Airbus is edging closer to putting railway-like sleeping berths in the belly of its long-range aircraft, including the globe-striding Airbus A350-1000ULR which Qantas is considering for non-stop ‘Project Sunrise’ flights to London and New York.
Although the concept also espouses using cargo-hold space for everything from cafe-like social areas to meeting rooms and family rooms, airlines have shown the most interest in offering sleeping bunks where passengers could stretch out in a proper bed.
Airbus estimates that 32 bunk beds could fit under the main deck, and would primarily appeal to passengers in premium economy and economy buying the beds as an “upgrade for sleeping”.
“So far we have got a lot of interest, with a lot of the creative solutions, but in the end I think everybody is focusing on sleeping,” says Ingo Wuggetzer, Airbus Vice President for Cabin Marketing.
“You go there and have a bed, a real bed, which is fantastic opportunity I think for economy class travel to upgrade for overnight flights, special flights and so on.”
However, some airlines “might sell it only on a per-hour basis, others want to sell it only as one full sleeping bed experience for the whole flight, so there are different ideas about how you offer it to passengers.”
Wuggetzer tells Australian Business Traveller that passengers would still need to be in their regular seats at takeoff and landing, but once the aircraft reaches level flight, the staircase to the downstairs area would be opened up.
Meal services would also take place in the main cabin, with the below-decks area mainly for sleeping – it wouldn’t even have toilets due to the low ceiling height – and cabin crew would only need to visit the space as needed.
“One important question (for us) was, is it really necessary to have a flight attendant all the time in that area? I think that was confirmed now that we do not need that. We can cover that with cameras and microphones and regular (visits)… every 15-20 minutes a flight attendant is walking around to see if everything is fine.”