U.S. Airports Are Apparently So Bad That Passengers Are Thrilled By a Simple, Nice Bathroom

Screenshot: Port Authority NY&NJ (Twitter)

When I go to an airport, hardly anybody is happy. The food’s offensively expensive. People are sleeping on the floor. Everyone looks haggard. There’s dog pee in the corner. It’s the 10th circle of hell. But at least LaGuardia has updated bathrooms!

To be fair, no one should ever underestimate the power of a bathroom. They are usually the first places people visit upon landing and it’s easy to publicly shame an airport with a simple photo of a bathroom mess uploaded to social media. So, airports like LaGuardia are realizing that offering customers a nice bathroom experience can actually result in a positive travel experience. That is some pure, original thinking!

Much of LaGuardia, one of the most-hated airports in the U.S., is currently undergoing an $8 billion overhaul that’s expected to wrap up by 2022. And despite the construction resulting in “chaos” for travelers, some of the newly opened bathrooms in Concourse B are, apparently, a thing of spacious beauty, reports the Wall Street Journal:

For men, the new facility has 15 stalls and 16 urinals in 2,810 square feet, compared with a total of six stalls and six urinals in 536 square feet in the space it replaces. The women’s restroom has 31 stalls, compared with 17 in the old facility, and more than four times the space. The new concourse also will have four new family restrooms for those with small children.

“The Cadillac of airport restrooms,” declared Josh Graven of Louisville, Ky., during a recent sales trip to New York. “I drink a lot to stay hydrated when I travel, so bathrooms are important. This is impressive. Bathrooms across the nation could use this as a good benchmark.”

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Furthermore, there is reflective glass embedded in the floors, so they look sparkly and cleaner that they could be. Trough-style sinks slope downward, so that water drains into them. There are shelves for bags. Toilets are now mounted to the walls and stall dividers are hung from the ceiling so its easier to mop. The stalls themselves are wider so people can fit roller suitcases and there are wall-mounted hooks for coats and bags without bending the doors.

People are shocked and amazed. Mary Wolfe, a traveler from Kansas, took to social media to express her delight.

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“It made a huge positive impression on me,” she told the outlet.

The same went for another traveler, Perry Throckmorton. He also tweeted out his happiness.

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Other airports are catching on, too. Occupied and unoccupied lights have been installed on stall doors in Atlanta. Detroit is using an analytics system that can help managers predict bathroom traffic, which can be handy during delays caused by storms, according to the Journal.

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I’m glad that conditions are getting better for travelers. But I think the surprise and happiness felt upon seeing a renovated bathroom speaks volumes to the standards of air travel that we have all been forced to accept. Shouldn’t seeing a clean bathroom and a toilet not backed up with God-knows-what in an airport already be the expectation? Because it’s not currently. It’s abnormal.

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Because when an airport experience is actually pleasant, it comes as a massive surprise. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the administration responsible for LaGuardia, jubilantly tweeted out the WSJ’s story. It’s a move that’s more than a little self-promoting and it makes me wonder why things were allowed to fall into such dire disrepair in the first place.

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About the author

Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.