New aircraft design puts passengers into the cargo hold

By David Flynn, December 9 2015
New aircraft design puts passengers into the cargo hold

The quest to fit more passengers onto a plane has reached new heights – or perhaps lows – with this novel proposal to turn part of an aircraft's cargo hold into a windowless cabin for economy class travellers.

Revealed in a patent application by aircraft design and fitout firm Zodiac Aerospace, the "Lower Deck Cabin Experience" admittedly has more than a touch of Upstairs, Downstairs about it.

Suitable for larger aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner, along with the Airbus A350, seeks as way for "what has traditionally been a cargo area of a passenger aircraft to be used as a lower deck cabin."

There'd be room enough for two discrete downstairs cabins...


... each with stairwells from the upper or main deck.

What's missing? Windows. No matter: the idea is that screens running the length of the downstairs cabin would show a live view of what's outside the aircraft.

Zodiac has outlined a number of layouts for the lower deck, using conventional seating arrangements...

...  as well as a 'metro'-style layout in which passengers would face the centre of the plane (with an additional single row of seats running along the middle).

With no room overhead room for carry-on bags, stowage bins would be built into the sidewalls – but Zodiac also suggests that part of the lower deck could have 'cubbies' for bag storage, with the same zone also containing vending machines for inflight snacks.

(Small 'trolley lift' shafts would allow for meals to be easily lowered from the main deck kitchens.)

Of course, this doesn't have to be a ploy to get more bums onto the cheap seats – one of these nooks might make for an exclusive downstairs bar or lounge for business or first class passengers.

Click here to peruse the full patent application.

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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.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 735

Makes sense, if the space can be more profitably used for passengers than cargo. Can't say I'd particularly miss windows, especially on long flights.

I know Lufthansa A340s at least have a downstairs toilet, which is actually pretty nice. Going for a stroll downstairs makes a nice change to the monotony of flight, and you don't have to deal with the noises, smells or queues for the toilet on the main deck.

I would wonder whether this design would pass safety regulations though. How are the lower-deck pax going to evacuate in an emergency? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 113

i love the sound of it - and would make a great bar / lounge for business or first - if not an exclusive PE area? but not sure re the no windows with a live feed would be a bit weird as if no sides to the plane! and ditto safety concerns hugo!

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1245

Literally a slave ship.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Nov 2013

Total posts 29

Well, not literally.

Velocity Platinum

10 May 2013

Total posts 82

Didn't the IL-96 have something like this? (Without the outside projections)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Given the amount that shutters are generally closed for longhaul flights, probbaly a better view.

And middle seat pax cant see out windows anyways

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Dec 2014

Total posts 284

I have always thought of this, and hoping it was going to be invented!


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2015

Total posts 4

McDonnell Douglas considered optional lower deck cabins WITH windows for stretched versions of the MD-11, which never happened. They called it the panoramic deck, as the windows on the lower fuselage would be at a shallow angle, offering interesting views. Perhaps their patent expired!

19 Jun 2014

Total posts 32

I thought airlines make more money from cargo than from passengers? 

China Southern Airlines - Sky Pearl Club

30 Sep 2013

Total posts 11

Gave me nightmares just reading about it I get Claustrophobic feeling without a window.

British Airways - Executive Club

15 Apr 2013

Total posts 6

Why not have a glass bottom to the aircraft as with some boats and let downstairs passengers enjoy the best views of all?


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1519

The best suggestion ever! Only better one would be toilet with glass floor :-)))

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 May 2015

Total posts 30

Bombs away.....

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

03 Apr 2014

Total posts 14

"Ambulant cargo", "self-loading freight" ... saay no more!  No different, really, to the way military personnel are carted around the globe, be it via C-130, C-17, or my favourites Il-76 and the pax compartment in the fin-fillet of the An-124 ... airline seats?  Luxury, I say!

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 316

Given I hate it when people open windows during flight (has set of migraines in my head more than once) I'd be ok with a windowless area.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 316

"set off"


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1519

Some stupid idiots vote down your post and I bet few other will vote this one down as well.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 58

I wouldn't mind being windowless, personally, but why not designate the space for people flying with children. Build in a play area and baby changing stations. Let the rest of us sleep undisturbed upstairs. 

14 Feb 2012

Total posts 37

Oh my.... never let Tracey Spicer hear you say something like that lol.  Children should be spread throughout the cabin to ensure we all get the joy of them screaming.

" I got upgraded to economy" is a line I have been waiting to use.

09 Jul 2014

Total posts 31

Comment of the day. XD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 316

Private sleeper cabins or a lounge/bar area to free up space upstairs for more seats?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Nov 2013

Total posts 29

Actually, I like the idea of an individual cubby for carry-on. 

Not so much the rest of it.

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