This is not your great grandfather’s steerage deck.
The emigrants packed into the holds of ships bound for 19th Century America wouldn’t recognize the cargo hold of an Airbus jumbo jet. But future voyagers might bunk-out down in those holds.
Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace said in a joint statement this week that they’re developing new designs for cargo holds that can double as sleeping berths on long flights, and released images showing their vision of bunk-style sleeping compartments that resemble those in some train cars.
“The modules, which would fit inside the aircraft’s cargo compartments, offer new opportunities for additional services to passengers, improving their experience while enabling airlines to differentiate and add value for their commercial operations,” the companies said. “The new passenger modules will be easily interchangeable with regular cargo containers during a typical turnaround if required.”
Airbus said airlines that want to order jets with the sleeping berth configurations will be able to get them by 2020 on A330 jets. The company is also studying the possibility of adding the compartments on another jet, the A350 XWB airliner.
Zodiac has worked in the past with Airbus on the idea, producing rest areas for crew members in lower decks of large planes, and extending the idea to paying travellers on long flights seems like a logical extension.
“This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort,” said Geoff Pinner, Head of the Airbus Cabin & Cargo Programme. “We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups. We are pleased to partner with Zodiac Aerospace on this project which will introduce a new passenger experience and add value for airlines.”
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