By Maria-Jose Subiria
As 8-year-old Alyssa Letourneau, of Savannah, washed her hands in a restroom at Hartsfield-Jackson, Lynell Martin, an outgoing and bubbly full-time restroom attendant at the airport, sang "If you're happy and you know it wash your hands."
"Welcome to the Happy Restroom," Martin said as a group of women entered the restroom. "Come in happy, go out happy, get to your flight happy, and come back to the Happy Restroom."
Martin works in the South Ladies Restroom, in the atrium of the airport, and is one of several full-time attendants now stationed in restrooms throughout the atrium on a daily basis.
According to Carmenlita Scott, general manager of operations for ICS Contract Services, which provides cleaning services at Hartsfield-Jackson, there are two shifts of full-time restroom attendants working Monday through Sunday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. The restrooms have been spruced up with decorative plants, and lotions and hand sanitizers are placed on the sink counters. A photo of how the restroom should always be presented has been placed on the counter near the lotions and plants, and a plaque has been installed in each restroom which shows the name of the on-duty attendant.
There are a total of six restrooms in the atrium of Hartsfield-Jackson -- three women's restrooms and three men's restrooms -- staffed by an attendant, Scott said.
The attendants assure that the restrooms are well-maintained, and that guests are taken care of, she added.
Attendants are responsible for cleaning duties, Scott said, and provide customer service to passengers by supplying complimentary lotions and sanitizers, assisting the disabled and providing guests with directions.
"The airport is your first impression of Atlanta," said Scott. "We want to make sure the first impression is good and we want to represent the city, as well."
"I come here [Hartsfield-Jackson] every week, and this is my highlight," Lauri Buell, a passenger from Atlanta, said while tipping Martin recently. "She is really special."
Harry Hansberry, another restroom attendant at Hartsfield-Jackson, said he has received an array of positive comments about the upgraded restroom service.
"It is very important, because I think if the bathroom looks good, the rest of the airport looks good," he said.
He said there's always something to do.
"Because once you finish [cleaning], it's time to do it all over again," he said.
Susanne Lynn, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, said the restroom attendants ensure cleanliness for passengers and guests.
Lynn said she is also fond of the complimentary lotions.
"It is nice to see a friendly service," she said.
According to Brian Kingston, vice president of airport operations for ICS Contract Services at Hartsfield-Jackson, the restroom-attendant positions were created in 2007, but the attendants only serviced restrooms part-time.
"In the old service, we just cleaned the bathroom and didn't have any interaction with the passenger," said Kingston.
Kingston said the company decided to improve the restroom services after an analysis of customer comments.
He said women, for example, requested the sink counters be dried more frequently, so personal items could be comfortably set aside.
Kingston said the company began planning for full-time restroom attendants in early 2008.
As part of the attendant program's launch, Scott said workers' uniforms were upgraded.
"With the new uniforms, the passenger feels more welcomed," she said. "They say they feel they are in an upscale office building."
Scott said attendants working the first shift, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., wear white shirts and bow ties. Second-shift attendants, who work from 3 to 11 p.m., wear regular uniforms, which consist of a white undershirt, a burgundy or forest green collared shirt with the embroidered ICS Contract Services logo, and black pants.
Eventually, the second shift will be uniformed in the more upscale attire, Scott said.
Kingston said that after the attendants were trained, a pilot program launched on Thanksgiving weekend last year and the full-time attendants became a permanent part of ICS Contract Services' operations early this year.
Eventually, the restroom-attendant service will spread to all of Hartsfield-Jackson's concourses, beginning with Concourse T, Kingston said.
"We have a lot of great people. We just want to make sure they are well prepared," he said.