The Philadelphia Inquirer: Gender-neutral bathrooms, lactation rooms, and pet relief areas are coming to PHL

At Tuesday’s groundbreaking in Terminal A-East, the next phase of the airport-wide bathroom renovation project kicked off. The project is expected to be complete by 2028.

Restrooms are one of the places just about every person visits when traveling through an airport. Philadelphia International Airport has been renovating its bathrooms since 2012, working toward improving what some travelers at the time complained were dingy facilities.

On Tuesday, PHL broke ground on Phase 5 of its nine-part bathroom renovation program. When all nine phases have been completed, the airport will have an additional 13,000 square feet of bathroom space across all terminals, with 35 more stalls by 2028.

The project, which launched in 2012, has already renovated 16 bathrooms, which take between eight and 12 months to upgrade.

Airport leadership staff and elected officials, including Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and U.S. Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon and Dwight Evans, gathered at the airport to celebrate the groundbreaking of the future bathroom facility at Terminal A-East baggage claim.

“As traffic continues to rebound, we need to continue to make the necessary infrastructure investments to ensure Philadelphia International Airport remains a world-class facility,” said Atif Saeed, PHL CEO.

Phases 5 through 9 of the project will upgrade 30 bathrooms and build two new ones. It will also create five lactation rooms, which will replace the lactation pods already available at the airport. The project will also add 49 gender-neutral bathrooms, and three adult assisted-care restrooms, which have more space. There will also be four new pet relief areas. Existing bathrooms will be upgraded to be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The new bathrooms in Terminal A will include smart and touchless technology to reduce energy and water use, said Api Appulingam, PHL’s deputy director of aviation and capital development. A pilot program is testing sensors in the dispensers used for soap, paper towels, or toilet paper, which can inform custodial staff about supplies running low.

Aer Lingus and American Airlines operate out of A-East, but international travelers from other airlines arriving into A-West could also pass through the area if Philadelphia is their final destination.

Last year, PHL was awarded $24 million by the Federal Aviation Administration to support its bathroom program through the Infrastructure Law passed in 2021. And earlier this year, the airport received an additional $15 million toward the project from the FAA.

“These infrastructure dollars have not been available for more than 50 years — some believe it goes back 75 years,” Casey said during Tuesday’s groundbreaking. “This is a good investment, not only for this airport, but for all of Southeastern Pennsylvania and all the people that travel through here.”

Sen. Bob Casey takes off his safety-wear after he and other elected officials and airport workers viewed construction on another new restroom at Philadelphia International Airport .
Sen. Bob Casey takes off his safety-wear after he and other elected officials and airport workers viewed construction on another new restroom at Philadelphia International Airport. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer

The multiyear bathroom renovation program has required a total budget of over $200 million since its inception in 2012.

The airport has also recently received $15 million from the FAA to support renovations aimed at improving PHL’s carbon footprint, while replacing aging infrastructure.

PHL is one of several locations throughout Philadelphia receiving federal infrastructure funding. A project aimed at making Roosevelt Boulevard safer for pedestrians is getting $78 million, and schools in North Philadelphia are getting $25 million for slow zones.