Cathay launches loo sticker campaign to stop its flight service going down the toilet

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 December, 2009, 12:00am

Cathay Pacific is placing warning stickers on the toilets of its entire fleet in an effort to stop passengers flushing away items the airline believes are responsible for blockages in lavatories on its Airbuses.

The step comes as maintenance teams clean out the toilet systems in 63 passenger planes after blocked toilets forced a flight from Riyadh to Hong Kong last month into a stop in Mumbai and an 18-hour delay.

The stickers - on the inner and outer lid of every aircraft toilet - show pictures of towels, cups, containers, napkins, sick bags and other items beneath a sign in English and Chinese warning: 'These items will choke the toilet. Please dispose of them in the waste bin.'

Meanwhile, investigations into the cause of the blockages, which affected three flights in the space of 11 days, suggest first-class passengers may be partly to blame by throwing fluffy hand towels down the bowls.

The towels have now been removed from first-class toilets and replaced with paper towels at least until the end of the lavatory cleaning operation at the end of the month, a memo sent to cabin crew said.

The South China Morning Post reported last week how an Airbus flying from Riyadh on November 17 with 278 passengers was forced to divert to Mumbai when flight attendants discovered after take-off that none of the 10 toilets on board were working.

Two other Airbus flights - one from Rome on November 9 and another from Dubai on November 19 - had to restrict passenger numbers to fewer than 240 when they discovered before take-off the toilets on one side of the plane were not working.

Now memos circulated to staff suggest the long-term solution might be passenger education rather than pipe replacement and cleaning. A memo from chief executive Tony Tyler described the Mumbai incident as 'very unfortunate' and said: 'We take it very seriously.

'Our engineering team is now working hard on a number of initiatives such as heavy cleaning and pipe replacement, and we'll try to get the message across to passengers that putting things like medicine bottles and stuffed toys down toilets really doesn't help.'

Charlie Stewart-Cox, the executive in charge of cabin crew, said in another memo that all cloth towels had been removed from the first-class toilets 'as they are contributing towards blockages in the toilets'.

He said: 'The engineering department are working on a solution and we anticipate that the problem will be fixed by December 31, at which time we will reload the towels on board.'

His memo added: 'Crew are also requested not to place the sanitised wipes in the toilets, as they are also a cause for blockages. These should only be handed out in the cabin, as and when procedures dictate.

Aircraft toilets use a pipe mechanism that carries waste at up to 110km/h into a holding tank emptied between flights. Vacuum systems operate separately down each side of the plane, meaning a blockage usually affects all toilets on one side.

Cathay Pacific's internal regulations state that planes should fly with a minimum of one toilet per 80 passengers, meaning that planes with working toilets on only one side cannot carry a full complement of passengers.