Airbus and cabin interior specialist Zodiac Aerospace will develop lower deck modules with passenger sleeping berths and other facilities that can fit in an aircraft cargo compartment.
The idea builds on experience in producing crew rest areas is to provide airlines with modules that would be regularly interchangeable with regular cargo containers for a quick turnaround.
Some of the module concepts featured on the Airbus website include a lounge, a conference room, and a kids play area complete with a slide.
The European aerospace giant says the feature would allow airlines to differentiate themselves from competitors and add value to their passenger services.
The modules would not affect the aircraft’s cargo floor or cargo loading system.
The company expects to offer airlines a catalog of certified solutions for its A330 aircraft by 2020 and is also studying sleeper compartments for the A350.
“This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort,’’ said Geoff Pinner, the head of the Airbus cabin and cargo program.
“We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups. We are pleased to partner with Zodiac Aerospace on this project which will introduce a new passenger experience and add value for airlines.”
Airbus is pitching the ultra-long-haul version of the A350 to Qantas as the aircraft to operate the carrier’s proposed non-stop flights from Eastern Australia to New York and London as part of “Project Sunrise”.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce raised the possibility last month that this could involve underfloor beds.
Joyce told London lunch the ability to carry cargo on the proposed ultra-long-haul aircraft would be limited and this meant there would be underfloor space that could be utilized.
“If we’re not carrying freight you can do something with the underfloor area where cargo is on the aircraft. Do you have an area where people can walk? Do you have berths, like on a train?” Joyce said.
“There’s a lot of ‘out there’ thinking that’s going on. I don’t know if in 2022 if there’s another going to be another class but if there is Qantas is likely to be the airline that creates it.”
The idea of sleeper berths is not new and the most recent proposal by Airbus rival Boeing looked at installing beds above the ceiling that could be sold to premium economy passengers on its revamped Boeing 747.
Other proposals to use cargo space have been floated over the years but none stuck.
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