Defying perceived wisdom that air travel is increasingly cramped and uncomfortable for anyone who doesn’t pay out for business or first class seats, Airbus has announced plans for beds for economy passengers.
In collaboration with a company called Zodiac Airspace, which specialises in installing crew rest spaces, Airbus intends to install sleeping berths for passengers inside existing cargo holds. The plans initially centre around the A330, with beds intended to be in situ by 2020. They may then be rolled out to the A350 XWB.
The sleeping modules will sit on top of the aircraft’s cargo floor. They will not interfere with the cargo loading mechanism and will be designed to be removable quickly and easily within the standard turnaround time between flights. If this goes to plan, the commercial opportunities for airlines are clear. What passengers will make of it is less certain. Although the beds would not be accessible during take-off and landing, it’s unclear what would happen during periods of turbulence: would passengers in pyjamas and slippers be directed back to their seats to fasten their seatbelts? Also, would passengers be willing to pay a surcharge for the use of the beds and, if so, how much?
Airlines, too, may have different ideas for how to use the space. If sleeping compartments are possible, why not fine dining facilities reminiscent of the great age of rail travel or perhaps an on-board gym or business centre? The possibilities are legion and open to adaptation in line with customer demands.