When plans for the Airbus A380 super-jumbo were announced, there was optimistic talk of everything from showers to fitness centres being available on future long-haul flights. But it's Boeing that has taken in-flight amenities to a new level. This week news leaked (sorry) that bidets are to be fitted on forthcoming 787 Dreamliners flown by Japanese carriers ANA and JAL.
The two airlines have orders for over 80 Dreamliners between them, with ANA due to take delivery of its first planes in May 2008, and JAL later that year. ANA says it will fit combined toilet-bidets or "washlets" in the lavatories of all classes, while JAL is to limit them to premium cabins.
"We will be the first airline to refresh the parts that other airlines cannot reach," said Mineo Yamamoto, ANA's president and chief executive.
Statistics show that over 60 per cent of Japanese households own a toilet-bidet, along with many public toilets and office buildings across the country. Boeing has worked with popular manufacturer TOTO to create a model which will stand up to the pressures of continual use during long-haul flights, and says the unit, which has a number of different spray options, will only function when someone is sat on it, to lessen the chance of water going on the floor.
Whether the more conservative UK and US markets will warm to thought of jet sprays at 30,000 feet is another question – Boeing says that while the Washlet is listed as an option for all Dreamliner aircraft, so far none of the other 44 customers have taken up the offer.
Report by Mark Caswell