often they use it because they can. I am in favor for passengers to pee on their seats just to comply with FA instructions. Is that anywhere in the rules that you cannot do that if you need but cannot go to the bathroom?

  5. FA was so wrong – compelled to create a prob, and the pilot amplifies it by turning around, back to gate, kick off the pax, everyone exits plane, refund customer and says “you’re on your own” and his bags are in Milkwaukee. really crappy of Delta organization.

  6. @santastico

    But now that becomes an environmental hazard, they then need to go back to the gate to have it cleaned… I was on a flight where a passenger got sick while boarding. needless to say, boarding was delayed while waiting for the local airport hazardous materials people came to clean and decontaminate. It was a team of 3 people who were masked and gloved, not your maintenance person with a mop and bucket.


  7. I was on a flight in Asia and during takeoff and landing, the FAs locked the lavs to prevent their use.

    During a landing into Tel Aviv, where passengers are required to remain seated, a passenger attempted to get up to go to the lav and a FA actually DID hand the guy a cup!

  8. I fly a lot amount for business, mostly through main delta hubs. I honestly can’t recall someone getting up after we’ve started moving away from the gate. This is even during Minneapolis winters when we would be de-iced more than once due to sitting in line too long after the first de-icing.

    I have, however, seen people sneak over to the lav during boarding, especially in FC.

  9. Santastico Reply

    @FMK: very typical on flights to/from and intra Asia. It must be a cultural issue but usually Asians cannot care less about complying with rules on an airplane. I’ve seen several times people getting up as soon as the planes touches the ground.

  10. @FLN,

    I see the lav uses during boarding almost every other flight.

    When I see someone walk past me to use one in the front of the plane, I always make sure I am looking for them to come back the other way… I would hate to think of someone deplaning at that point.


  11. @ Gregg

    [removed by Rene]

    So you avoid “at ALMOST all costs” which means you’re reserving yourself your right if it ever happens to you.

    [removed by Rene]

  12. Jason Crawford Reply

    Everyone has been in this situation. The key is as a passenger is to notify the fa and explain the urgency. We know the rules during taxi and must make the fa aware. If that doesn’t work then clearly the passenger has done everything in their power possible to avoid this situation.

  13. You never know what can happen when taxiing. On a DL flight from CLT to JFK the other day the pilot pulled out of a long line for takeoff and executed a midfield departure. We were in a CRJ 900. I questioned the reduced safety margin this involves apparently in the name of ontime stats.

    Anyone looking at the line of planes in front of us would have thought they had plenty of time to take a leak. So there are valid reasons for requiring all to remain seated during taxi. However, delta’s reaction was a bit absurd. If the choice was getting up or soiling oneself, I think most people would do the same thing this gentleman did.

    Maybe diapers will become a required amenity.

  14. I don’t want to make assumptions about the man but if people are polite and ask ahead of time, most FAs allow them to use the restroom if it is safe. If its not, I’ve heard them say to wait 5 minutes until they are in the air or whatever.

  15. I have done it, and I clearly had to weigh the urgency of my need vs the heaviness of my guilt for inconveniencing other passengers. And, I have been inconvenienced by a woman visiting the lav during taxi – after landing. She was far from belligerence; she just had to go. The worst that happened was a scolding (canned) warning over the PA from the FA saying, that all passengers must return to their seats.

    This was clearly a matter of perceived challenge of authority and subsequent aggression by the flight crew with a large dose of racism thrown in. The captain should have known better than to go back to the gate, and could have made a better decision. How unfortunate. Even if they had lost their place in line, how much better would all involved be if there were just a little forgiveness…

  16. Charles Gladd Reply

    Who is ultimately responsible for this judgement call, the Flight Attendant or Captain? I hope it is up to the Captian. Who ever, they made a bad Choice on Delta’s behalf. Delta needs to take note and provide further training for this individual. Delta PR, well I can see them not wanting to make an open invitation for everyone to try this. The passenger may not have had time due to circumstances out of his control to use the bathroom before the flight. God created us all differantly and for health reasons can not hold it as long as others. I’m Diamond and have noticed this done a few times but that is not really the point here.

