Walk down to cargo hold to take an air­plane snooze

Winnipeg Free Press - - TANK - BEN MUTZ­ABAUGH

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.”

SUPPLIED

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.

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