There are a number of differences between how large commercial jetliners think about providing bathroom facilities onboard and how private jet owners and operators tackle the issue.
By definition, a private jet is smaller in dimension, length and height. Having the luxury of multiple bathrooms comes at a price, since something else (e.g. passenger seats or cargo space) is likely being compromised. Hence the various trade-offs.
Bathrooms on private jets are called “lavs” or “lavatories”.
The types of lavatories are often directly tied to the possible duration of the flights, as we discuss later. Turboprops and light jets rarely stay up in the air for more than 2-3 hours, so there is a lower need for a proper lavatory compared to a mid-size jet flying 4-6 hours at a stretch. The biggest need is in the 10-12 hours long-range business jets.
Since the size of the private jet used is directly correlated to the maximum time that the aircraft stays airborne at a time before refueling, it makes sense the jets that need to fly the longest also have the most space available on board to include a proper lavatory.
Another variable is how the owner or operator decides to customize and configure the interior. In this regard, a commercial charter will feature the designs that are the most standard for the type of aircraft – since there is the need to make one size fit across many types of passengers. A jet for private use or dedicated business use, on the other hand, could decide to make adequate space for the bathroom of their choice.
There is a wide range of options, starting from certain private jets with no facilities at all, to luxury fully-equipped bathrooms with showers on board long-range private fliers. We discuss some of the options below along with some types of aircraft where these options are likely to be found.
Many very light aircraft and especially turboprops that fly one and a half to two hours will not have a lavatory at all. The same is true for older aircraft and helicopters.
Very light jets, such as the Phenom 100 and the Cessna Citation Jet or Mustang, along with a few turboprops such as the Pilatus PC-12 and the King Air 90 have what are called Semi-Enclosed Lavatories.
This is simply a regular seat that can be converted to a “potty” by lifting the seat cushion. These toilets are not flushable, but instead use chemical solutions which are disposed of by on-ground FBO crews.
However, these potties don't have a door, but a curtain could be employed to provide some (partial) privacy.
This is the most industry-standard option on some light jets (such as the Embraer Phenom 300, Citation CJ2, Honda Jet, several Learjet Models and Nextant 400XTi), mid-sized jets like the 8-seater Citation XLS and super mid-sized jets like the Legacy 500.
The main difference in classes of jets involves the location. (Very) light jets will typically have the bathrooms located towards the front of the cabin, while the larger classes usually have them located as a separate space in the rear of the cabin.
The bathroom employs one of the following types of doors:
While facilities may vary or be customized, the minimum features to be expected would be:
Many aircraft also have a “Certified Lav Seat” with proper seatbelts and the same material and finish as the cabin seats. This can be used to carry an additional passenger in a pinch.
Larger, long-range jets and airliners can have full plumbing systems that allow for fully enclosed flushing toilets and walk-in showers.
It is also common for large jets to have multiple bathrooms. Plus, since the cabin ceilings are considerably higher, the lavatories and aligned facilities can be used standing up on bigger jets.
Bombardier's Global 6000, with a range of nearly 7,000 miles (12 hours flying time) has a stand-up shower installed, a design that's repeated in the Global 7500 and 8000. A hot shower time of 40 minutes is indeed luxury.
The Gulfstream G650 allows for an hour of spa shower time in a compartment with on one side of the cabin to allow unimpeded access to baggage space.
Dassault’s popular business jet, the Falcon 7X, has a standup shower with clear glass windows that can turn opaque in seconds utilizing an electro-chromatic privacy feature. The available shower time is 30 minutes and features a rain-style showerhead and a seat in the shower cabin.
As the competition to add luxury shower features on long-range jets shows, private jet manufacturers continue to innovate and add more features even within standard design packages.
The Gulfstream G650 model has another such feature – a separate exhaust system to efficiently remove odors. The mechanism uses a semicircular vented aluminum tube mounted under the toilet-bowl cover. The exhaust can be triggered through a switch, or just by lifting the padded seat. Since its design, this feature has now been added to the G450 and 550 as well.
Private jet manufacturers continue to innovate with more luxury features like fully-equipped luxury bathrooms and stand-up showers for longer flights, which offer increased privacy due to their location away from passengers and the main cabin.
Fully-equipped lavatories are typically found on medium-and long-range private jets, with lighter jets often providing just semi-enclosed lavatories with less privacy.
Unless you are flying for well over 3-4 hours, be prepared to stop by the FBO facilities before you board the aircraft. If you're unsure about the facilities onboard the aircraft you are flying, feel free to ask your broker or operator in advance.