FAA Orders Removal of Oxygen Tanks from Airplane Bathrooms

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In what officials say was a security move, all U.S. airlines were secretly given orders by the Federal Aviation Administration to de-activate or remove oxygen masks from all airplane bathrooms within 21 days under an Air Worthiness Directive issued in February.

All 6,000 U.S. aircraft completed the transition by March 4, the FAA says.

The agency says it decided not to make the issue public due to the possibility that someone could use the information to cause harm to passengers. "The action was done proactively in response not to a specific threat but to general concerns that a terrorist could use the lavatory oxygen to start a fire or ignite a bomb, an FAA official tells MSNBC.

The FAA feared that non-action could have caused disaster and this alteration, "will help keep travelers as safe and secure as possible," the FAA says in a prepared statement given to AOL Travel News.

Not everyone is satisfied about this quick change. "I'm in shock," said Kate Hanni, executive director of Flyersrights.org, talking to MSNBC. "We get reports of mid-air decompression events all the time. So now going to the bathroom on a commercial flight can kill you? I'm panicking just thinking about this."

Although a loss of cabin pressure is rare, the FAA and airline manufactures are working to create a safer oxygen delivery system, officials said. In the meantime, the FAA is asking airlines to inform passengers that oxygen masks will not be available in the bathrooms.
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