ANA Trials Coronavirus Airplane Bathroom Innovation

Filed Under: ANA

I’m undecided as to whether this innovation is awesome or unnecessary and overly complicated.

ANA’s coronavirus lavatory innovation

Japan’s All Nippon Airways is trialing an airplane lavatory add-on at one of its Tokyo Haneda Airport lounges. The Star Alliance airline is soliciting feedback on the concept through the end of the month, and it’s doing so by setting up a sample lavatory door in an airport lounge (as one does, hah).

All Nippon Airways 777

While airlines have stepped up cleaning protocols, lavatories continue to be one of the tougher areas to disinfect, given how many people use them, and also given that they’re typically not refreshed between each use.

ANA is trying to at least eliminate one potential issue associated with airplane lavatories, which is the touch required to open and close doors. Essentially ANA is testing a concept whereby you can use your elbow to open or close the lavatory door, making it a hands-free experience.

Is this really necessary?

Long-term I feel like we’re all going to be more aware of “germy” spaces, even if/when coronavirus stops being the focus of the world. So I think we’ll naturally see more innovations like this, including more ways to enter and exit public spaces hands-free.

However, maybe it’s just me, but this concept seems unnecessary and kind of complicated.

When I use an airplane lavatory I always wash my hands. Then after drying my hands with a paper towel, I use the other side of the paper towel to unlatch the door, then I open the door, and then I throw the paper towel into the trash bin, which is always right by the door.

Am I the only person who does that? I guess I optimistically may have assumed that this is what everyone does, because washing your hands and then immediately touching the latch seems… not ideal.

Along those lines, my other issue with this innovation is that it doesn’t look particularly intuitive or easy to use. It’s possible I’m just viewing it wrong, but the area where your elbow goes isn’t huge, and it also looks like it takes quite a bit of force to open the door this way.

Personally I think there’s already a lot to love about ANA lavatories, in particular the bidets!

All Nippon Airways’ bidet in lavatory

Bottom line

It’s cool to see what concepts airlines are working on to make the lavatory experience a bit more pleasant. While there’s no doubt merit to trying to figure out more ways to avoid touching things in the lavatory, this is one innovation I personally don’t value much.

And that leads me to my question — am I the only person using paper towels to open lavatory doors, and who doesn’t view that as an issue?

  1. Totally agree about lavs, it’s needless when there’s the paper towel trick. Better to step up cleaning by FAs, which is already not a problem on NH. Outside of airplanes, restroom doors need to have foot-pull openers and/or button-enabled mechanical openers which should already exist as an accessibility feature.

    Finally, air dryers should be banned once and for all. Towels or bust.

  2. This is absurd.

    Wash your hands. Open the door.

    The chance anyone is getting a infectious load of virus by touching the lav door handle is extremely, almost infinitesimally, small. COVID is transferred by inhaling respiratory droplets, aerosols, and particles – not incidental contact with surfaces.

    It requires no more precaution in lavatory door handling that any other pre-pandemic sanitary or health concern would have.

  3. @Ben – I’m with you. I always use a paper towel to open the door of a public restroom after washing my hands. But this looks a bit clumsy. The sub contractor who makes the bathrooms should create an electronic locking mechanism for the doors, with a button big enough to push with your elbow.

  4. The “Lucky Method” seems to be catching on – I am seeing more and more public washrooms that have a trash receptacle either just inside or just outside the door.

    @Bob – we use this method – to protect us from the non hand washers – the people with fecal spread on their hand(s).

  5. why toilet ,why elbow which i might touch …even when removing clothes. pocket size sanitizer and sanitizing when compromised is key

  6. @K4
    No, unless you’re gonna start eating with your elbows.

    As to this “innovation”, yeah I use the paper method, even before COVID. I know a significant amount of people don’t wash their hands or do a 3 second “rinse”. This is very obvious when you spend 30 seconds washing your hands at a public washroom and see multiple people walk out without even a rinse… So yeah, I’m gonna use a paper towel so I don’t indirectly touch a bunch of penises.

