Lonely Planet Writer

The germ-free airplane bathroom of the future

Of all the benefits an airplane toilet can afford, cleanliness may not be the first that comes to mind. However, Boeing engineers and designers have developed a new prototype to change that; a hands-free, self-cleaning toilet.

The self-cleaning lavatory prototype
The self-cleaning lavatory prototype Image by Boeing

Using ultraviolet (UV) light to clean 99.99% of germs, the new toilet system can disinfect every surface in just three seconds. The best part? It’s all completely touch-free.

The toilet seat lifts and closes by itself and has a hands-free tap, soap dispenser, trash lid and hand dryer. Engineers are also hoping to develop a hands-free door latch, allowing passengers to conduct their business with minimal contact with the lavatory surfaces.

The UV light is only activated when the toilet is unoccupied, and is a type of UV safe for people. It can even help combat bad odours and the airplane company hopes it makes long-haul flights more palatable, important for those upcoming 19 hour flights.

“We’re trying to alleviate the anxiety we all face when using a restroom that gets a workout during a flight,” said Jeanne Yu, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Director of Environmental Performance. “Some of the touchless features are already in use on some Boeing airplanes today, but combining that with the new UV sanitizing will give passengers even more protection from germs and make for an even better flying experience.”

Germophobes will have to wait as the system will need further study before it can be offered to airlines. In the meantime, you can try and avoid bugs by taking a window seat. A recent study showed that the aisle seat is touched by more people in the aircraft, increasing your likelihood of picking up a bug. Luckily in the future you may be able to remain safe by just staying in the toilet until landing.