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Manny

10 hr United Flight and no TP!

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United Airlines Forgets Toilet Paper On 10-Hour Flight From San Francisco To London

United Airlines skipped an important detail on a recent flight, and it wasn't ensuring tray tables were in the upright and locked position.

Before embarking on a 10-hour international trip from San Francisco to London, the crew for United Flight 931 failed to stock the plane with toilet paper, forcing flight attendants--and passengers--to improvise.

The flight reportedly ran out en route, and flight attendants stocked the bathrooms with cocktail napkins instead.

Passenger reactions ranged from eye rolls to outrage.

"That's disgusting, that's just so terrible," said United passenger Gretchen Holland to ABC. "If I'm paying for a ticket, that should include the price of toilet paper, I would think."

United later apologized for the incident, releasing the following statement:

We apologize to our customers on this flight for the inconvenience and would like the opportunity to welcome them back.

United explained that if the plane had stopped to stock toilet paper once the shortage was discovered, the flight would have been delayed.

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So they were offered a cocktail napkin with the 'United' logo on it to wipe.....Seems kind of appropriate given the situation. :LMAO:

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So they were offered a cocktail napkin with the 'United' logo on it to wipe.....Seems kind of appropriate given the situation. :LMAO:

 

Lol. I bet a new line item has been added to the cabin ready checklist.

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Passenger reactions ranged from eye rolls to outrage.

"That's disgusting, that's just so terrible," said United passenger Gretchen Holland to ABC. "If I'm paying for a ticket, that should include the price of toilet paper, I would think."

 

I wonder if any of those so outraged have ever forgotten to put a fresh roll in the bathroom.

 

Would I be mildly amused or even annoyed?  Sure.  Outraged?  Hey Gretchen, people all over the world were dealing with a lot more while you were suffering the "terrible" treatment on your flight from San Francisco to London.  Have some perspective.  I think I'll save my outrage for something more significant.

 

Scott

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Most people on an airplane are pretty reasonable, but with 200+ people on a flight there will be at least one or two Diva's to deal with.

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Most people on an airplane are pretty reasonable, but with 200+ people on a flight there will be at least one or two Diva's to deal with.

plus however many are passengers!

 

Oh sorry, you were talking about United, not Air Canada.

 

Kind regards,

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I wonder if any of those so outraged have ever forgotten to put a fresh roll in the bathroom.

 

Would I be mildly amused or even annoyed?  Sure.  Outraged?  Hey Gretchen, people all over the world were dealing with a lot more while you were suffering the "terrible" treatment on your flight from San Francisco to London.  Have some perspective.  I think I'll save my outrage for something more significant.

 

Scott

It's a little more complicated than just forgetting to put a fresh roll of tp on the roller when you are about to undertake a 10 hour flight.  This is actually kind of a serious situation considering some of the things that got missed before the flight and some of the things that could happen afterwards.  Firstly, that aircraft was supposed to have been serviced by a cleaning crew that should have checked to make sure the tp was stocked in each lavatory as one of their tasks.  How could a cleaning crew of at least half a dozen fail to do so with the several lavs on that plane?  The cabin crew upon arrival of the aircraft is also supposed to check the cabinets in the lav to see that not only is it stocked, but to make a security check of it as well.  Was that done?  What if instead of being short of tp, one of the cabinets had a "device" hidden in there?  With that many flight attendants and that many lavs on that plane, it boggles me how none of them would have came up to the captain and simply said "we need cleaners to come back with some more tp."

 

Once it was apparent that they were going to be out of tp, now you are going to have a potential biohazard situation aboard the aircraft.  You cannot tell 200 people that none of them can take a crap for the next 5 hours.  Forget that it would just be plain cruel and inhumane to that certain percentage of the 200 who will have a bodily function to deal with within that next five hours, but without the proper equipment in the lav, you are creating a biohazard situation where there could be uncontained fecal matter in the cabin.  Now the cabin crew improvised and used napkins in the lav.  Good for them.  However, that creates its own problems.  Have you ever noticed the little signs in the lav that tell you to dispose of the paper towels in the trash?  There is a reason for that.  The tp and the toilet seat covers are made of material that can dissolve in the bluejuice and get sucked out when the lavtruck performs its servicing.  Paper towels and napkins do not dissolve as easily.  Now by filling the lav with napkins, the lavatories will be out of service until maintenance can get in there and clean it out because they cannot be dumped and they may not be able to flush either.  That aircraft will most likely be grounded for maintenance once it lands.

