One Airline Is Trialling Hands-Free Bathroom Doors and It’s About Time


Speaking as someone with enough podiatric dexterity to manoeuvre through public bathrooms using my feet alone (years of practice, my friends), can I just say how thrilled I am that travel officials are finally working on a new solution to opening and closing airplane bathroom doors?

Airplanes in general, and prior to COVID-19, were always known to be a germy place, with bathrooms, in particular, causing particular disgust among travellers. But reducing touchpoints throughout public spaces on flights feels particularly important now in the wake of the coronavirus, and is vital if we are ever to travel overseas before a vaccine becomes available.

Now, one airline in Japan is trialling a new door mechanism that requires a ‘no-hands’ approach and instead needs only little pushes via the elbow or forearm.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is currently trialling a prototype of a new touch-free door at the ANA lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. By displaying the model and allowing guests to interact with it, ANA hopes to gather enough feedback to determine whether the new door is something travellers would like to see aboard its planes.

If the airline receives enough positive commentary, they’ll consider installing the doors on aircrafts permanently.

Interior aircraft supplier Jamco designed the door mechanism. It works using a sliding knob that’s big enough for an elbow to push it to lock and unlock the door. A second, large and flat handle allows for travellers to open the door, also using an elbow.

ANA had reportedly been working on a second touchless door experience using foot pedals but feared unexpected turbulence could make the routine challenging.

It would seem airlines have been working to provide more hygienic bathroom experiences aboard planes for some time. Accoridng to Travel and Lesiure, various aircraft manufacturers have thought to make airplane bathroom doors touch-free with sensors, automatical toilet lids, foot flush pedals, touch-free sinks, and even an internal UV light that kills germs.

For now, airplane bathrooms remain the same, icky petri dishes we all dread using. Until new solutions are put into effect, we’ll have to do our best to limit touch-points and make friends with hand sani. Read more in our germ-free guide to using airplane bathrooms here.

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