Even before the coronavirus pandemic ignited global conversations about hygiene, there was one part of an airplane that nobody wanted to touch — the bathroom door.
That’s why Japanese airline ANA is testing a new hands-free bathroom door that passengers can open with their elbow or forearm (see above pic).
One of the challenges of designing anything for an airplane is the lack of space. Lavatory doors open inward (less aisle blockage) or have small, flat handles instead of doorknobs.
But what you’ll see on ANA’s prototype is something that is hygienic but also conserves space: The familiar silver latch lavatory door handle now has a spring attached to it so that you can open it by pressing in instead of by pulling out.
Inside the bathroom, the locking mechanism looks pretty familiar, with a button you slide from one side to the other. A larger sized button can also be locked and unlocked with your elbow, meaning you can have a completely hands-free door both inside and out.
Currently, the door prototype is only available in ANA’s lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, where the company is gathering feedback on it through the end of August. If the design proves popular and easy to use, it could get more widespread use.
The door innovation was conceptualized by JAMCO, a Japanese company that specializes in products for the aviation industry. In particular, it is known for airplane seats, galleys and — you guessed it — bathrooms.
Currently, travelers flying onboard ANA are asked to wear masks or other face coverings and to use self-service kiosks to check in their bags. Many crew members are wearing both masks and face shields for additional protection.
“When you begin to travel by air again, we offer you the same comfort and enjoyment as ever,” ANA’s president and CEO, Yuji Hirako, said in a statement announcing the airline’s new “ANA Care Promise” cleanliness program.
According to the airline, these hygiene measures include on-board air filters — the same quality as those used in hospital operating rooms — and regular disinfection of every surface on the plane — including, yes, lavatory doors.