airport restrooms

Travel Tidbits from Denver and Los Angeles airports

Ending the week with some travel tidbits from airports for you.

Were you hoping that Norbert the Turtle really was joining the pet therapy program at Denver International Airport? That turned out to be an April Fool’s Day joke, but DEN did add their 101st member to their team.

Not a joke was the announcement that Los Angeles International Airport had installed Tooshlights in one set of bathrooms in the American Airlines Terminal 4 to guide lav users – via overhead red and green lights – to stalls that are open.

LAX also announced that $4.9 billion contract had been approved by the Los World Airports (LAWA) Board of Airport Commissioners (BOAC) to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Automated People Mover (APM) system at the airport.

The system promises driverless trains that will arrive at every station every two minutes, and light-filled stations with escalators, elevators, and moving walkways. Bonus amenities include a viewing platform of the iconic Theme Building.

When will we be able to take the train to LAX? Sometime in 2023.

More Best Airport Amenities from 2016

(SAN DIEGO, APRIL, 29, 2016: Members of the Fern Street Circus perform at the San Diego International Airport. Photo: Gary Payne)

We’re ending the year with a look back at some of the cool new amenities and events airports offered travelers during 2016.

During 2016, San Diego International Airport awarded its first performing arts residency to the Fern Street Circus, which spent several months at the airport creating, rehearsing and performing a new show about – what else – traveling – and just clowning around with passengers.

The train between Denver International Airport and downtown Denver finally started running.

And events on the plaza between DEN’s terminal and the Westin Denver International Airport got underway. Through January 1, there’s ice-skating on the plaza.

During 2016 airline and airport employees joined passengers at airports in Miami, Seattle, Denver, Charlotte, North Carolina and other airports to stand very still and be filmed for the latest viral internet trend known as the mannequin challenge.

And, the first batch of the 100 sets of bathrooms being updated at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were declared winners in the 15th annual America’s Best Restroom Contest.

Here’s to more great events and amenities for travelers during 2017.

Airport loos land top spot in America’s Best Restroom contest

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My “At the Airport” column in USA TODAY this month is all about airport bathrooms and celebrates the fact that Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport took first place this year in the annual contest to choose America’s best public restroom.

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The last time there was news about the stalls at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was in 2007 and the story centered about a senator and a sex sting.

But now MSP and its loos will get more respect.

The first batch of airport’s updated restrooms was named the 2016 winners in the 15th annual America’s Best Restroom Contest.

Hosted by Cintas, a Cincinnati-based company that cleans and provides supplies for public restrooms, the contest lets the public pick the winner from a set of 10 finalists and this MSP’s lavs were pitted against the likes of a Dr. Who-themed Tardis bathroom at a bar in Brooklyn, N.Y., a bookstore in St. Louis where the bathrooms are papered in classic books, and the restrooms at a Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA, (home of the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs) which feature a hands-free, motion-control urinal gaming system. (Scores get posted!)

The restrooms MSP entered in the contest are part of a terminal-wide restroom renovation plan that started in 2009 and will continue through 2025 and encompass more than 100 sets of public restrooms throughout the airport.

In addition to overhauling each restroom to stalls with out-swinging doors and niches for rolling luggage, baby changing stations and shallow trough sinks that minimize splashing, MSP created “restroom zones” throughout the airport.

Each zone has out-the-way where travel companions can wait and amenities such as flight information boards, AEDs and others emergency devices, water-bottle refill stations and curated art display cases.

Mosaic art with a Minnesota theme marks the entrance to each restroom, with each set created by a different regional artist.

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This isn’t the first time airport thrones have been in the running for the Best Restroom Contest crown.
Tampa International Airport’s renovated restrooms were among the finalists in 2013, losing out to the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.

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And back in 2005, the loos at Fort Smith Regional Airport in Arkansas took first prize.

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(Read the full column – and see more photos here.)

MSP airport lav in running for Best Restroom award

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It’s been a while, but this year there’s an airport lav in there with the finalists for this year’s America’s Best Restroom.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport recently began renovating its restrooms – and plans to update 100 sets of public restrooms by 2025.

Here’s their pitch:

“Restroom zones are highlighted by softer lighting and a material palette that serves as a wayfinding icon. This zone includes a waiting area as well as an amenity node with flight information, emergency devices, and curated art display cases. Art that reflects features of Minnesota is also featured within the restrooms with original mosaic art in the entrances, created by a different regional artist at each set.”

The competitors are loos in ballparks, restaurants and other public spaces – and voting ends Nov 2.

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Award-winning airport restrooms? Yup.

JAX - women's restroom

Jacksonville Int’l Airport

 

Public restrooms can be a crapshoot when it comes to cleanliness and overall appeal.

But some establishments do loos right, with spotless sinks and stalls, unique design features and a dash of surprise and creative flair.

And when they do “it shows a commitment to quality across the board,” said Danny Rubin, survey editor for Cintas’ annual America’s Best Restroom contest. “If an owner is going to put so much attention into the restroom, it shows you how much they care about the entire building.”

Have a seat and consider some recent contest winners.

The 17 lavatories at Longwood Gardens, near Philadelphia (the 2014 winner), are part of the largest living “Green Wall” in North America. The restrooms at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, the contest’s 2013 winner, have bar service and a view out to the venue’s concert stage. And the 2012 winner, a Buc-ees convenience store in New Braunfels, Texas offers patrons a choice of 83 spotless thrones.

There have been some airports amongst the nominees and the winners as well.

In 2005, Fort Smith Regional Airport in Arkansas was a winner.

Award winning bathroom room Fort Smith Regional Airport

Winning bathroom at Fort Smith Regional Airport

And Tampa International Airport’s restrooms were among the top nominees in 2013.

Tampa Airport

Cintas is now rounding up the list of go-worthy restrooms for the 2015 contest and they expect nominations to trickle in through June.

“It’s remarkable that we’ve had a fresh list of 10 great restrooms on the ballot for each of the past 13 years,” said Rubin, “but we keep finding out about great restrooms in hotels, museums, parks, airports, stores, malls, theaters and other places around the country that we haven’t heard of before.”

What makes a public restroom a contender?

A restroom being nominated should be extremely clean, of course, but it should also be able to pass the “eye test,” said Rubin. “Do people go in, look around and say ‘Wow, that’s spectacular,’ do they talk about it, does it generate buzz?”

Being nominated is an honor all its own, of course, but the public restroom that comes in first place in the contest gets $2500 worth of restroom services; the three venues that get the most votes get their restrooms deep-cleaned.

You’ll find details on how to submit a nomination for Cintas’ America’s Best Restroom contest here.

(A slightly different version of my story about Best Restrooms first appeared on Today.com)