Japanese airline testing more hygienic, elbow-activated toilet doors

  • Airlines are fighting to regain customer trust after shutting down nearly all flights in the initial period of the pandemic.
  • Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) is testing a new door with an “elbow doorknob” for its airplane bathrooms, according to CNN.
  • The doorknob allows passengers to open the door without touching it with your hands. It was first trialed in Haneda Airport in mid-June.
  • For now, the prototype is being tested at Tokyo International Airport with the aim of collecting feedback from travelers.
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After nearly all flights were shut down in the initial stages of the pandemic, airlines are now battling to regain customer trust where travel safety is concerned.

Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA), however, is already looking into possible solutions that may boost passenger confidence in airlines.

The airline started trialing a new “elbow-activated” door for its airplanes at Tokyo International Airport (also known as Haneda Airport), according to CNN.

It was first trialed in mid-June.

Though the state of bathroom hygiene aboard aircraft carriers was already a cause for concern for a lot of flyers prior to the COVID-19 health crisis, the pandemic has increased a need for caution around public bathrooms: normally, aircraft toilets are disinfected between uses. Despite this, now more than ever, it may be hard to feel entirely reassured if you do use an airplane toilet mid-flight that it will have been cleaned adequately.

Unfortunately, the lack of space means it’s not an easy task to add hygienic modifications to existing spaces.

The doors of airplane toilets usually open inwards — they tend to have small handles instead of knobs, or latches. This usually requires using your hands.

ANA bathroom

Prototype of a new aircraft door opening system being tested by ANA airline.


ANA — which is also testing flights that go nowhere — may have found a novel solution in conjunction with aircraft interior supplier giant JAMCO.

The airline is now getting feedback on an “elbow-activated” airplane door that can be operated with the elbow rather than with the hands. The innovation aims to be more hygienic as well as to adapt to existing spaces.

JAMCO, which specializes in airplane seats, kitchens, and toilets, specifically designed the innovation.

It’s a prototype and is currently available only at ANA’s lounge at Haneda Airport.

The “elbow-activated” door consists of two key components

There are two different components to the locking mechanism: the door will still open inwards, but instead of pulling a latch, passengers will be able to push the door open, hands-free, with their elbow.

Once inside the bathroom, there’s a second, larger sliding bolt to lock and unlock the door — this can also be pushed with the elbow, which passengers could theoretically use to let themselves in and out.

ANA has said it will continue collecting feedback on the concept until the end of August.

If travelers give the door the green light, the elbow-activated, hands-free design could be extended to other ANA aircraft carriers — whether the doorknob would have to meet aviation standards before being rolled out remains to be seen.

The novel coronavirus is not mainly spread through surfaces, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the organization recommends frequent and robust hand-washing and that frequently touched surfaces  — like door handles, bathroom taps, and drinking fountains — should be disinfected daily.

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