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Part of my job is to perform quality checks on all outgoing international flights and we have to check each lav to make sure that there are spare rolls of TP, extra packs of hand towles, tissue boxes, bottles of soap, etc. and on top of that cabin service should supply the FA's with a bag of extras in an overhead bin. You would be surprised how often things like this get overlooked.

How could a cleaning crew of at least half a dozen fail to do so with the several lavs on that plane?

 

Either the plane arrived late and the cleaners were pressed for time (leads get in huge trouble for causing delays) or the cleaning crew ran out of stock and neglected to call one of the supply drivers to bring the items to the gate.

The cabin crew upon arrival of the aircraft is also supposed to check the cabinets in the lav to see that not only is it stocked,

 

Here a gate supervisor actually makes the final inspection and the crew only does their safety equipment check from the looks of it.

but to make a security check of it as well. Was that done? What if instead of being short of tp, one of the cabinets had a "device" hidden in there?

 

That should never happen, I can't really go into details but there are steps in place to prevent something like that.

With that many flight attendants and that many lavs on that plane, it boggles me how none of them would have came up to the captain and simply said "we need cleaners to come back with some more tp."

 

If the aircraft is running late things get missed but here FA's never bring this up to the captain, they simply call cabin service themselves and a driver should be able to bring the missing items within minutes. This is very common on quick domestic turns where cleaners might have as little as 5 minutes to do a quick clean and get off (YOU DO NOT WANT TO CATCH A DELAY)

The tp and the toilet seat covers are made of material that can dissolve in the bluejuice and get sucked out when the lavtruck performs its servicing. Paper towels and napkins do not dissolve as easily.

 

Most of our planes now use suction with a little bit of potable water to flush and disintegrate solid matter, should not be a problem especially since the waste will travel at speeds up to 500 mph in the pipes before reaching the waste tank.

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On a flight from SFO to LHR, I see ample opportunity to divert in the first 5 or so hours an pick up some paper, while it's bad that it was missed in the first place, the fact they decided to carry on regardless is what's really screaming at me here. Have UA no appreciation for their customers, the people who are responsible for them having jobs?

 

Regards,

Ró.

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Part of my job as the captain was to make sure we don't end up in this kind of situation that puts us on the news.  I flew domestic flights and we never had the bevy of QA and supervisors and cleaners that were supposed to check and double check to make sure there was enough tp as you mention.  Which makes it even more disturbing how this got missed.  But I agree with you and some of your speculation there about how the cleaners must have either ran low on stock and neglected to get more and the cabin crew probably only opened and shut each door during their checks.  As with all accidents or incidents that end up on the news, it is going to be a chain of events where all it takes is one person to conscientiously do their job properly that could have broken the link to the incident.

 

You probably know more about the workings of the lav truck than I do.  All I knows is that the stuff I see coming through the transparent blue tube moves pretty slowly and looks like it is only gravity fed.  We've had aircraft be down for this exact reason of having hard materials being put down the toilet.  Maintenance has to open up the back and dive into the tank to fish out the object.  If the heavy jets get more powerful lav trucks, then that's awesome.  Then maybe they won't catch a maintenance delay once they land.

 

You can't actually say "this should never happen" about anything, especially security procedures.  I'm not going to get into how it could on this forum either.

 

So if your procedure there is for the FAs to just pick up the jetway phone and call for something, then why didn't they?  Whether they were supposed to tell the cap and have him call ops or phone it in themselves, is irrelevant, the point is one of them should have said something to somebody, if they were properly doing their jobs and caught this.

 

I only wear the three "what me worry" stripes these days since I started at a different airline, but one of the scenarios used in class here is a situation almost exactly like what happened here.  A transcon where the FAs report to the cap that none of the toilets are flushing anymore on a fully loaded 320.  They neglected to check the lavs before the flight and now the toilet bowls are all full and will not flush.  You are 3/4 of the way to where you are going.  What do you do?  In real life, what they did was they improvised.  One of the FAs scooped out the crap and waste from the toilet bowls and put it all in a big garbage bag and stuffed it into a catering cart so that the people could at least pee into them without it overspilling.  When they landed, the bag of toilet crap broke out of the cart and spilled everything down the aisles.  They made the news.  And the plane was down for an extended period while everything got ripped out and cleaned.  The learning point for us was that if there is a serious customer service issue like this, you land.  And you land immediately.  Yes there will be a delay.  One way or another, after a screwup like this, there is going to be a delay, either here or there.  Have some integrity, do the right thing, admit you screwed up and don't try to cover it up, and do what is best for your customers because in the end that is the only way out of it that minimizes the bad pr.

