Feature: Trolleys

BY JULIE BAXTER

When a new flight launches, the razzamatazz and excitement generally surrounds the cabin style and routing potential but where would the service delivery be without the humble trolley?

Airline trolley specialist, Norduyn, recently announced a significant increase in its production capacity in response to increased airline demand for quick delivery in 2016.

The rash of airlines bringing new aircraft online for the high season had triggered a scramble to secure new trolleys at short notice and trolley production capacity in some areas quickly sold out.

Thomas Koehler, vp business development at Norduyn, says: “Across the industry, trolley production capacity has been limited leading to a shortage in supply. Having identified this shortage we took immediate measures to increase our own production capacity so we could respond quickly to airline demand.”

Lightweight

Norduyn launched its quantum FleX trolley earlier this year as a value version of its light-weight quantum trolley which has now been discontinued. The new trolley combines the light-weight benefits and key features of the original trolley but comes with a more affordable price tag. It is the lightest certified trolley in the market and uses an aluminium frame with plastic/composite panels. It is certified in 19 different configurations and designed for flexible customisation and reduced repair costs.

The trolley is a product that is sometimes rather hidden. The average passenger isn’t going to notice it much unless it is failing to function properly or is so noisy it’s disturbing, but its role and success impacts right across airline departments from crew to galley planning, caterers and dishwashers to chiller and beverage experts, not to mention logistics, storage and work safety personnel.

And there are a lot of them out there too. Nordyn alone has built and delivered over 45,000 trolleys to a wide range of airlines and evolved its light-weight range in response to an urgent demand for weight-savings triggered by the high fuel prices in 2009. While that has become less of a priority in recent times, the evolved quantum FleX trolley has retained lighter, quieter credentials by using composite side panels (rather than aluminium) which have weight, maintenance and thermal benefits and an added flexibility in terms of customising the design to suit each airline’s specific usage.

The role of the trolley is evolving too. Major aircraft players such as Airbus and others are trying out completely new concepts for the galley and catering, and while it is likely to be a long while before airlines begin to embrace radical change, the trolley’s role in marketing, product placement and branding is certainly beginning to take hold.

Norduyn launched a new trolley at AIX in April this year with a specific electronic locking mechanism designed to balance the need for security around valuable duty free products and onboard retail sales with crew privacy and ease of use. The company is in partnership with Uleotech, which already provides hard- and software solutions to duty free concessionaires and airlines, and reports positive feedback on its potential.

Smart solutions are also a priority for Zodiac Aerospace. This year two such innovations follow the successful introduction of the Hybrite S product range in 2015. Designed to cater for the valuable onboard retail sector, the Smart Lock is an innovative system with touch-key technology to prevent unauthorised access to trolleys and containers and it also automatically captures insightful data.

Chill out

For onboard meal service, the company’s Cool Trolley is focussed on keeping contents chilled for an extended period of time, such as the return leg of a flight. A smart thermodynamic design uses the maximum potential of dry ice, keeping its contents below 8°C/46°F up to 14 hours. Due to optimal insulation outer parts do not freeze, allowing Zodiac to claim a very crew-friendly application of dry ice cooling. This allows airlines to carry meals for return flights, reduce waste, improve food quality and gain logistics savings.

Both innovations are based on the well-established Hybrite S standard trolley. The range works to balance durability, ergonomics, weight and style. The full size trolley weight is 16kg, 6% lower than the previous model and that translates to a fuel saving of upto 160kg per wide-body aircraft (with 40 trolleys) on standard older trolleys of 20kg.

The company also works with airlines to offer a wide range of artwork possibilities; any picture, logo or artwork can be added, and airlines are increasingly using the trolley as a way to boost their own profile and brand identity.

Gategroup is responding to an evolving onboard environment with a range of ideas for boutique trolleys. From fresh Illy coffee retailed at seat, to Magnum ice creams in the Zodiac Aerospace Cool Trolley, Gategroup sees the trolley as a way to offer unique, innovative offerings as well as duty free shopping. The group has trialled dedicated jewellery trolleys and is developing themed trolley ranges for niche products and designer brands, as a way airlines can boost revenue.

Trolleys have a key role to play in catering and retail delivery onboard. Their evolution may go largely unnoticed by passengers, onboard service providers continue to have them well within their sights.