Once reserved for crew rest areas, Airbus, along with partner Zodiac Aerospace, is looking to reclaim the lower deck area to revolutionise air travel.
The companies’ innovative lower-deck modules include sleeping berths similar to those found in capsule hotels. The sleeping pods could prove a game-changer for those travelling in economy.
For safety reasons, passengers would still have to start and end their journey in a regular seat, but once in flight, they could make their way down to their bunk to stretch out and relax.
As the modules are still in concept phase, it is unclear whether airlines would offer the beds as a pre-reserved add-on, or if they would be able available to rent mid-flight. With feasibility studies not yet complete, it is also hard to estimate how much they might cost, but for those flying in increasingly cramped economy seats, the additional cost may well prove worth it.
In addition to sleeping modules, Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace have mocked up other interesting module options, including a lounge/bar, conference room, workstations, kids play area, and medical care centre. Indeed, with these modules, it would appear that the sky is no limit, with Geoff Pinner, head of cabin and cargo at Airbus suggesting that the lower deck could even be turned into a gym or a fine-dining restaurant.
All modules have been designed to sit directly on top of the aircraft’s cargo area and will be easily interchangeable with regular cargo containers, as the cargo floor and loading system will be unaffected.
Airbus has already received “very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups”, and hopes to have safety certified options available for wide-bodied A330 aircraft as early as 2020.
If approved, airlines will be able to have their aircraft retrofitted with the modules, or buy new aircraft with them already installed. More than 150 of the manufacturer’s A330 aircraft have already been built with a basic structural provision for lower deck facilities, with the possibility of fitting sleeper pods on A350 XWB aircraft also being reviewed.
With airlines constantly seeking way to better utilise aircraft space to generate more revenue, these modules could offer a way to improve the customer experience and create a key point of difference.