Ryanair’s proposals to reduce the number of toilets on board their aircraft and to charge passengers to use them has drawn criticism from leading continence experts, surgeons, nurses and patient groups in the UK.
Bladder control problems affect 25% of the adult population and bowel control problems affect 10%, often requiring frequent and urgent visits to the toilet. The professional bodies providing care for these people have joined together to speak out on behalf of the millions affected, calling for reassurance that they will not be discriminated against.
Baroness Sally Greengross is calling for greater priority to be given to continence care services and patients. She said: “Adequate accessible toilet facilities are a basic and fundamental necessity. A single toilet on a busy passenger flight would be wholly inadequate. With the added potential for delays on runways and toilets to be engaged or out of use, this will certainly lead to distress for many travellers. I would encourage Ryanair to re-think this proposal in the best interests of their passengers.”
Professor Cardozo, professor of urogynaecology at London’s Kings College Hospital, and member of the UK Continence Society (UKCS) said “If these proposals go ahead they will discriminate in an almost cruel way against the many silent sufferers of these distressing conditions.”
Bladder and bowel problems are more common than asthma, diabetes, hypertension and arthritis and affect a large number of people. They are often provoked by anxiety with many sufferers having to know where all the toilets are in a particular area. Due to embarrassment many people keep their condition a secret, even from partners and loved ones, and do not seek help for such conditions, but for those that do the treatments can be very effective.
“Many people get particularly anxious when flying, knowing that there is only one toilet will make flying impossible for many people who suffer with continence problems. There is also a major added health risk of deep vein thrombosis, and as it is recommended that passengers keep well hydrated, this will further exacerbate their bladder problem,” Professor Cardozo added.
Reducing access to toilet facilities on aircraft also raises concerns that many people with bladder and bowel problems will fail to “hold on” and reach the toilet in time resulting in embarrassing incontinence and distress for them and people in nearby seats.
Professor Cardozo concluded: “Clearly, the company has not given the issue of bladder and bowel problems any consideration. Stephen McNamara of Ryanair has been quoted as saying ‘by charging for the toilets we are hoping to change passenger behaviour so that they use the bathroom before or after the flight’. Unfortunately for one in four people within the UK, the urgent and frequent use of a toilet is a necessity and not an adopted behaviour. That’s why we’re voicing our objections and calling for reassurance in the strongest possible terms,” she said.
“If these proposals are to be adopted in the future, then we should all be extremely concerned that this could be just the tip of the iceberg with other airlines potentially following this cost cutting trend.”