The restroom can have a big influence on a traveler's opinion of an airport.
"Restrooms are the first thing they use and the last thing that they use, so it really impacts their journey and it really impacts the experience at that airport," said Tracy Davis, president and chief executive of TRAX Analytics, which provides bathroom technology.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is investing millions of dollars in its restroom experience, as the airport board recently approved a three-year, $3.2 million award for TRAX Analytics, part of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Infax, Inc., to implement smart bathroom technology in the airport's 135 restrooms.
When the technology is up and running, travelers will see digital signage outside each bathroom telling them how many stalls are open.
And inside the restroom, people will see occupancy lights above each stall letting them know which ones are free. The concept is similar to what many parking garages use.
Davis said it will take at least a few months to install the technology across the airport, and work should begin in the coming months.
The DFW Airport custodial staff will also see benefits from the technology. Sensors equipped throughout the restroom will let custodians know when things like soap, paper towels and toilet paper are running low.
The sensors allow staff to operate on demand, rather than a time-scheduled approach for making sure the bathrooms are well stocked. This will increase operational efficiency, said Julio Badin, senior vice president of Customer Experience at the airport, in a committee meeting last week.
"Our passenger volumes are going up precipitously. The number of restrooms isn't," Badin said. "We need to get better at how we take the demand and use that to our advantage."
Davis said the technology to be installed at DFW is similar to work the company has done for other airports, like both William P. Hobby Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
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American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq: AAL) is the main tenant of DFW, where it operates more than 80 percent of the flights at the airport.
DFW is projecting more than 80 million passengers to travel through the airport annually in the next five years.