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Airbus Creating Luxury Sleeping Berths for the Cargo Hold

Image Source: Zodiac Aerospace / Airbus

A partnership between Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace will soon give passengers the option of sneaking off for forty winks in sleeping modules located in the cargo area of select aircraft.

Up until now, most any suggestions of putting members of the flying public in the cargo area have been widely derided as the final frontier in the airline industry’s perceived proclivity toward maximizing revenue at the expense of passengers. Just announced plans from Airbus, however, might just make the thought of spending a flight below decks sound downright inviting.

Zodiac Aerospace / Airbus">

Image Source: Zodiac Aerospace / Airbus

A partnership between the European aircraft manufacturer and Zodiac will create sleeping modules designed to be easily installed in the cargo holds of A330 aircraft. The sleeping compartments will accommodate bunk space for as many as 24 passengers at a time and could be available for the wide-body aircraft by 2020.

“This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort. We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups,” Airbus Senior Vice President Geoff Pinner said in a statement unveiling the new initiative. “We are pleased to partner with Zodiac Aerospace on this project which will introduce a new passenger experience and add value for airlines.”

Because the sleeping modules will use the footprint of cargo containers already in use and designed for the cargo holds of A330 planes, the “sleeper cars” can be easily removed and/or reinstalled between flights depending on the airline’s needs. In the past, Zodiac has worked with Airbus to design and install below deck crew sleeping areas for use on long-haul flights.

Zodiac Aerospace / Airbus">

Image Source: Zodiac Aerospace / Airbus

“We are delighted to work with Airbus on this new and innovative project, which reaffirms our expertise in lower-deck solutions,” Zodiac Aerospace Cabin Branch CEO Christophe Bernardini explained. “An improved passenger experience is today a key element of differentiation for airlines.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce may have inadvertently spoiled the big reveal by Airbus. Speaking about ways to increase the profitability of long-haul flights, the Qantas chief inadvertently floated the idea of below-deck sleeping quarters a few weeks too soon.

“One of the concepts that we have is maybe if we’re not carrying freight you do something lower where cargo is on the aircraft,” Joyce mused in widely reported comments late last month. “Do you have an area where people can walk? Do you have berths like on a train?”

Of course, the idea of taking advantage of unused cargo space has been around for some time. In 2015, Zodiac filed a patent application for a very familiar sounding below deck passenger seating area.

“On some routes there is a greater demand for transporting passenger than there is for transporting cargo, leaving a good amount of the cargo area unused,” Zodiac engineers noted in their patent application at the time. “Such flights do not fully use the cargo area. Research has indicated that an average of only about 73% of the cargo area is used nowadays.”

Comments are Closed.
jrpallante April 12, 2018

Everybody should appreciate any attempt to utilize wasted space, but this idea raises lots of questions for me. Since most passengers would not want to be horizontal for the entire trip (and the FAA would not allow that anyway), I assume these berths would be provided in addition to a regular seat, not instead of. Thus, the capacity of the plane would not increase. While somebody is sleeping downstairs in a berth, there is now an empty seat upstairs that is underutilized, just as the cargo area was previously. In effect, they are using more floor area to accommodate the same number of passengers. The other issue is cost (fare). Anybody who would use a berth is already sitting in a very expensive J or F seat. Notwithstanding some whining on Flyertalk about certain seats, most biz class seats are quite comfortable and function perfectly well for both sitting and sleeping. While the concept is novel, I do not believe there will be much effective demand for sleeping berths. Perhaps the airline would be better served by simply inserting more seating in the cargo area. The lack of windows may be an issue, but virtual windows would be a simple substitute. Maybe this could be an opportunity to offer a new class of international seats that are somewhere between sardine class and the relative luxury of business class. EVA has their Elite class on the 777s and Delta now has Premium Select on the A350. These seats are similar to domestic first class in the US. When my family travels to Australia, the $8,000 J class seat is beyond our means, but the $1,200 economy seat is pure torture. I think there are a significant number of travelers who would opt for something between these two extremes. It would be interesting to know how many seats EVA sells in Elite, or Delta in Premium Select. If they are giving most of these seats away as free upgrades to elites, then it may not be feasible.

Peadar April 12, 2018

Great on a flight over say 10 hours. The only problem would be the comings and goings of loud fellow passengers especially indulgent parents with their little princes and princesses screaming the place down and using the place like a creche at net 2 a.m. in the morning.

AndreaNewEngland April 12, 2018

I'm wondering if all the previous posters are male. Because the first thing I thought of is, what kind of security will there be for sleeping women down there?

brentleatherman April 12, 2018

It'll be all fun and games until the mile high clubbers get their freak on.

asbjorjo April 12, 2018

How is the myth about cargo hold being at outside pressure and temperature still alive? Our dog went in the hold SVG-KLM-IAH. She arrived non-suffocated and non-frozen. :)