SkyMax’s innovative SkyTender inflight drinks dispenser recently took the skies for an inaugural flight on board German charter airline WDL Aviation. Now the company is working with regulators in Europe to gain certification.
Adhering to RTCA’s DO-160 – the standard for environmental testing of airborne equipment – and after demonstrating performance against temperate variation, humidity, operational shocks, vibration, emissions and radio frequencies, SkyMax hopes to gain a ‘certificate of compliance’ for the SkyTender by the end of January.
Once achieved, says SkyMax managing director Oliver Kloth, “we should receive EASA certification for the SkyTender in June 2013”.
SkyMax is eager to bring the product to market as numerous airlines are interested in taking a closer look. Asked whether passengers in the USA will ever see the product in-flight, Kloth expresses strong optimism. “We hope so, currently we’re in negotiations with US airlines and expect to sign the first contract in 2013.”
The company says airline caterers can save considerable manpower hours due to the fact that there is no requirement to pack each trolley with a myriad assortment of drinks.
The system can be purchased outright but SkyMax also offers leasing programmes. The SkyTender can be retrofitted to all lightweight, full-size trolleys provided by the airline or the company can provide the inflight cart itself with the SkyTender installed.
Full-service rental is the preferred solution for airlines since they don’t need to invest; their only cost is operational, and cost savings will be achieved from the first month, suggests Skymax, which handles maintenance as part of the rental agreement.
Whilst the SkyTender may have a place on airlines (that still offer a free beverage service) Joe Elias, CEO Retail inMotion, believes that the system may not suit airlines that provide buy-on-board drink menus to passengers. “I think it takes up a lot of space. Our analysis is that optimisation of the mix of product on-board is key to good sales and revenues,” he says.
Elias raises a good point. Whilst a fully stocked SkyTender could make approximately USD$550-700 for every 235 drinks sold (the standard amount of drinks dispensed from a fully stocked SkyTender), will this justify having the SkyTender on-board?
Will it give airlines the right mix of product to sell in a buy-on-board environment? Airlines will need to look at the cost savings it offers versus the cost savings to their inflight catering charges and work out if the SkyTender is suitable for their requirements.