The union representing flight attendants at United Airlines has advised crews not to dump coffee in aircraft lavatories under any circumstances. The instruction comes after United recently advised flight attendants to dump coffee in lavatory toilets only as a last resort.

Live and Let’s Fly has reviewed an internal United document entitled “Inflight Policies and Procedures Manual” which was recently updated and addresses how to dispose of liquids onboard.

United warns flight attendants:

Galley drains and lavatory sinks drain into plumbing lines that are connected. If liquid is poured down a clogged drain, water may overflow at the lowest point, which is frequently a lavatory sink.

While the aircraft is at the gate, United instructs flight attendants:

Once the aircraft is in the air, coffee grounds and thick liquids are still to be disposed of in trash containers. The use of lavatory toilets to dispose of liquids is listed only as an option of last resort:

United Airlines Flight Attendants Ordered Not To Dispose Of Coffee In Lavatories

But a memo from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) warns flight attendants that coffee and other liquids should never be disposed of in the lavatory, without specifying whether it means the lavatory toilet, sink, or trash can (unless we use the narrower definition of facilities as simply toilets).

However, we want to be clear, AFA has advocated that the use of lavatory facilities for the disposal of these liquids is to be avoided as a matter of sanitation.These galley items should never be in the aircraft lavatories as a matter of safe food handling guidelines as it pertains to items used to serve food and beverages to passengers.

Instead, the AFA instructs flight attendants to dump coffee in the galley sink instead when the coffee cannot be safely bagged and thrown into a trash cart.

When the aircraft is in motion, including taxi, use of plastic bags or garbage cans is not promoted unless a drain becomes clogged or in those circumstances were there is a large amount of coffee grounds.If, while performing your galley or safety checks it becomes necessary to dispose of the coffee, because the aircraft is away from the gate and in motion, you may use drains.

Paddle Your Own Kanoo calls the thought of dumping coffee in the toilet “disgusting” but I don’t see the problem of pouring coffee from a couple feet above the toilet…what is the big deal? The toilet will certainly have been flushed prior to dumping the coffee and it’s not like anything is going to splash back into the coffee pot. As long as a flight attendant stands back a foot or two, there is also a low likelihood of the flight attendant encountering any unwanted splashing.

We don’t often think about how liquids are disposed of on an aircraft, but polices are in place to prevent aircraft damage or injury to those on the ground. While United has told flight attendants to dump coffee into the toilet before risking clogging the galley sink and rendering the aircraft inoperable, the AFA has told flight attendants it should not empty coffee in the sink under any circumstance and should instead use the galley drain.

As an aside, I’ve seen many flight attendants over the years dump coffee out in the lavatories on United…that serves a dual purpose of disposing of the coffee and also eliminating any foul odors that may be present in the lavatory.

image: United Airlines