Turning cargo space into a first class suite with a view

The innovative EarthBay concept transforms 'below decks' space into a private suite with floor-to-ceiling windows.

By Brandon Loo, September 12 2019

When it comes to reinventing the premium passenger experience, some airlines launch into lavish suites, others have showers or even a three-room 'Residence', but floor space on the plane always remains at a premium.

The innovative EarthBay concept suggests that a next-level experience lies one level down – on the lower decks of a commercial aircraft, in the area typically given over to pallets of cargo – by creating a private suite spanning the width of the front cargo and a panel of floor-to-ceiling windows.

The space could be configured for meetings and shared dining as well as a double bed, and would include its own bathroom – although for safety reasons, passengers would have to be seated on the main deck during taxi, take-off and landing.

EarthBay, a concept by French aeronautical engineer Florian Barjot, could be a reality by 2024.

It's another twist on the idea of transforming cargo space into passenger space, which has recently seen Airbus proposing everything from railway-style sleeping bunks to a family room, exercise area and social cafe-stye space, while Qantas is planning a space dedicated to exercise, health and wellbeing in the belly of its globe-striding Project Sunrise jets.

The EarthBay proposal involves reconfiguring some of an aircraft's cargo hold , and lowering the floor, to open up a space comparable to the footprint and height of a business jet.

The majority of this space could be turned into a private suite for two passengers which could out-Residence the Residence for exclusivity and sheer 'wow' factor, with one of the curved cargo bay doors replaced by a floor-to-ceiling window.

With a room and a view like this, you won't get much work done!

Additional business class lavatories would also be located below-deck, but away from the private suite, to compensate for the main-deck floor space taken up by the staircase.

An alternative would be to fill the EarthBay space with a small 12-seat cabin for business class passengers, or up to 18 premium economy seats, along with galleys, lavatories and a crew rest area.

EarthBay is no doubt an innovative concept on paper, but there are still many obstacles to overcome before an airline could install an EarthBay of their own, beyond the necessary safety certifications.

For example, the dedicated 'upstairs' seats used by passengers booked below decks during take-off and landing may also need to adopt a second purpose during the flight itself, such as becoming a paid 'preferred' seating zone for other flyers.

Brandon Loo
Brandon Loo

Brandon Loo

Brandon divides his time between Perth and Launceston, with ample hours spent in airport lounges in between. He recently picked up photography and tries to capture the beauty of Tasmanian landscapes, aeroplane cabins and in-flight food, to varying degrees of success.

harko

harko

05 Jul 2016

Total posts 18

I'd be happy to sit in the onboard bar/lounge area or even a jumpseat for the takeoff and landing ;)

kimshep

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 479

Aside from issues of structural integrity with that 'floor-to-ceiling' window, I'd love to know how the flight attendants would control the amount of light flooding the suite and adjacent cabin during daytime flights?!

Thanks to the 'dreamers' from whom sparkling ideas grow.

paulf

paulf

16 Sep 2017

Total posts 5

Thinking about it... maybe not windows but instead 'virtual windows' using screens like Emirates first class

davidlupton

davidlupton

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

12 Feb 2016

Total posts 17

The other proposal from Airbus was to have bunks below deck.

Rxm

Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 12

Why not just put in more standard seating and forget about windows and toilets. That would accord with current airline trends of more people in less space with fewer amenities and better reflect the real future not the marketing hype.

davidlupton

davidlupton

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

12 Feb 2016

Total posts 17

For some markets maybe, but i think Airbus are responding to the interest in flying super-long routes where providing more space per passenger

chewkc65

chewkc65

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 45

Those suites will be too expensive and might even surpass the cost of a private jet. The ultra-rich will choose to fly in private jets while the rest won't be able to afford these suites. Employers will never pay these seats for their travelling employees.


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