Qantas rules out below-deck sleeping bunks on Project Sunrise jets

By Chris C., June 3 2019
Qantas rules out below-deck sleeping bunks on Project Sunrise jets

Visions of turning an aircraft’s cargo bay into railway-like sleeping bunks on Qantas’ non-stop Project Sunrise flights from Australia’s east coast to London and New York won’t come to pass, with the airline now ruling out the below-deck sleeping space on these globe-striding jets.

Instead, Qantas is developing a space dedicated to exercise, health and wellbeing, which will be open to all passengers on board regardless of seat number.

“The package we looked at – putting things in baggage holds – didn’t work,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce admits to media at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Seoul.

The revised communal section is instead “going to be an area for a number of people to stand up and do exercise: there’ll be video screens with stretching exercises to work on, and an area that the scientists have thought out that’ll be more of a ‘hydration station’.”

“Of course, if you want a drink, you can still have a very expensive Australian wine, or beer at your seat,” Joyce is quick to assure, “but if you want to work off some calories, you can go to this area to stretch, so it’s the perfect combination.”

“Some airlines are going for bars, we’re going for health and wellbeing, which is a lot better for you!”

Joyce confirms that the space on board – nicknamed ‘the fourth zone’ at Qantas (the other three being the passenger cabins, galley and restrooms) – will appear on the airline’s Project Sunrise aircraft.

Airbus and Boeing are due to lodge their final proposals – for ultra-long range versions of the Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 777-8, respectively – in August, with Qantas deciding which jets to buy before year's end  and flights slated to launch in the 2022-23 financial year.

Joyce first floated the notion of transforming part of the Project Sunrise jets' cargo hold into passenger space in March 2018, following the airline's inaugural Perth-London Boeing 787 flight.

"One of the concepts that we have is maybe if we're not carrying freight you do something lower where cargo is on the aircraft, do you have an area where people can walk? Do you have berths like on a train?” Joyce posed.

“Could some of the freight areas we may not use be used as an exercise area? Could they be used for berths for people to sleep in? Is there a new class that’s needed on the aircraft?”

Airbus has estimated that 32 bunk beds could fit under the main deck, with primarily appeal to passengers in premium economy and economy who would buy 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.

Photo gallery: How Airbus plans to put passengers in the cargo hold

However, the below-deck bunks were notably missing when Qantas released its Project Sunrise passenger research summary in January this year, with the airline instead reporting that "health and wellness are the top trends coming through all research."

Also read: Rethinking the passenger experience travel in the era of non-stop 20-hour flights

Chris Chamberlin is attending the IATA AGM in Seoul as a guest of IATA.

Chris C.

A Brisbane-based contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 155

Well, there's a surprise...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 74

Well well we're all getting used to QFs no-come-to-pass fluff. Why don't they just announce the order when it's ready instead of trotting out airy fairy nonsense that never comes off...

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 51

Good PR for the brand amongst the public. Makes them think QF are innovative, good product and so on...

22 Mar 2013

Total posts 5

Not sure why anyone would downvote you - this is marketing 101 on brand image, and absolutely 100% the reason that QF promoted things to mainstream media that would never come to pass. Cost of a few mockup pics: $1000, perception from average Joe flyer: priceless.

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 47

...surprising no one...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 601

"you can still have a very expensive Australian wine"

LOL that's a funny definition of expensive

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Mar 2019

Total posts 14

What a joke. Promise the world but deliver an exercise space that will no doubt be a “revolution”. The main issue is how did they expect the bunks to fill in between all four classes? No one would buy business if you got a bunk in economy. They knew it would never work but teased it for months.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 205

After all the drip fed info from the airline, and subsequent articles, with no concrete commitments just hype the most logical and obvious outcome (no exotic cabin ammenities) has come to pass.

Seats and galleys that’s it basically, no common areas outside the seat on a ULH flight. No revolution.

As if anyone didn't see this bulls*it on the horizon.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Jun 2018

Total posts 98

I think the number of your readers who didn’t see this coming would be very small indeed!

