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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.
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.
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.