 

I don't know exactly where and when they realized they had a problem, or who made the decision to continue, so I'm not going to comment on whether they should have diverted or not, maybe they were only 30 minutes out of london when they realized it.  I don't know.  What I will say is that there is a captain aboard that airplane that gets paid a lot of money.  We pilots like to say pay us what we deserve.  Which is a lot of money.  But I think a lot of pilots see that money as entitlement and not compensation.  Pilots need to remember that with the  big bucks come big responsibilities.  They need to be able to make decisions commensurate with the pay.

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I guess the cost to divert was to great for tp. As a passenger I would prefer to continue as I don't like delays even for tp. Just get there, use a cocktail napkin, and give me a travel voucher for the mishap.

 

United is the worlds largest airline so no shortage of mishaps when you are that big

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On a flight from SFO to LHR, I see ample opportunity to divert in the first 5 or so hours an pick up some paper, while it's bad that it was missed in the first place, the fact they decided to carry on regardless is what's really screaming at me here. Have UA no appreciation for their customers, the people who are responsible for them having jobs?

 

Regards,

Ró.

Seriously?

 

I'm sure a fella like yourself knows better than anyone the fuel and other costs associated with a divert of a wide-body jet, and you'd think they'd do that ..... for loo roll !!!???

 

I'm not surprised at all that they didn't. What's the difference between using toilet paper, and napkins? ..... zip! .... certainly wouldn't have justified a wide-body aircraft to divert IMHO....

 

(PS... Napkins are probably softer, and give a more luxurious toilet experience! :lol:)

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Seriously?

 

I'm sure a fella like yourself knows better than anyone the fuel and other costs associated with a divert of a wide-body jet, and you'd think they'd do that ..... for loo roll !!!???

 

I'm not surprised at all that they didn't. What's the difference between using toilet paper, and napkins? ..... zip! .... certainly wouldn't have justified a wide-body aircraft to divert IMHO....

 

(PS... Napkins are probably softer, and give a more luxurious toilet experience! :lol:)

 

I'm well aware of the cost of a divert, depending on whether or not the crews got out of hours you could be looking from between €20,000 to over €100,000. Of course if I do divert the company contracted in to do the cleaning at SFO would be receiving a very unwelcome bill.

 

Now my point, do you know the cost of grounding an aircraft for a day while maintainence take apart the waste system trying to find the blocked pipe that has the much higher quality, thicker napkins in it? It's a pretty big cost, and far grater an inconvenience for your passengers than an extra hour on your flight. Then there's things like the cost to the airlines image which are hard to quantify. Imagine if one of your big corperate clients was stuck without any napkins, some of those contracts make or break routes.

 

Regards,

Ró.

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I wonder how some of the middle eastern airlines handle things? What I mean by that question is that culturally TP is practically unheard of...

 

See here to "get the picture" in humourous fashion: http://wildboys.blogfa.com/post-29.aspx

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If those napkins cause damage this is what happens when those toilets leak. They can build up waste on the exterior of the aircraft as it freezes at cruise altitude and forms a large ball, when the aircraft descends to warmer temperatures, the ball thaws and releases from the aircraft.

 

In this case a waste ball fell in this woman's swimming pool, cost her $5000 to have it cleaned:

What's brown and smelly and falls from the sky?

That's what Emma Gilfillan-Giannakos of Mississauga, Ont., wants to know — and what Transport Canada investigators are trying to determine.

Gilfillan-Giannakos was sitting in her backyard earlier this week, her kids playing nearby.

"I was sitting underneath the gazebo .. with my son, and my two other kids were on a fort over here, and all of a sudden we heard this big bomb! Like it hit the pool."

When she investigated she found her patio, her pool and her garden were covered with brown splashes.

What was it?

As far as Gilfillan-Giannakos is concerned there's no doubt.

"I stuck my finger in it and I smelt it and ... it smells like poo!"

Her home sits along the flight path to Canada's busiest airport, Pearson International. Planes can be seen criss-crossing the sky above her home all day long.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2013/06/21/toronto-sky-poo.html

 

Hopefully they find out which airline it was so they can cover those cleanup costs. They are investigating.

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If they were smart, they would have the customers leave the used napkins in trash bags placed in the lavs. Of course that still creates its own set of problems.

