Oh yeah, flying is so much fun nowadays. Last Friday our Horizon flight from Portland to Burbank was delayed an hour while "a maintenance problem" was dealt with.
That's all the explanation we were given by the gate announcer. But given what happened on our return flight, there's reason to suspect that the problem lay behind the door of the all-important tiny compartment at the back of the plane.
Namely, the lavatory.
For several reasons I'm a big fan of airplane lavatories. One, I'm 62. And even though I've reported that my age-related urge to pee has been reduced quite a bit by medication, I enjoy knowing that a toilet is near at hand on a flight.
Two, I'm tall. I like to get up and walk around on the plane after an hour or two of sitting. The lavatory gives me a destination. If someone else is waiting to use it, even better, because then I get to stand longer before returning to my seat.
So I wasn't thrilled when a Horizon gal who manned womaned the microphone at our gate announced that a maintenance guy had been unable to fix the lavatory on the plane that'd take us back to Portland.
"Passengers should use the restrooms at the airport, because there won't be a usable lavatory on the Portland flight."
I was in pretty good shape, kidney-wise, since my prepare-for-the-worst mentality when it comes to airlines usually leads me to shun coffee and large beverages before a flight. But I felt bad for anyone who'd had a 20-ounce triple latte just before they got to the gate, or was suffering from diarrhea.
(Here's a no-lavatory story about such a situation.)
It sort of surprised me that a commercial airliner could embark on a two hour flight without a working lavatory. However, apparently there is no government requirement that passengers have a right to relieve themselves while in the air.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said lavatories, or the lack thereof, are not a concern for regulators.
"That's not an aviation safety issue. It's a passenger or crew-member comfort issue," said agency spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen. "There is absolutely no requirement for any aircraft to have a lavatory."
That includes large passenger planes used for cross-country flights, Bergen said.
As we were preparing for take-off a flight attendant reminded us passengers that no lavatory was available. "You may want to keep this in mind when you make your drink selection," she said.
I did. When the beverage cart came by, I grabbed a bag of pretzel'ish snacks and responded "no thanks" to the drink offers.
So far as I could tell, nobody on the plane had an urgent need to use the non-functional lavatory. Still, it would have been a nice gesture for Horizon to give us some sort of compensation for the inconvenience -- 1,000 frequent flyer miles, for example.
My wife and I forked out $40 at the Horizon counter to check two bags, something that not long ago was done for free. Then we're "treated" to a two hour flight with no lavatory.
Like I said, flying is so much fun. Not.