Clean airport restrooms are a huge part of traveler satisfaction and one of the biggest challenges to your maintenance staff. After all airports are busy, 24-hour facilities and only getting busier. Airlines for America reports that, as of September 2018, there are 27,000 daily flights to and from US airports carrying 2.3 million passengers.
Guess where all of those travelers stop before and after their flight?
Savvy airport management are hearing loud and clear that dingy, dirty spaces are no longer acceptable. "Bathroom cleanliness is a big driver of satisfaction at airports, and if you want a pleasant experience, clean bathrooms are a must," said Dimitri Coll, the associate director for the Airports Council International, the official association for the world's airports, which recently conducted a survey of travelers that emphasized the importance of airport cleanliness, as reported in the New York Times.
Maintaining clean airport restrooms, however, comes with a whole list of challenges.
Turbulence Ahead: The Challenges of Clean
Airports are big and busy. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, for instance, is the world's busiest, seeing nearly 104 million passengers coming through in 2017. They have a monumental 1,300 toilets to keep clean. Other facilities may not be as enormous, but their challenges remain the same.
- No Off Hours: Airports have been compared to small cities and while foot traffic may slow down in the wee hours, it never fully abates.
- Cleaning Once is Not Enough: Even if staff deep cleaned in the off hours, it wouldn't last long after the morning rush. Travel Codex crunched the numbers of peak US airport times and found a huge bump in air travel between five and six am after noise abetment ordinances lift. They identified other bumps throughout the day and well into the evening.
- Accidents Happen: Scheduling cleaning around the slow times may make sense, but unpleasant accidents, clogged toilets and a lack of soap and towels can happen at any time. Keeping crews to a schedule means potentially missing these problems.
- Closed for Cleaning?: Keeping airport restrooms in top shape means continuously servicing them. But that brings a new set of challenges. Imagine a harried passenger, loaded down with bags, children in tow and running to make their connection. The last thing they want to see is a "closed for maintenance" sign blocking the restroom.
To conquer these challenges, airports need maintenance methods that are flexible, clean fast and dry quickly.
Clean by Design
Capital improvements at airports showcase the importance of clean restrooms. When updating the restrooms at Dayton International Airport, ongoing maintenance was at the top of the list. Designers replaced stainless steel toilet partitions with easier-to-maintain panels. Large-format ceramic tiles with thin grout lines discourage the collection of soils, grime and bacteria while terrazzo flooring looks great and is easy to maintain.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is going through an even bigger redesign to improve their restrooms. The 20-year project started in 2009 in response to customer complaints. New restrooms have updated aesthetics and easy to maintain materials like white epoxy floors. The results have been noticed. In 2016 they were named the winner in America's Best Restroom Contest, hosted by Cintas.
Clean Airport Restrooms? There's an App for That
Realizing the importance--and challenges—keeping restrooms clean, airport management has turned to technology for help. So far seven US airports have invested in new software to help keep restrooms cleaner and more efficient.
The software counts how many people enter and exit a restroom and can alert custodial supervisors, via email, that it's time to clean after a set number of travelers pass through. Passengers can also leave feedback on their restroom experience via a tablet mounted at the exit. With this, a poor experience can be immediately identified and remedied.
Other high-tech strategies include outfitting maintenance staff with a smartwatch that matches resources to peak restroom times and investing in state-of-the-art cleaning tools that get the job done faster.
The Right Equipment
Old fashioned cleaning techniques and tools have no place in the modern airport. Mops, buckets and rags are too inefficient and give poor results. Instead reach for a Kaivac No-Touch System. This spray-and-vac technology cleans quickly and completely, leaving surfaces dry and ready to use. Staff spray restroom surfaces down, allow cleaning solution to dwell then suck up moisture from the floor with a high-performance vacuum.
However, the right way to clean airport restrooms not only has to be fast, it also always has to be ready to use. "When you're cleaning busy airports every day of the year, you just can't have your cleaning equipment break down,' says Scott Murray with BG Service Solutions, a large cleaning contractor based in Denver, Colorado. 'You've got to stay on top of things. Not only can the health and appearance of the airport be negatively affected if you miss a day or two, but it can take days to get things back in shape.'
Murray's switch to a Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning system has slashed downtime to a minimum. Not only are do they have a great service record, all of the machine's major mechanicals are housed in a removable black box.
When it's time for maintenance they remove the box, snap in a spare and get back to work. 'We keep an extra black box handy at all times,' says Murray. 'We just snap it on and we're back in business. No downtime and our airport restrooms stay clean and healthy 24/7.'
Click here for more information on how to clean airport restrooms the right way.
Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.