We’re heading into another few weeks of record-breaking holiday travel and on our last few flights it seemed everyone was sick.
As the Centers for Disease Control – and your mother – will tell you, keeping your hands clean and washing them often with soap and clean, running water is one of the most important steps to take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
But in some public restrooms, the height of the sinks presents a hand-washing challenge to kids and short people.
That’s why the Stuck at the Airport hygiene team is delighted every time we encounter one of the Step ‘n Wash self-retracting step stools in an airport restroom.
At last count, close to 100 airports around the country have installed these handy stools in some or all of their restrooms. So keep an eye out for them when you’re traveling this season.
In addition to quick-moving security lines, and tasty things to eat and drink, clean restrooms with short waiting lines top most travelers’ wish lists for airport amenities.
And airports are responding by flushing out old, tired restroom designs and bringing in bathrooms that are bright, high-tech, art-filled, and new.
The latest to do so is Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
Upgraded restrooms were included in a recent Concourse A expansion and there’s an ongoing $55 million program to expand and improve six sets of restrooms on Concourses B, C, and D.
The first set of improved restrooms on Concourse B is now open.
The new set of restrooms now open on Concourse B is nearly 4,700 total square feet, with full-height stalls, space for stowing roller bags, surface materials that are easy to clean and sanitize, and improved ventilation.
The new restrooms also feature innovative technology such as occupancy lights for the stalls and sensors to inform custodial staff when supplies need to be refilled.
Updated Airport Restrooms Win Hearts – and Awards
Airports that give their restrooms modern makeovers not only win kudos from passengers, but some of the new loos also win awards.
But here are some of the highlights of the Best Airport Amenities from 2022.
Airports were on a roll in 2022, with two finalists in the running in the contest for America’s Best Restroom.
Newark Liberty International (EWR) was nominated for an innovative all-gender restroom suite. But Tampa International Airport (TPA) cleaned up as the winner, for its new, locally themed loos.
Tampa International Airport also won our hearts for the ‘adoption’ of an impossible-to-miss 21-foot-tall sculpture of a pink flamingo in the terminal. The artwork by Matthew Mazzotta is titled “Home.” But after a community-wide vote, the flamingo was named Phoebe.
The Return of Marriage Licenses & Free Ice-Skating
Some ‘best airport amenities’ from 2022 were actually the welcome return of amenities that were set aside during the pandemic.
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), and several others celebrated Valentine’s Day with free carnations for travelers. And in Las Vegas, the Marriage Capital of the World, the Clark County Clerk’s Office brought back its pop-up marriage license bureau to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).
And Denver International Airport (DEN) brought back free programming to the outdoor public space between the Jeppesen Terminal and the Westin Hotel.
Free miniature golf was offered in the summer and free ice-skating in the winter.
See the rest of our picks for Best Airport Amenities of 2022 here.
And over the years, restrooms in gardens, science centers, and museums have ascended to the throne in that contest. For example, the loos at Chicago’s Field Museum won the contest in 2011. And restrooms at many other museums have made the list of finalists over the years.
Perhaps inspired by the annual contest for America’s Best Restroom, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) recently did its own informal poll of favorite restrooms in museums around the country.
This is Ellen Driscoll’s creation, Catching the Drift. (Photographs by Jim Gipe).
And this washroom is the creation of Sandy Skoglund and is titled Liquid Origins, Fluid Dreams.
Mariners’ Museum and Park
Eight restrooms in the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, VA feature an exhibition titled A Head of its Time, all about “the history of going at sea,”
Text panels in the museum’s loo explore topics such as why the facilities – or lack thereof – were called “the head”; the wisdom of keeping tabs on wind direction and how sailors improvised before toilet paper.
The public restrooms at Longwood Gardens, in Kennet Square, PA, won America’s Best Restroom contest in 2014.
The 17 restrooms are part of the largest indoor “Green Wall” in North America and feature domed, naturally lit lavatory cabinets.
The list of the top 10 finalists for the 2022 America’s Best Restroom contest is out.
And this year restrooms at two airports are in the running to be crowned as the best throne in the country.
Newark Liberty Int’l Airport (EWR)
The Terminal B all-gender restroom at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is one of the airport restrooms nominated as an excellent example of how businesses develop and maintain innovative restroom facilities.
EWR’s new loo is in a 1970’s-era terminal departure lounge. The loo’s creative, gender-neutral design offers “potty parity” and means that more users can be accommodated than with a traditional restroom design.
The restroom includes areas for traveling companions to wait and for passengers to reorganize their belongings. Local imagery on the glass and tile establishes a sense of place. And sound and scent help create a calming environment.
These loos welcome travelers to a uniquely Florida experience with large graphics. A natural, deep blue stone with undulating veining is intended to be reminiscent of waves crashing along the shore.
“Once inside, large format tiles skin the floors and seamlessly fold up the walls, bolstering the well-lit environment and furthering a ‘freshly cleaned’ aesthetic,” the restroom nomination explains. “A wood-look wall tile adds warmth and softness for a balanced, resort-like feel.”
The vanities in these restrooms also offer TPA’s signature “cockpit” concept, which gives each guest their own sensor-activating sink and soap, personal paper towel dispensers, and a nearby trash receptacle.
The other nominated public bathrooms on this Best Restroom list include the self-cleaning restrooms at North Hollywood Recreation Center; prohibition-themed restrooms in Stone Mountain, GA; and a Japanese pub in Orlando, FL modeled after the green restroom seen in “The Aviator” film.
Here’s the image from the movie:
Here’s a snap from Orlando’s Tori Tori pub.
The public is invited to vote for their favorite finalist through August 31 here.