Airbus sees high interest in below-deck sleeping bunks

Airbus sees high interest in below-deck sleeping bunks

Airbus is edging closer to putting railway-like sleeping berths in the belly of its long-range aircraft, including the globe-striding Airbus A350-1000ULR which Qantas is considering for non-stop ‘Project Sunrise’ flights to London and New York.

Although the concept also espouses using cargo-hold space for everything from cafe-like social areas to meeting rooms and family rooms, airlines have shown the most interest in offering sleeping bunks where passengers could stretch out in a proper bed.

Airbus estimates that 32 bunk beds could fit under the main deck, and would primarily appeal to passengers in premium economy and economy buying 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.

“You go there and have a bed, a real bed, which is fantastic opportunity I think for economy class travel to upgrade for overnight flights, special flights and so on.”

However, some airlines “might sell it only on a per-hour basis, others want to sell it only as one full sleeping bed experience for the whole flight, so there are different ideas about how you offer it to passengers.”

Wuggetzer tells Australian Business Traveller that passengers would still need to be in their regular seats at takeoff and landing, but once the aircraft reaches level flight, the staircase to the downstairs area would be opened up.

Meal services would also take place in the main cabin, with the below-decks area mainly for sleeping – it wouldn’t even have toilets due to the low ceiling height – and cabin crew would only need to visit the space as needed.

“One important question (for us) was, is it really necessary to have a flight attendant all the time in that area? I think that was confirmed now that we do not need that. We can cover that with  cameras and microphones and regular (visits)… every 15-20 minutes a flight attendant is walking around to see if everything is fine.”

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

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

25 comments

  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    23 May, 2019 06:18 am

    Great idea, it will be interesting if it gets legs, and also the cost
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  • Jedinak K

    Jedinak K

    23 May, 2019 08:36 am

    What will happen in an emergency evacuation? Will sleeping passengers be able to exit the aircraft quickly?
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  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    23 May, 2019 10:52 am

    The area would only be opened during flight cruise. Passengers will have to be in their main cabin seating otherwise.
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  • Laydown

    Laydown

    23 May, 2019 11:37 am

    There are no emergency evacuations at 35000ft!
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  • Kevin Gould

    Kev2003

    25 May, 2019 11:45 am

    There will have to be oxygen (small mobile sets) available, especially if cabin depressurisation takes at 35000 feet. Enough oxy to get back to ones seat .
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  • Jedinak K

    Jedinak K

    23 May, 2019 06:08 pm

    Yea I didn't fully read the part about bunks used only when flight is in cruise. My apologies.
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  • X

    X

    23 May, 2019 08:45 am

    I'm particularly interested in the economics of such a product. Thirty-two bunks would likely take up six to eight pallet bays in the cargo hold. I would suggest that six cargo pallets would be much more valuable to an airline than the potential revenue of 32 beds. Particularly if those beds canabilse revenue from the premium cabins.

    In Qantas's case, it may make sense, given their ambitions to fly 20 hours with these aircraft. The six to eight cargo pallets may not be possible due to payload restrictions on flights of this length. However I can't think of any other airlines needing an aircraft capable of flying sectors of this length.

    It therefore seems like a large investment for Airbus to secure an aircraft order of maybe twelve aircraft from Qantas.
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  • Jedinak K

    Jedinak K

    23 May, 2019 06:09 pm

    The ME3 would be another potential client base?
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  • X

    X

    23 May, 2019 08:11 pm

    Both Qatar and Emirates already fly to Auckland, Cape Town and Sao Paulo and Los Angeles non stop.

    That leaves Buenos Aires and Santiago as the only commercially viable routes out of range. But the longer range A350-900 purchased by SQ could do that distance with full payload.
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  • Aidan

    Aidan

    23 May, 2019 10:19 am

    These beds are more spacious than any biz seat and most first class offerings, with less privacy.
    I’m also interested in the economics and if it would cannibalise some of the premium seats.



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  • moa999

    moa999

    23 May, 2019 11:09 am

    Surprised on the toilet comment given Airbus has previously offered toilets downstairs.

    Were present on Lufthansa 340s and I think Thomas Cook 330s.
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  • Pcoder

    Pcoder

    23 May, 2019 12:15 pm

    I'm thinking this bunk idea is for slotable containers to be added on these long haul flights, which could be converted back to cargo space for flights to shorter destinations (eg: Hong Kong).