  17. Don in ATL Reply

    The only thing the captain had to go on was what the FA told him/her. The FA probably said we have a security risk back here who will not obey orders to sit down – as if he is hostile, causing a commotion, and will not listen to my orders. (Actually, I heard about this incident first from my friends who work at DL, and that is exactly how it was described to me — “a security risk who would not obey orders to sit down during taxiing.” So what is the captain to do? The problem was with the FA who felt this was the day he/she wanted to make that power statement — you know, so passengers know who is in charge. It’s like in prison where they pick out someone every once in a while and beat the crap out of him, to set and example so others will know who is in charge, and to obey their orders all the time. A little bit of common sense by the FA would have gone a long way here. God knows, how many times I have used the bathroom on taxiing or when the seat belt sign is on. Each time, when I told the FA, they said OK, and told me to go quickly. But I am usually in First Class, and I am white, which no matter what the rest of you say, gives me extra privilege.

  18. Poor Old Dave Reply

    I am amazed at the number of comments I read from many sources on this issue that state “use the restroom before getting on the plane.”

    In a perfect world.

    So a passenger drinks some water to stay hydrated during the flight and then uses the restroom before boarding. The boarding process takes 15-20 minutes plus until the door of the plane is closed. Add on a 30+ minute taxi trip that usually takes the plane around the airport a couple times. Then add on the 15+ minutes until you are maybe allowed to get out of your seat. We have now reached the 60+ minutes post restroom visit time frame.

    Consider that the population Is aging and have bladders that are not as strong as they once were … OR not to mention that many medicines have a diuretic affect which is accelerated when one in sitting in a seat for an hour. An example is a diabetes medicine that blocks sugar uptake in the kidneys. Even if no liquids are ingested as soon as you eat a bischoff cookie you will have to use the lav soon afterwards.

    Every minute that goes by when you need to use the lav seems like hours of agony. Oh and let us not forget that you have to sit there and listen to the FAs talking about the wonders of the Amex cards while they prepare to do get ready to do the beverage service. Oh but wait! There is more! Once the beverage service starts you do not dare attempt to get up and use the lav!

    So perhaps it is not as easy as “use the restroom before you board the plane.”

    • @Poor Old Dave,

      I agree with you, but according to the story in this case the passenger stated that he did not use the restroom before boarding, as he had not drank a lot that day and didn’t think it would be a problem.

      I understand that our bladders aren’t what they used to be, but like you said with boarding and delays who knows. All of the sudden that 55 minute flight from Atlanta to Birmingham can take 3 hours. I think that we as passengers have a responsibility to try and hit the restroom before boarding. It is just common sense to me. There have been times I run into a skyclub between connections just to use the restroom.

      Of course there will be times where someone has to go at an inopportune time, all I am saying is that we have the ability to reduce the chances of that happening to us and we should do so.


  19. Two bullet points from my mental travel check-list:
    1. Always use restroom at airport whether you have to go or not and worst case scenario always use restroom immediately after getting on the plane whether you have to go or not.
    2. Always use airplane lavatory 20 minutes prior to landing (I typically get up just after I feel plane start its descent) whether you have to go or not. You avoid pre take off issues like this and also avoid long lines at the car rental desk, taxi line etc… because you or +1 had to make a pit stop after landing.

    Safe and dry flights to all….

  20. How long can a passenger hold out before they absolutely positively really gotta go? It Depends.

  21. Din in ATL Reply

    Having read a lot about this and spoken to my friends who work for Delta here in Atlanta, it appears there was a big disconnect between what the witnesses (and video saw) and what the FA reported to the captain and gate people. Although I do not have access to exactly what the FA reported, the scuttlebut amongst Delta gate agents in the immediate aftermath was that ithere was a disruptive, belligerent passenger who refused to sit down during taxiing. From the description they thought it was a crazy man or someone on drugs. Now that they know the full story, they are embarrassed for Delta. Clearly the FA did not report the incident accurately to the pilot or the DL supervisors at the gate. This is probably why the FBI was called. I would say the fault in this incident is 95% the FA.

  22. Texas Yankee Reply

    Thanks to this I remembered to wee wee before I got on the plane! Pre-flight coffee is taking effect way too fast!
    I have a picture of urinal but no way to post it …

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