Japanese airline ANA is trialing a new innovation that could make your next flight more hygienic – bathroom doors that you can open without having to use your hands.
The airline will roll out 21 aircraft equipped with the doors across domestic flights in Japan beginning next week. The doors work by having a mechanical spring that allows people to press the door open with their elbows or forearms.
The prototypes were created by ANA and JAMCO, a Japan-based company that creates products for the aviation industry, in fall 2020 as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. Until now, though, the only place to try one out was at ANA’s lounge at Tokyo-Haneda Airport.
And it isn’t only the entrance that is accessible without using hands. Once you’re inside the lavatory, you can lock and unlock the door with a sliding button (thus activating the lights at the same time), and there’s also a handle so you can use your elbow to pop open the door from the inside.
“We have continued to invest in the development and implementation of innovative technologies because the health and safety of passengers and our staff is the top priority,” ANA’s Shinichi Inoue, senior executive vice president of customer experience management and planning, said in a statement. “The hands-free lavatory door is the latest example of us putting this principle into practice.”
Depending how the implementation process goes, ANA hopes to introduce the new hands-free doors on more of its planes, including those that fly international routes. At present, most foreigners cannot enter Japan and international travel is heavily restricted.
Though the odds of catching the virus while on a plane are relatively low, bathrooms are unsurprisingly among the germiest of places on board even during the best of times.
Around the world, airlines have tried a range of different approaches to in-air hygiene. Many airlines require both passengers and crew members to wear masks on board, and some require staff to wear full PPE.
Thailand briefly banned food and drink service, as well as newspapers and magazines, on domestic flights as a preventative measure. In China, the national aviation authority even suggested that flight attendants wear diapers while working in order to cut back on trips to the lavatory. Maybe hands-free airplane doors will work as a substitute.