As part of its continuous commitment to enhancing the guest experience, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) has been modernizing its 48 sets of passenger-facing restrooms since 2012. Goals of the renovation program include improving quality and comfort, accommodating more travelers and implementing sustainability measures. The most recent sets of restrooms to reopen after being updated include those near Gate F31, Terminal D Bag Claim and Terminal D Ticketing.
“Some of the features added in this phase are touchless equipment. This allows our guests to not have to touch as many surfaces while using our restrooms, which is especially important now with COVID-19,” said Julie Coyle, Project Manager, Engineering/Design and Construction.
“At PHL, we are seeing a very slow and steady rise in passengers. An important part of maintaining this growth and getting our numbers back to pre-COVID-19 levels is our restrooms. A key part of the recovery is restoring confidence throughout the entire passenger journey, from airport entry to security checkpoints to restrooms and beyond,” said Api Appulingam, PHL Deputy Director of Aviation, Capital Development, during a presentation on "Airport Terminal Restroom Planning & Design" at the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers' 2020 Annual Conference.
In her presentation, Appulingam discussed in detail PHL’s multi-million-dollar Restroom Renovation Program, which also includes janitors' closets and storage; Service Animal Relief Areas (SARA); lactation suites; quiet spaces; benches with device charging spaces; assisted care spaces incorporating amenities like changing tables; and COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
Appulingam spoke about the evolution of restrooms into cleaner and safer environments. “Some elements in our new restrooms address COVID-19 concerns. We constructed trough sinks, which have less surface area for water to collect, and we installed touchless equipment such as faucets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers. We also recognized from guest behavior that water was dripping from hands onto floors. This can cause slips and falls and can breed bacteria. To avoid this, we located soap and drying options close to sinks, so our guests didn’t move from the sink with wet hands.”
The Restrooms Renovation Program is currently divided into seven phases. Phases One and Two are complete and will be refreshed again, as the last renovation was over seven years ago. The construction of Phase Three will be completed in Spring 2021, while Phase Four will be constructed by the end of 2022. Phases Five through Seven are nearing the end of the planning phase where the restroom team is determining the needs, evaluating existing condition and creating a master plan; design is anticipated to begin at the end of this year.
“We want our restrooms at Philadelphia International Airport to be truly barrier free. We want parents, grandparents, young children, and everyone in between, to be able to use our restrooms comfortably and safely,” said Appulingam.