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 273

I doubt the health and wellness space will last long

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1393

Why? They can't fill the underfloor areas with anything else. And yoga mats are pretty lightweight.

Whereas bunk beds are going to carry some weight no matter how designed.

Maybe a rest room with big beanbags.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Dec 2017

Total posts 52

Thats the crux of this article, AJ states “putting things in baggage holds - didn’t work”. This suggests that the communal space will live where other airlines might have a bar on the main deck, which also strongly suggests that QF have already decided which platform has won Project Sunrise ;)

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 101

That stuff below the cabin might refer only to sleeping space as it would have likely been containers that they could attach.

They still might want to do what Lufthansa did with it toilets in the a340s and place them below (this would be permanent). They could also add the stretch space here. This would also allow for a larger main cabin.

I do agree that unless the stretch space is below the cabin, Qantas could remove it after a time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 116

The will be looking at total weight regardless on either platforms they will not be able to carry the usual complement of freight, so they have dead space. Beds and Bars are heavy, the also require more vigilant staffing, this space probably only needs a camera feed
Still, I recon they will go for the lorry truck that is the 777 because of the people they can fit (I think it is abouut 80 more 4 class)

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 64

We've all been burnt far too many times by Qantas over-hyping the future. I wonder if it ever occurs to anyone in their PR team to be realistic?

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 390

For this second class airline, it's all about generating clickbait.

So for that, the PR team scores a win. But a majority of passengers - a very large majority - use non-Australian airlines to travel internationally.

Time for QF to concentrate on substance and not spin.

23 Aug 2011

Total posts 61

Sorry this is all smoke and mirrors and he is preparing everyone for a no go. The price of fuel will be too high, the economics aren't right, crewing issues, etc.
I have a lot of respect for Alan but get annoyed with his spin.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

26 Apr 2019

Total posts 4

Even an exercise space is a complete nonsense. The first hint of unexpected turbulence and bodies will be flying everywhere.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 106

QF once again reminds Australians why their choice of carrier should be "Anyone But Qantas" wherever possible.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 150

Promise a ‘revolution’ and deliver a sigh.


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Talk about kyte flying.

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 42

Colour me surprised. Alan is Trumpian in his manipulation of the media.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 7

To play Devil's advocate on Qantas overhyping...

With both the "revolutionary" premium economy comment and below-deck bunks, they seemed to be based on a couple of throwaway lines from Alan Joyce. Those lines were then repeated (including on this site) over and over again.

Commenters on this site debated both concepts a lot more than Joyce did.

It must be a dilemma - why talk publicly at all until you have something 100% concrete to announce, if you'll only get hammered for any speculation you might share?

14 Nov 2015

Total posts 39

How many people will try to use the stretch space to stretch out and catch 40 winks? How are they going to prevent people from even attempting this?

30 Mar 2014

Total posts 15

And in other shock news, the Pope announces that he's a Catholic....!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 62

Even blind Freddy saw this result coming.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2017

Total posts 18

So basically this is a bar area without alcohol. There will be a 'hydration station' (water cooler) instead....Just people standing around socialising drinking water.

23 Aug 2011

Total posts 61

Alan is preparing everyone for a big no, i.e. it will not be commercially viable, he has already said this on a number occasions. Frankly speaking he should have just get quite and made the announcement at the appropriate time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Dec 2014

Total posts 47

I think Qantas should be commended for trying to push the envelope with this project. They were trying to get the aircraft manufacturers to come up with some innovative ideas and compete against each other. The only mistake Qantas has made (if any) was in letting the media know about some of the ideas that the manufacturers had come up with.

