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Asia Minute: Designing a Better Airplane Restroom

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Chances are it will be some time before a lot of people come to Hawaii on airplanes. But in the next stage of air travel in the age of COVID-19, customers will be looking for some new developments. And a couple of companies in Asia are working on it.

Think about your next plane ride, and areas where you might like to see some changes. Japan’s All Nippon Airways has been thinking about that — including, well, the restroom door.

ANA engineers have come up with a way to open airplane restrooms with your elbow. The set up is in trials right now at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, and a company spokesperson told the BBCthey’re still deciding whether or not to put the system into broader use.

It works with two doorknobs that can be maneuvered with the elbow — the whole idea is to keep it hands-free.

Travel and Leisure Magazine reportsANA also had a plan for a door that could be opened and closed with your foot, but the company abandoned that because of worries about people’s balance — especially during any turbulence.

A U.S. subsidiary of a Hong Kong-based company has big plans for some foot-controlled devices in an airplane restroom.

Haeco Americas has developed a foot-powered flushing mechanism, and is working on doors that can be opened and closed by waving a hand over a sensor. CNBC quotes the president of the company as saying “we don’t see any reason the entire lavatory couldn’t become touchless.”

No word yet on a timeline for any of these developments in aircraft design.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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