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Sleep tight: Airbus wants to fill plane cargo holds with beds


Sleeping in the cargo hold of a passenger jet doesn’t sound like a particularly attractive option at first, but once you hear about what Airbus is planning, you’ll soon come around to the idea.

The aviation giant is teaming up with French firm Zodiac Aerospace to design sleeping berths and various room designs that can be slotted into the cargo section of its existing wide-bodied A330 aircraft. Airbus is also exploring the idea of designing them for its A350 XWB aircraft.

In an online post outlining the plan, Airbus said the modules will provide airlines with new opportunities for additional passenger services, “improving their experience while enabling airlines to differentiate and add value for their commercial operations.”

And with the modules able to be quickly swapped out with regular cargo containers as and when required, the system will allow carriers to better utilize space aboard their A330 aircraft, thereby improving the efficiency of their operations.

Images and sketches from Airbus appear to show an open sleeping area, while various rooms offer a range of facilities. These include a “kids and family zone” with a sofa, TV, and even a small slide, and also a conference room to ensure there’s not rest from work even when you’re at 38,000 feet.

Click for larger image. Airbus

However, as with regular seating areas inside commercial aircraft, it’s likely each airline will be able to configure the compartments in lots of different ways to target particular kinds of customers.

Geoff Pinner of Airbus described the plan for cargo-hold sleeping compartments as “a step change toward passenger comfort,” adding that the company has already received “very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups.”

Of course, we’d all love to know how much a ticket will cost for such a berth. That’s up to each airline, but the words “not cheap” certainly spring to mind.

Many major international carriers already offer luxury compartments for long-haul flights, though they’re generally much smaller and well away from the cargo hold. Emirates, for example, last year unveiled a new luxury, fully enclosed cabin for first class travelers. The airline described it at the time as a “game-changing” private suite with design features “inspired by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.”

A few years earlier, however, Etihad Airways started offering an even plusher space that can be accurately described as a flying apartment. “The Residence,” as it’s called, comprises a lounge, bedroom, and bathroom, and is fitted inside the airline’s A380 aircraft.

Airbus hopes to start putting passengers in the cargo hold from 2020.

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