Walk down to cargo hold to take an airplane snooze
TRAVELLERS might soon be able to sneak down to the cargo hold for a nap when taking an ultra-long transoceanic flight.
That’s the idea being floated by Airbus and seatmaker Zodiac Aerospace. The companies say they’re working to develop “sleeping berths” that could be installed in the cargo holds of certain long-range Airbus aircraft.
Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace say the cargo compartment modules would “offer new opportunities for additional services to passengers, improving their experience while enabling airlines to differentiate and add value for their commercial operations.”
The firms say they hope to offer the option to airlines for orders beginning in 2020. Initially, the sleeper modules would be offered on Airbus A330 widebodies — either on new deliveries or with an option to retrofit existing aircraft. Adding the option to the new Airbus long-range A350 jets is being studied.
It’s unclear how the sleeper berths might be offered. Decisions on how to market and sell such options are typically left up to airline customers.
Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace did not detail specific concepts, but it’s likely passenger carriers would consider several options. One might include selling access for passengers sitting elsewhere on the plane, presumably letting them pay for access for several hours — or perhaps an entire flight’s worth — of time in the sleepers.
Some higher-end carriers might explore the idea as a possibility to add a lounge, where one of the perks could be a nap.
Airbus and Zodiac offered several concepts in mockups accompanying their press statement.
One shows a standard lounge. Others show options that include a conference room, a “kids and family zone” and even a “medical-care zone.”
Absent additional details, the berths do not seem as though they’d become likely options for actual seats for the entire duration of a flight. Safety rules require passengers to be buckled into seats during takeoff and landing, and it’s not clear whether such an option would be available in a cargo area of sleeper berths. It also seems unlikely that a passenger would want to commit to a sleeper berth for flights of eight hours or more without a dedicated option for upright seating.
“The modules would not be occupied during takeoff or landing,” Airbus spokesman Martin Fendt said. “These underfloor sleeping berths would be aimed more towards economy-class market, and would be available for a lower price for a passenger than a premium-class flatbed seat.”
Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace touted the ease of installation to carriers, saying modules would be “easily interchangeable with regular cargo containers during a typical turnaround if required. Moreover, the aircraft’s cargo floor and cargo loading system will not be affected at all, as the passenger module will sit directly on it.”
For now, Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace will likely test the market to see if any airlines are interested.
There might be at least one. Last month, the CEO of Australian carrier Qantas — which just launched a 17-hour route between Perth and London — expressed interest in such an idea.
“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. Do you have an area where people can walk? Do you have berths like on a train?,” Alan Joyce of Qantas said in during a March conversation quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald. “There’s a lot of ‘out there’ thinking that’s going on,” Joyce added. “I don’t know if in 2022 there’s going to be another class, but if there is, Qantas is likely to be the airline that creates it.”
Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace hope to offer sleeper modules to airlines as soon as 2020.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a guy who truly dreams big.