New aircraft design puts passengers into the cargo hold

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
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.


  • Hugo


    9 Dec, 2015 11:07 am

    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? 

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  • simon drakeley


    9 Dec, 2015 11:18 am

    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!

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  • eminere


    9 Dec, 2015 12:04 pm

    Literally a slave ship.

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  • Adam Cathro


    11 Dec, 2015 10:24 am

    Well, not literally.

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  • tronek


    9 Dec, 2015 12:19 pm

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

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  • moa999


    9 Dec, 2015 12:28 pm

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

    And middle seat pax cant see out windows anyways

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  • Tom Goddard


    9 Dec, 2015 01:31 pm

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

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  • wgr


    9 Dec, 2015 02:46 pm

    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!

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  • dommey


    9 Dec, 2015 02:48 pm

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

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  • ozind95


    9 Dec, 2015 02:54 pm

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

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  • Tom Baum


    9 Dec, 2015 04:13 pm

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

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  • Serg


    9 Dec, 2015 08:06 pm

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

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  • OzDino


    11 Dec, 2015 12:41 pm

    Bombs away.....

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  • PuriPuriMan


    9 Dec, 2015 04:17 pm

    "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!

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  • 11sjw


    9 Dec, 2015 04:41 pm

    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.

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  • 11sjw


    9 Dec, 2015 04:42 pm

    "set off"

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  • Serg


    13 Dec, 2015 08:29 pm

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

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  • Peggy Hayes


    9 Dec, 2015 07:07 pm

    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. 

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  • Alexaqua


    11 Dec, 2015 11:28 am

    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.

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  • Aspire4platinum


    9 Dec, 2015 08:27 pm

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

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  • itchyfeet


    11 Dec, 2015 11:24 am

    Comment of the day. XD

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  • highflyer


    10 Dec, 2015 01:46 am

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

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  • Adam Cathro


    11 Dec, 2015 10:25 am

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

    Not so much the rest of it.

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18 Jul, 2019 01:12 pm


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