  7. I’m with you. I too use the paper towel trick. When I’m in a toilet not near paper towels, I use part of my clothing over my hand to grab the handle. And I try to use anything but my finger on lift buttons – knuckle, elbow, whatever. Too many people don’t wash their hands properly.

  8. @GoAmtrak

    Not only wasteful, but a surefire way to get the trash bins to overflow even more by the end of a long haul flight.

  9. Agree completely Ben! I don’t touch anything in an aircraft lavatory – i use the towels for everything.

    Trust me – you do not want to touch the “flush” button with your fingers. (No further explanation required – use your imagination). I am a former F/A and what I have seen would turn your stomach.

  10. Most people DO NOT WASH their hands after going to the toilet – this unfortunately includes doctors & nurses.

    In Australia, & a few other countries there are surveys done with hidden cameras to observe how many people go from the toilet to the sinks afterwards. The footage then gets examined to see exactly what they do (cameras in ceiling or from side in ceiling so do not see peoples’ faces). Typically the rate of hand washing has dropped since the late 90s.

    Previously females washed their hands more than men, late 90s 68% to 63%. Last results I saw had it 54% females, 56% males!!!!

    Of those who went to the sinks – nearly half just ran the water & did not either use soap/liquid +/or actually rub their hands together – typically they just held their hands under the running water.

    In NSW the State Govt Health Dept was giving itself praise about a recent (pre-Covid) initiative to increase the rate of handwashing in hospitals by doctors & nurses. The rate increased by 5%!

    From 67% to 72% (I think it was). After around 3,000 words of what a great result this was etc etc right before the summary about how effective it was….

    “The lowest improvement also coincided with the group that had the lowest hand washing rate of any.”

    Any guesses?

    S U R G E O N S – went from 51% to 53%.

    So, no, I don’t think making the plane toliet doors able to be closed with your elbows to be a pointless exercise.

  11. I don’t know why anyone would be against this. I would use this all the time, just another reason that Asian airlines offer a superior customer experience.

  12. Yes, I’m with you as too many people don’t wash hands after washroom visits when one’s in the public bathrooms and there’re 20-30% prople doing that by non scientific counting during short time there.

    Assuming door handles don’t contract Covid-19 or any germs is wishful thinking only. LOL!

  13. > throw the paper towel into the trash bin, which is always right by the door.

    I do this method but I often struggle to not touch the lid of the trash bin when it’s one of those spring-loaded ones. The foot pedal operated bins on some (Asian?) airlines help, but of course it takes a bit of maneuvering between trying to hold the door open without touching it and stepping on the pedal

  14. I use my elbow to open the door of my apartment complex. I think the risk of using hands is that you could touch your face with your hand afterwards. Or, in the case of an airplane, have a meal.

  15. Paper towels are porous. Some germs slip through unless you use many, many layers. Something like a latex glove is not porous but it’s not practical to carry around. 🙁

  16. I think this is a publicity stunt. It’s great that people are learning to pay attention and be cleaner and more aware, but we can’t turn the entire planet Into a germophobic no-touch zone. If someone on a flight has Covid there are far more problems that the bathroom door handle to deal with: the toilet and seat itself (any bodily liquids can potentially carry the virus), the sink and counters, not to mention the passengers nearby wherever the infected person is seated, and any other surfaces they touch. Using elbows to open the door will not stop you picking up Covid in that lavatory.

    FA’s should wipe heavily-touched surfaces as often as possible, but really an effective track-and-trace system is far more important for containing Covid than stunts like this.

  17. Also for everyone debating about how to exit the lavatory without touching the trash bin lid or the door handle, a better and safer practice would be to not be that concerned about touching them, but use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after you leave the lav, which is far more effective that paper towels anyway at stopping viruses….

  18. All I can tell you on this one is that I have a Toto bidet and that saved me from the Great TP Shortage of 2020. If the Japanese do something, they do it right. Go ANA!

  19. Just bring alcohol based hand sanitizer wipes on the plane. Use it to open/ close bathroom door. You can even use it to clean your hands and press the flush button. When u r done with it, just throw it into a garbage bag in galley kitchen. Easy peasy. No need to have direct contact with high touch areas.

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