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It's a little more complicated than just forgetting to put a fresh roll of tp on the roller when you are about to undertake a 10 hour flight.

 

Of course.

 

I probably wasn't as clear as I should have been in my sarcasm.

 

As I said, had I been on the flight (and I've certainly been on my share where things like this have gone awry) I expect I would've been annoyed - OK maybe even PO'd and a number of other things.  But outraged as indicated in the report?  It was the reporting and over-reaction that I was (attempting to) aim my sarcasm at. 

 

I can just imagine the post-flight interviews as the media caught wind (<cough> sorry!) of this.  "Say would you mind talking to us - what's your name?"  "Gretchen".  "Hey, Gretchen, how terrible was it, and how outraged were you?"  "Well..."

 

Did United screw up?  Sure.  Like Gretchen, I do expect TP to be included in the cost of my ticket. :blink:   But in the grand scheme of things in this world, this one doesn't even nudge my outrage meter. 

 

In any case, once the mistake happened, United had egg all over their faces from a media standpoint either way.  Can you imagine the fun that would've been had when the reason for the diversion of an international flight became known?  And then you'd have had passengers "outraged" that their London connections, critical appointments, etc. had been missed due to what would have been a significant delay.

 

Of course the real answer is don't make the mistake in the first place.  I expect someone(s) ended up in a fair bit of hot water over this one.

 

Scott

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I flew domestic flights and we never had the bevy of QA and supervisors and cleaners that were supposed to check and double check to make sure there was enough tp as you mention.

 

We don't do the same for domestic either, I only do QA on international outbounds.

 

 

 


You probably know more about the workings of the lav truck than I do.  All I knows is that the stuff I see coming through the transparent blue tube moves pretty slowly and looks like it is only gravity fed.

 

I don't know a thing about the trucks since ramp personnel drives them and not cabin but when they drain the tank it seems as if they do suck the waste out since the hose bucks and the vehicle makes this vacuum noise. We only had trouble with plugged lavs when people accidentally try to flush rags and such.

 

 

 


So if your procedure there is for the FAs to just pick up the jetway phone and call for something, then why didn't they? 

 

I'm not with United so who knows how things work over there but at my place Flight Service has one ground based FA who acts as a liaison for the flying FA's (international outbounds only) and she makes sure that the plane is in order with catering, cabin service, makes sure that any inop cabin equipment gets looked at by mx, etc. Now that's 4 different groups of people who have a chance to catch such a mistake.

 

 

 


A transcon where the FAs report to the cap that none of the toilets are flushing anymore on a fully loaded 320.  They neglected to check the lavs before the flight and now the toilet bowls are all full and will not flush.

 

Ramp should have serviced the lav's regardless of waste tank levels, at least that is the SOP here and on international outbounds the lav guy clips a service slip on one of the yokes as proof that they were emptied (although FA's can check the tanks via their control panel on the 777). But hey mistakes happen and it only proves that we are human. 

 

 

 


On a flight from SFO to LHR, I see ample opportunity to divert in the first 5 or so hours an pick up some paper, while it's bad that it was missed in the first place, the fact they decided to carry on regardless is what's really screaming at me here. Have UA no appreciation for their customers, the people who are responsible for them having jobs?

 

I would have been annoyed at the fact that there is no TP but I would have been more upset if we diverted just because of that especially if there is a connecting flight to make. 

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Alright so you would be upset if the flight diverted and you missed your connection. What about the 200 other people waiting at the destination to get on that plane? And if that plane got stuck there for a day and its outbound canceled, how upset would they be? You see, there is always a bigger picture to all of this. Once they left without tp, it was only a question of how many prople would be upset to what degree and containing the negative pr. Sometimes the path that upsets fewer people may be to divert the plane, have the connectors take later flights, instead of cancelling the next flight and having to reaccomodate an entire flight's worth of people.

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I don't think their was any delay because they forgot TP....The flight was UAL931 and you can see it's last 4 months in the activity log on FlightAware:

 

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL931/history

 

The article doesn't say what day it happened but my guess was it was in the past 4 months.

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A little confused here. The article is saying United 931 from San Francisco to London, but United 931 actually runs the other way around. So was it United 931 from London to San Francisco or was it United 930 from San Francisco to London.

EDIT: Seems the Huffington Post got it wrong, clicking the link in the article led to an ABC link saying it was United 931 from London to San Francisco.

 

EDIT: Seems the ABC link is contradicting itself, seeing as one sentence says it went from San Francisco to London and another sentence says London to San Francisco.

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