    The downstairs toilets that Lufthansa and Thomas Cook have could also be added to the aircraft to add extra space on the main deck, but I'm thinking that it would be a more permanent change to the aircraft as changes probably would have to be made to the lower deck roof and floor for the extra height.
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  • Pcoder

    Pcoder

    23 May, 2019 12:30 pm

    On another note, weight is probably another issue with adding this. Now if they can use various composites and keep the furnishings to a minimum, these components could easily be added. But if this system was probably over a ton, I very much doubt this will be on the aircraft as weight will be an issue for these Ultra long haul flights.

    I think why Qantas is looking at this is that this could increase their revenue as you could sell these bunks to lower class passengers for hundreds extra on top of their fares.
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  • Kevin Gould

    Kev2003

    25 May, 2019 12:01 pm

    This area would normally be filled with cargo so weight is not a problem. The issue here is Money as cargo brings in lots of dollars. So forsaking cargo for beds means they have to be profitable.
    In my experience people who fly economy want the cheapest mode of travel and weighing (pardon the pun) up will they be willing to pay as much as companies wanting goods real quick like Aircraft parts (AOG) is doubtful. Business class get a lay flat seat so why pay extra. Premium economy ok might but only if paying for the bed is still cheaper than business.
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  • rencontre

    rencontre

    23 May, 2019 02:44 pm

    Never gonna happen
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  • Nick  Sydney 348

    Nick Sydney 2

    23 May, 2019 06:50 pm

    Sounds like the A380 concepts of gyms, bars etc. Hard economics mean that freight pays more than PAX. Nice thought bubble but unlikely to see light of day
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  • Aidan

    Aidan

    23 May, 2019 08:10 pm

    Haha I remember the A380 concept was in the paper years ago, with the gyms and all. Who gets the urge todo some deadlifts on the plane ?. Imagine the smell without shower access. The plane would become one big staph infection zone.

    The answer is simple, give economy more leg room and have some break out zones so people can stand up for a while and stretch.
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  • Steve987

    Steve987

    23 May, 2019 09:26 pm

    Yes freight pays more, but you have to be able to carry it. If to make the proposed distances they can’t carry freight then making money off the space through upselling to passengers makes eminent sense.

    I suspect this product would be placed somewhere between J and PE price wise, with an economy style seat for take off and landing, PE food but J pyjamas and access to the bed once cruising.
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  • LatteLaptopLoon

    LatteLaptopLoon

    23 May, 2019 08:35 pm

    Imagine renting a bunk straight after a couple have joined the mile high club.
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  • PLEASEupgrademe

    PLEASEupgrademe

    24 May, 2019 01:25 am

    Maybe they can add a Casino into the mix too. If there was ever to be non stop flight from MEL/SYD/BNE to JFK/BOS or LHR/CDG etc, this sleeping arrangement (as it looks in the photo's) would likely cause tension between J and Y Pax and Economy Pax IF the beds were more comfortable for sleeping than First or J.

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  • Jason526

    Jason526

    24 May, 2019 03:22 pm

    Why would you pay a Super Diamond business class seat with no feet room when you can get a full width bed like this? This looks way better than any current business class seats. If I can get 7 hour sleep between meals on a 20 hour flight, who cares about business class lighting and meals.
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  • David Wilkins

    AirCargoDW

    24 May, 2019 07:16 pm

    I completely agree with X and recontre ! trust me when I say that

    the loss of freight revenue will make the economics of this project redundant. There's also the small matter of positioning the interchangeable units at various airports in the network and then removing them for cleaning. The logistics will never work. The concept pictures in no way illustrate the true cargo hold height limitation of a ULD being 157 cm !

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  • Amt

    Amt

    25 May, 2019 07:29 pm

    Would they not be better changing business class to a more premium economy like recliner seat and offering those passengers a bunk in addition, since the J cabin is not being used for sleeping it could be modified to include a more social F/J bar, lounge or dining space. Expensive heavy, high maintenance flat beds could be eliminated.

    Offering economy bunks wouldn’t bring in enough additional revenue, would confuse the market and cannibalize the sales of a J product...


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  • lind26

    lind26

    26 May, 2019 10:12 pm

    If it was done right, this would appeal to me even more than business class on very long sectors
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  • Peter Gingell

    APACPete

    27 May, 2019 09:16 am

    Reminds me of the early convict ships. For so many reasons this will never happen in the way it has been presented.
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Guest

20 Jun, 2019 07:33 am

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