Qantas has now clearly run the numbers on these proposals and realised that they are either not practical to implement or the travelling public won't be prepared to pay for it. Either way, good on Qantas for generating a bit of excitement over what is going to be an excellent way of getting to Europe or the US, assuming they can get the unions and regulator on board.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Jun 2018

Total posts 98

I agree with your basic point. I think however, as these comments show, that in the flying public (or at least those that make up the ausbt readership) there is an incredible amount of cynicism about anything Qantas say. And, dare I say it, a potential view that the media are only too happy to lap it up. All businesses should look to innovate. But the continued nonsense that Qantas pushes is ludicrous. As an example look at the way that BA kept damping down expectations for their new club world seat, yet they came out with something that surprised pretty much everyone. With Qantas the reverse is true, heaps of promises and hype, then disappointment. I really do wish the media would be more critical of Qantas on this. They have a track record on this. Especially a media focused on premium Traveller’s.

26 Feb 2014

Total posts 20

Health and well being my ass!

Keep the vegetarians away from me!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 19

We all knew this was never going to happen. It would have taken no more than 5 minutes for the Qantas bean counters and health and safety people to work out that downstairs bunks were not viable, but for whatever reason, it was pushed out to the media who love this sort of stuff. At the end of the day, all airlines will design their configurations for maximum financial return as this is what the shareholders want.
The general flying public want minimal cost and will choose an indirect flight if there are savings and Qantas must know that. Backsides on seats equals revenue and fitting as many spaces as possible with seats is what must happen so I'm sorry but exercise areas, bars and extra toilets will be pushed aside for Project Sunrise.

13 Mar 2014

Total posts 27

Qantas now seem to be preparing the way for the whole Sunrise project to be cancelled, never mind just back flipping on beds in the hold. In today's Fairfax press Alan Joyce is saying (I'm paraphrasing) Sunrise will proceed "if the business case stacks up" and "we wont hesitate to kill the project". These sentiments were always a reality but now decision time is looming, it seems less likely to proceed?

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Jun 2018

Total posts 98

Yes, I noticed that too, being reported on some outlets. I would have thought they could make it work, the trouble for them is,, that when it comes to flying to Europe, they have so little share of the market. Right now they only serve London. Look at the options if you fly with Emirates / Qatar / Singapore / Cathay. I suspect it can work, but the market is probably quite small for people prepared to pay a premium for this.

04 May 2015

Total posts 271

Think about it: Qantas is about to get into the finer points of the negotiations for billions of dollars worth of aircraft, and pilot contracts that they’ll be stuck with for years. Qantas probably wants to show that if they’re not satisfied with costs, they’ll just eliminate those costs, so it puts the onus on the aircraft manufacturers and unions to offer something reasonable or risk losing it all, rather than thinking that they have this in the bag and can charge Qantas as much as they like.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Nov 2016

Total posts 134

Disappointing to see the continued mixed messages on what Qantas are going to do with their long haul plans. A poor effort.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Mar 2015

Total posts 89

The overall tone of the comments here is that they would rather Qantas management say nothing at all re future projects until they were cemented down. Frankly, I'd rather options be discussed, some to be developed othets to be knocked on the head. It demonstatrates a level of honest dealing with the travelling public and a willingness to include travellers in the discussion.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 404

Hey if I'm going to get into some sort of exercise, even light stuff, I want to be able to shower and freshen up. Maybe a couple of showers on the lower level but then the suggestion would be that water being heavy wont see the aircraft make the distance.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2015

Total posts 26

?recycle the water?

?front to back?

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 5

I regularly fly from Sydney to Dallas on A380's and back. Ive flown in 3 different classes and always, after a meal, wine, a movie then comes sleep. Its so important to arrive as fresh as possible to sync into life at your final destination. Trying to sleep in cattle class is a non event with restricted space and people climbing over you to get to the too few toilets. Leaving Sydney around 1pm and turning down the lights a few hours later to say its sleep time does not work either and hence you arrive in the US around 2am Sydney time. Its all a bad joke if you do it regularly and you wonder when Qantas will become inovative. An exercise area is a joke, a stupid waste of space when there are much greater needs. Even if they we more practical and announced more toilets I would aplaude that over an exercise area. They could also try scheduling leaving later in the day so its closer to our normal bed time !

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