The US DOT will begin the formal rulemaking process on the adoption of accessible toilets on single-aisle airplanes in July 2017.
The news follows an agreement reached within the DOT’s Access Advisory Committee, a group comprising a DOT official, airlines and aircraft manufacturers' representatives, cabin crew and people with disabilities.
The group agreed that minor changes like fitting pull-up handles in existing lavatories will take place within three years of the new rule taking effect. However, accessible toilets on single-aisle planes will not become mandatory for 20 years.
Last September, Reduced Mobility Rights exclusively revealed how US airlines were playing dirty to stall or delay the new rule.
“This is a penny-wise pound-foolish agreement,” Roberto Castiglioni, RMR director, said.” It’s evident some backroom bean-counter decided it is better to save few dollars today, even if at the expense of accessibility and the dignity of disabled people.”
Europe’s largest aircraft manufacturer, Airbus already offers an accessible lavatory solution for single-aisle aircraft called Space-Flex. This revolutionary accessible toilet (link opens new window) was presented at the meeting of the Access Advisory Committee of May 16, 2016.
Space-Flex is available in two versions. Space-Flex V1 was first introduced in late 2013 with LATAM. In 2014 Space-Flex V2 was launched and first entered service when Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling took delivery of an A320 in March 2015 with an 186-seat configuration.
Space-Flex can easily be put into service on existing planes. The retrofit process for an older A320 takes about two weeks. This retrofit work could become cost neutral for the airline if scheduled with a major maintenance service or during the slow season.
“It is mind-blowing to think that airlines are taking a pass on increasing profitability by purchasing newer high-density A320 planes with Space-Flex V2 or make existing ones truly accessible with the Space-Flex V1 retrofit kit,” Castiglioni said. “US disability advocates should tear up this bad agreement before the DOT begins the rulemaking process next July.”