HAMBURG — Collins Aerospace has spent the three years since we last saw its M-Flex convertible door-service-bar monument focussed on developing and certifying the product for linefit and retrofit offerability across the widebody market, and the developmental evolution is impressive.
Where 2019 M-Flex was a fascinating concept, 2022 M-Flex is a fully developed product that is ready to deploy on multiple widebody aircraft families, with additional functionality options available for carriers to customise the product to their particular needs and service concept.
New options for M-Flex include refrigerated compartments, part of Collins’ new Crystal Cabin Award-winning SpaceChiller line developed with technology from parent company Raytheon, and mainly conceived by airlines at this point as self-service fridges where passengers can help themselves mid-flight.
Director of sales and marketing Shawn Raybell tells Runway Girl Network that “one of the things that we wanted to do, and was a demand from our customers, was that the trolley stowage needed to be chilled, and so we’ve looked at some new technologies to be able to chill these areas without impacting or expanding on the size of the monument.”
Other developments since 2019 include a redesigned flight attendant seat and a new structure that enables full deployment from seated flight attendant to deployed bar structure in under ten seconds, and storage for an additional catering trolley.
Impressive developments of @CollinsAero’s convertible door-bar-service M-Flex — flying on a “handful” of airlines soon.
— John Walton 🏳️🌈🇪🇺 (@thatjohn) June 14, 2022
Raybell explains that “we’ve been mostly focused on the OEM offerability for the linefit programs, and then we started working with some key customers. We’ve been working with them now for some time.”
Characterising the current customer base as a handful of carriers made up of legacy and full-service airlines, M-Flex is aimed at the major widebodies from Airbus and Boeing.
“The targets here right now [are] aftermarket or retrofit options on the 777-300ERs, and then we’re also looking at customer options for the 777 and A350: those are the main ones that we were targeting, and those are the ones that we’re seeing coming forward the soonest,” Raybell tells RGN.
“The first candidates that we’re going to see here are either retrofit 777-300ER or a linefit 787 or A350 — and that’s really the sweet spot, that’s where we intended to be, and that’s how it’s tracking.”
Compared with selecting the usual bar area in the centre section of the aircraft, M-Flex frees up approximately nine to twelve economy class seats’ worth of room for passengers.
“By putting it in the door 2 area, providing some additional trolley stowage, and being able to convert that in flight,” Raybell says, M-Flex “allows the airlines to bring back those revenue generating passenger seats right there after door two in the centre line.”
M-Flex, adds the Collins executive, “allows the customer to transform that door to area from a utility taxi, takeoff and landing configuration, with the flight attendant seats exposed, into something that’s more aesthetic and more eye pleasing to the passengers.”
Most airline customers are conceiving their M-Flex implementations as a self-serve bar area and a zone where passengers can congregate mid-flight. One airline, though, has been working on an exercise and stretching station for longer flights.
Fundamentally, M-Flex is almost a no-brainer for airlines: it’s a way to add a popular passenger experience amenity in premium classes and even further back in the aircraft, and not just in a way that is seat count neutral, but in a way that actually allows airlines to reclaim seats from space previously taken up by bar areas.
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Featured image credited to John Walton