What’s Up With O’Hare Airport & Its Public Toilets?

Joe and I went to Chicago to visit a friend in the mid-1990s and when I stopped at the ladies’ room after we landed at O’Hare International Aiport, I was surprised to see the oddest looking toilet I had ever seen in the U.S. The toilet itself was pretty typical but the seat had a plastic wrapper on it. The sign in the stall said to press the button and the plastic would be replaced for my hygienic safety, or some such. When we went back to Chicago this summer, these weird toilets were still there, still freshly wrapping the seat in plastic for your butt.

My question this summer was exactly the same as it was circa 1995…


Well, according to a post in the Chicago-Tribune, the plain ol’ typical toilets at O’Hare were upgraded to “Hygolet” motorized toilet seats, which offered fresh plastic liner at the push of a button, in mid-1993. Since then, this modern technology (which was upgraded in 2009 to “SaniSeats” – the seats are larger and you don’t have to press the button anymore; they have an electric eye and use that to automatically rotate the plastic for you) has cost the airport hundreds of millions of dollars in multi-year contracts with various companies (in 1993 it was Bella Bagno, Inc., while in 2013 they were in the midst of a 5-year contract with United Maintenance Co.).

Anyway, apparently some people love these “special” toilet seats and others think they’re ridiculous. Personally, sorry but I’m in the latter group. I’d be just as happy with a paper liner, which is probably cheaper, is definitely less apt to have mechanical problems (except when you put the liner on the seat and the auto flush flushes it down as you’re turning around, before you get a chance to sit. Know how to fix that? Put the cutout part of the liner OUTSIDE the toilet), and can probably be recycled a whole lot easier than however many rolls of plastic that have passed over O’Hare’s toilets over the past 24 years.

Throughout the last decade or so, newspapers have printed articles questioning if the plastic liners are as hygienic as is claimed. i.e. if liquid is poured in a certain way and in a certain place, it stays there even when the plastic is going through its rotation.


Of course, all those involved in the manufacturing and purchasing of SaniSeats say that’s a bunch of sh….stuff that would go down those toilets.

Personally, I’m more concerned about how many people don’t wash their hands property when they’re finished using the toilet, SaniSeat notwithstanding.

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3 thoughts on “What’s Up With O’Hare Airport & Its Public Toilets?”

  1. These expensive, useless toilet seats was a no-compete contract to a Mayor Daley friend. (Allegedly) 🙂 The newly remodeled restrooms in T1 do not have these seats.


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