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Japanese airline develops ‘hand-free’ cabin toilet

written by Hannah Dowling | August 28, 2020

ANA’s first 787 lands at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on 27 September at the end of its delivery flight from Everett. (Boeing)
ANA’s first 787 lands at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on 27 September at the end of its delivery flight from Everett. (Boeing)

ANA, Japan’s largest airline, is reportedly in early stages of trialling a new onboard bathroom system that is designed to be opened with one’s elbow, minimising the spread of germs from hand contact.

The prototype has been set up within the airline’s lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, in the hopes of gathering feedback to determine if the new door would be welcomed by travellers on-board ANA’s aircraft.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people afraid of contracting the virus from surfaces, which caused airlines to significantly ramp up onboard cleaning and sanitation practices. 

However, this fear of contracting the virus has contributed to some ongoing reluctance to travel.

In an attempt to ease these fears, the airline, in collaboration with aviation product development company JAMCO, has developed and begun the trialling of the onboard toilet, with a door that requires no hand contact.

The door opens inwards, and can be opened through the use of a broad, flat lever that is pushed with the elbow.

Once inside the toilet, a large sliding bolt can be pushed with the customer’s elbow or lower arm to lock the door, and a secondary handle inside the bathroom can be pushed easily with the elbow to let them out.


Previously, ANA had been working on a separate touchless door experience for onboard bathrooms that utilised foot pedals to manoeuvre the door, however the airline stated that turbulence could make the process difficult for passengers, or cause them to lose their balance.

ANA and JAMCO are not alone in seeking out my hygienic solutions on airplanes, with technology company HAECO Americas in development of a similar product, using sensors.

According to the American company, it is working on a sensor-activated toilet door which, coupled with its foot-operated flush, automatic bin lid and combined water, soap and sanitiser dispensers, could create an entirely hands-free onboard toilet experience.

“We don’t see any reason the entire lavatory couldn’t become touchless,” HAECO president Doug Rasmussen told American media. “We are even working on an idea for the toilet lid and seat.”

Other notable inventions include Collins Aerospace’s plexiglass toilet cover that can stop particles from escaping the toilet bowl after flushing, and Honeywell Aerospace’s cleaning robot, which can sweep a whole plane cabin with a UV light in 10 minutes, and disinfection pods for airport staff.


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