Airbus plans to put sleeping bunks into the cargo hold

By David Flynn, April 10 2018
Airbus plans to put sleeping bunks into the cargo hold

Airbus will offer airlines the opportunity to convert part of an airplane's downstairs cargo hold into sleeping berths using custom-designed 'lower deck modules'.

The spaces are designed to be interchangeable with a standard cargo container, making it possible for airlines to easily swap out cargo containers for passenger facilities to suit the needs of different routes.

Other possibilities for the downstairs spaces include a lounge or a conference room above the clouds...

... and a family room or 'medical care zone'.

However, a spokesman for Airbus tells Australian Business Traveller "the modules will not be occupied during takeoff or landing."

Instead, passengers who have booked a sleeping berth will begin and end their journey in a regular seat and then make their way to the bunk beds during the flight.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce last month floated the notion of railway-like sleeping bunks and exercise zones for the airlines' planned non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York – a daunting exercise for which Airbus is promoting its ultra-long range A350-900 jet, in competition to Boeing's 777-8.

The cargo compartments will be available from 2020 for the popular Airbus A330 while "offerability of sleeper compartments on the A350 airliner is also being studied."

“This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort," said Geoff Pinner, who heads Airbus' Cabin & Cargo team.

"We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups."


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

Very impressive plan from the people in Toulouse. The interchanagability with regular cargo containers makes this far more attractive from a permanent configuration.

I would, obviously, like to see how it will look and function in practice. I’m sure the beds can be made more comfortable than the futon-like mattresses shown in the mock up photographs.

31 May 2016

Total posts 10

It would be interesting to see the economic rationale behind this. After all, these modules would be replacing paid cargo. I wonder at what prices it becomes economically viable?

Presumably they would be used on flights where too much cargo can't be carried, but the space could be repurposed to offer upcharge and lightweight sleeping bunks (for example)

31 May 2016

Total posts 10

That's a good point. However it raises even more questions. At what price point do they charge for the sleeping bunks? Too cheap and it doesn't make economic sense for the airline. Even worse if the price point was relatively low it might cannibalize sales of business class seats. Too expensive and people won't go for it. And would they charge per flight or per hour? They would need additional personnel to manage that. Additional bedding / cleaning equipment if they decide to charge per hour as new customers come in. What about emergency evacuation?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 23

I would guess that the price would need to be somewhere between business and first.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 261

I actually think this is future PE.

Seat “on deck” would be economy, with bunk bed below providing the sleeping option. Clearly suboptimal compared to business where everything is on deck. Price point could get pretty close though. May even be a 5th class of its own.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 462

How will passengers move between the upper and lower decks in flight?

10 Nov 2016

Total posts 6

Escalator of course!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 23

Stairs do be the logical way 🙄

I want a slide or a fireman's pole :-D

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 191

I'd be surprised if many airlines went for this model, mainly because the cargo space generally commands a much higher premium and some of that is already taken up by the cabin crew rest area (12 bunks accessed from doors three right on most airlines).

Emirates is an exception. Not all of EK's A380's have cabin crew bunks as they have a large enough fleet to dedicate some aircraft to shorter european sectors where bunk rest isn't required. Unlike most A380 operators who only use them on their longest routes. On EK's A380's that DO have cabin crew bunks they are actually on the main deck at the back of the aircraft replacing a bunch of economy seats. The belly of their aircraft are instead dedicated to cargo and water tanks for the F class shower.

Several A330/340 operators have interchangeable cabin crew bunk modules that are fitted in the cargo hold on only those sectors that require bunk rest. Apparently these can be switched over with normal cargo within 45mins.

I guess if the passenger bunk model is in a rapidly interchangeable module as the article suggests it could be used on some routes that would have a lower demand/premium for cargo.

23 Sep 2015

Total posts 47

Cooper, crew rest areas are above the pax seating in most cases... EG 787, 777, 747 even A350 and A380 (although I think this has downstairs too)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2017

Total posts 37

Cooper81 is 100% correct. Airbus crew rest are typical below while Boeing is up. I’ve worked many of both aircraft types incl 330s, 340-300 and 600, 74s. And they’re a removable “container” so some airlines don’t even have them on Airbus. Virgin Atlantic 330s have zero crew rest they were simply never ordered.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 141

Awesome idea for ultra long haul flights, imagine having a kids club similar to a cruise ship or resort, would improve the flight experience for parents and nearby passengers

02 Jun 2013

Total posts 55

Typically the ultra-long haul flights, where such an option would be most attractive to passengers, are those where cargo can be limited due to weight restrictions. So it could be a win-win.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2017

Total posts 28

Seriously, folks, I'm pretty sure this was first mooted on April 1 - i.e., it's an April Fools joke.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

04 May 2016

Total posts 7

Lock all the kids down there...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Apr 2018

Total posts 3

I tend to agree with Hirizer. The cargo hold height is only 60 inches/160 cm and there isn't room to swing a cat yet alone hold conferences inside an individual container. Totally impracticable. Some airlines have submarine berth type CCRF containers but these aren't suitable for commercial paying passengers...

25 Oct 2017

Total posts 1

If it is a serious proposal i can't see anybody spending a whole journey apart from landings and take-off, for example from SYD to JFK stuck in a bunk in a cargo hold with no windows no matter the cost. Must more to the design than what we have been shown.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Nov 2015

Total posts 20

Hmm, no windows.... claustrophobia anyone?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

Airbus already have a few aircraft with downstairs toilets.

That's a smarter move - not used during takeoff or landing either, and more seats upstairs

12 Apr 2018

Total posts 2

What if the fasten your seatbelt sign comes up?

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