Sleeping on a bed during a flight sounds like a first-class amenity, but Airbus is working on making a bed for more of its passengers. The catch is that the beds would be located in the cargo hold of its passenger jets.
Airbus announced it's partnering with French design firm Zodiac Aerospace to create several room designs and sleeping arrangements in the cargo sections of its A330 aircraft. While it's not quite the first-class treatment frequent fliers would expect, Airbus said the idea could change what's available for long-haul flights. Airbus is also looking into applying these cargo sleeping pods in its A350 XWB planes.
"The new passenger modules will be easily interchangeable with regular cargo containers during a typical turnaround if required," the company said in a statement. "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."
Airbus is collaborating with Zodiac to build an array of 'rooming' arrangements and modules. Each module can be quickly traded out for a cargo container if necessary. This would allow each carrier to best optimize the space in their cargo holds.
The partnership between Airbus and the Zodiac design team is one that will be unique on the market when completed. Most airplane redesigns (particularly with regard to the interior layout) seek to optimize how many seats an airline can squeeze into a plane rather than prioritize the comfort of the passenger. But the Zodiac design team this way of thinking is exactly what they're looking to remove themselves from.
"We are delighted to work with Airbus on this new and innovative project, which reaffirms our expertise in lower-deck solutions," said Christophe Bernardini, Chief Executive Officer of Zodiac Aerospace Cabin Branch. "An improved passenger experience is today a key element of differentiation for airlines."
"This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort."
Airbus suggested in its announcement that airlines should look to use these new experiences as it helps airlines differentiate themselves in a market and add more value to overall operations.
"This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort," said Geoff Pinner, Head of Airbus Cabin & Cargo Programme. "We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups. We are pleased to partner with Zodiac Aerospace on this project which will introduce a new passenger experience and add value for airlines."
The Airbus / Zodiac partnership project will have options ready for airlines by 2020 on the A330 for retrofit and line-fit markets. Fans of the A350 XWB can expect those options ready for takeoff shortly after.