Will This Invention Replace Flight Attendants and Food Trolleys?

Will This Invention Replace Flight Attendants and Food Trolleys? Photo (cc) by Pat Guiney

Could a new patent signal the end of traditional airplane beverage and snack trolleys, and maybe even flight attendants? Could it signal the end of waiting to visit the loo because the aisles are blocked?

A German company has filed a patent for a sushi-style conveyor belt that could distribute food on planes to passengers by ascending from under the cabin floor. The company, Sell GMBH, a German division of Zodiac Aerospace, specializes in ovens, coffee makers and other meal-service equipment for planes, Skift.com reports.

The “unique under-floor food distribution mechanism, a hybrid of a conveyor and automat machine, which will let airlines dispense food and beverage directly to passengers without trolleys and with limited human intervention,” Skift.com said.

Sell GMBH suggests that this type of food distribution would have the obvious benefit of unobstructed aisles (there’s nothing worse than needing to use the restroom when the food trolley is in the way) and hypothetically allow flight attendants to focus on other duties.

Passengers could potentially access the food on demand.

“It’s not very clear what [Sell GMBH] have in mind, but it could mean tapping a few buttons on the in-flight entertainment system to activate the plane Automat and get whatever you want when you want it,” Skift.com said.

Skift suggests that passengers in economy seating could get the raw end of the deal with an automatic food dispensing system: “Just imagine: sitting hungry on the window seat, the passenger in the aisle seat asleep, the food dispenser machine rises, is ignored and then descends, taking that tasty breakfast with it.”

In theory, this sounds like a better means of food delivery on planes, but I’m having a hard time picturing it in practice.

Another inventor, Martin Limanoff filed a patent for a similar system in 1965 – consisting of a service robot that traveled up and down the aisles on a monorail delivering food. That’s as far as his idea went, but honestly, I can more easily imagine a service robot on a plane than a conveyor belt that emerges from the cabin floor to deliver snacks and drinks. (In either case, I hope they also decide to address the question of in-flight food quality as well.)

What do you think of Sell GMBH’s idea for an automated food-serving system on planes? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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