ANA’s no-touch toilet and elbow locks for pandemic plane hygiene

A Japanese airline has rethought its plane bathrooms for the coronavirus – with nifty designs turning it into a ‘hands free’ experience

Visiting the water closets of the skies has never felt like the most hygienic of experiences.

Even on a modern Boeing 787, you’ll find a ratio of ‘passengers to privy ratio’ of around 28.75 travellers per toilet. That’s even higher on other planes depending on the age and the airline. It’s long been argued that there are simply not enough toilets on long-haul planes.

This matter only gains more urgency in the era of the coronavirus.

The Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) has come up with a revamp of its plane bathrooms to minimise the touching of surfaces – thereby minimising the chance of transmission of coronavirus.

Elbow-operated doorhandles and sensor-operated taps and soap dispensers are being trialled on planes out of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport until the end of the month.

The “elbow doorknob” has been developed by the airline in cooperation with aircraft-interior outfitter Jamco.

Elbow-operated doors could help passengers not to pass on germs. Photo / ANA, JAMCO
Elbow-operated doors could help passengers not to pass on germs. Photo / ANA, JAMCO

It is opened with a quick elbow sideways and locked in a similar manner. The Airline said it was more practical solution than sensors, saying that they went for the simpler elbow-lock design for “safety reasons” ANA told the BBC.

Airlines and designers have been quick to address the problems posed in the post-pandemic world by shared cabin spaces.

In the States sensor-activated toilets and foot-operated flush buttons are being developed to create a “no touch” experience.

“We don’t see any reason the entire lavatory couldn’t become touchless,” said Haeco president Doug Rasmussen in an interview with CNBC.

The pandemic has sparked a wave of hygiene-related aircraft designs. Photo / Zephyr Aviation
The pandemic has sparked a wave of hygiene-related aircraft designs. Photo / Zephyr Aviation

It’s not just the toilets but the whole plane which is undergoing a brush up on hygienic design.

Avio Interiors has experimented with alternating seating facing passengers back and forwards to minimise close contact between travellers. Another interiors company Zephyr Aerospace has designed a double decker cabin – with a second tier of seating to maximise passenger space.

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