Qantas mulls sleeper berths and exercise areas in the cargo hold

Qantas mulls sleeper berths and exercise areas in the cargo hold

The planes that will operate Qantas’ ultra-long range flights from Sydney and Melbourne to faraway destinations such as London and New York could have drastically different interiors to today’s jets.

In a speech in London today to The Aviation Club UK, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline is considering a 'sleeping berth' cabin class with dedicated exercise areas to help battle the fatigue of a non-stop 20 hour flight.

But there’s a twist: the new train-like berths and exercise zone would be located in the cargo area beneath the main deck.

"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?”

Joyce admitted these were “out there” ideas but said "there's a lot of 'out there' thinking that's going on.”

Qantas has already put the idea to Airbus and Boeing, who are both in the running to build the globe-striding jets which would be needed to run what could be the world’s longest flights.

There is speculation that the jets may not be able to carry a full load of passengers and cargo, and that some of this cargo space may be used for the above purposes.

Read: Qantas wants four classes, 300 passengers in ultra-long range jets

Referring to Airbus and Boeing, he said “both manufacturers have aircraft that our engineers are working with…to tweak the aircraft as necessary to get within that range and we’re getting closer all the time.” 

“It is also about getting an aircraft that not only can do Sydney-London, but at the same time the same aircraft is capable of being redirected to Sydney-Hong Kong or Sydney Singapore.”

“It can’t be too heavy, it can’t be specialised too much so it’s not feasible elsewhere. That’s going to be a challenge,” Joyce predicts. 

Joyce also cited fatigue management of pilots and crew as an issue for the ultra-long range flights. 

In 1989 Qantas operated a flight direct from London to Sydney, however there were no commercial passengers on board. 

Project Sunrise is named after the “double sunrise” flights flown by Qantas during World War II from Perth to Ceylon, with some travelling non-stop for 32 hours.

They are the longest commercial flights ever flown and were pivotal in maintaining the flow of mail and communication between Australia and the UK after the Japanese invaded Singapore.

Approximately 870 passengers flew on the 270 flights operated and were inducted into the “Secret Order of the Double Sunrise” once completed.

Read more: Qantas wants non-stops from Sydney, Melbourne to London, New York by 2022

Sid Raja travelled to London as a guest of Qantas. 

James Fordham

James Fordham

James has been interested in aviation ever since his first flight. When he’s not travelling, he’s still on the road indulging his motoring hobby, or trying a new whisky.
 

55 comments

  • Lake Pacific Airways

    lakepacificair

    28 Mar, 2018 08:06 am

    The Roo’s on fire!
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  • mviy

    mviy

    28 Mar, 2018 08:38 am

    They should have had first class and an exercise area on the 787. That’s already long enough that exercising will be a problem.
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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    28 Mar, 2018 10:32 am

    Agree re F, although if you only have 3 or 6 seats in F, would it be worth it for the service/product differentiation? Re the exercise area, on the 787 it wouldn't be practical - people can always walk up and down the aisles or stretch in the voids at the doors.
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  • Alvin Tse

    074061

    28 Mar, 2018 08:39 am

    They can barely fill up their 787s as is. One thing they could really do is introduce a bar area like some airlines do on their A380s. Reduces a bit of capacity but it seems like Qantas is willing to invest in their onboard product. Add in a side pull-up bar and some yoga mats at the side that weigh virtually nothing and there's a setup to actually get some exercise too.
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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    28 Mar, 2018 10:24 am

    074061, I am not sure where you get the idea they can’t fill the 787s. They have been around only a month or so. That judgement seems a bit premature. The fact that there are few sale fares available suggests the bookings are not too bad, so I suspect they’re being filled.
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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    28 Mar, 2018 10:42 am

    The 787s to LAX are bursting at the seams! I believe QF9 to LHR the other day had 23 empty seats, but there was some talk that QF had deliberately withheld those seats from sale for weight reasons, don't know if that's accurate.
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  • Cameron Hocking

    blingwad

    28 Mar, 2018 11:32 am

    They are blocking out about 25 seats in economy and not carrying any cargo until everything is bedded down
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    Packetman21

  • patrickk

    patrickk

    28 Mar, 2018 12:44 pm

    Against the wind flights to the limit of the range will have blocked seats to wit DFW flights.
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  • hutch

    hutch

    28 Mar, 2018 11:54 am

    Supposedly running at 90% avg load factors for first month. Which certainly does not indicate a struggle to fill them.
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  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    28 Mar, 2018 11:18 pm

    Ewww! Imagine having a sweaty, lycra-clad, fitness fanatic huffing and puffing away in the Business Suite beside you after a particularly vigorous workout/attempt to impress fellow pax! They'd definitely need to have a shower onboard.
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    simulate

  • Mark Bringans

    Briggo

    29 Mar, 2018 12:33 am

    It would make all those active wearers prevalent on flights these days actually do some activity, maybe

    He probably needed to stay in the media with NZ announcing non stop to CGO n Steve n Davy on the nose
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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    28 Mar, 2018 08:59 am

    A load of nonsense, just like Virgin Atlantic having ambitions of putting casinos in the A380s they never received.
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    28 Mar, 2018 09:12 am

    Wtf... Sleeping births...isn't that what J and F are for?
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  • sgb

    sgb

    28 Mar, 2018 09:15 am

    If a gymnasium is installed, please can we have showers as well. Please don't let my seat be anywhere near the Exercise area.
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    Doubleplatinum

  • eminere

    eminere

    28 Mar, 2018 09:29 am

    Per the article, unless QF intends to seat passengers in the cargo hold along with the recreational areas I think you're safe.
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  • sgb

    sgb

    28 Mar, 2018 09:45 am

    Hope they will have good air conditioning down there.
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  • bsb

    bsb

    28 Mar, 2018 07:17 pm

    Exactly my thoughts!
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  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    28 Mar, 2018 09:51 am

    Hey, why not have 5 classes if the dollars add up: F class, J class, PE class, an economy X, and cattle class.
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  • Richard Foreman

    ptcruiser

    28 Mar, 2018 09:57 am

    Sadly this just tells me that both Boeing and Airbus are years away from producing a viable economical aircraft for Qantas' ultra long routes at its current requirements. It looks like Qantas is beginning to realise that it's demands are too high and is back peddling now with advertising hyperbole to generate interest. Qantas will have to budge and accept a much leaner aircraft such as the A350-900ULR, or just wait another 10 years for new technology engines. Cargo is a massive money spinner so it's hard to believe Qantas would give that capacity up, just to say they can fly from Sydney to New York non stop.
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  • Boof

    Boof

    28 Mar, 2018 12:11 pm

    I couldn't agree more. On the article about QF wanting 4 classes and 300 pax I made the comment that "QF may need to realign their business model rather than expect the current model to fit new aircraft." and was shot down in flames but I stand by my point.

    They are asking for a jet that can fly further than PER-LHR and carry 70 odd more pax than the current 789, yet the 789 and A359ULR can fly these routes with less pax. A more premium config would work with current aircraft technology if the market is there.
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  • Brenton Thevarakam

    whoppersandwich

    28 Mar, 2018 02:59 pm

    With a skinny F class (<8 seats) the 778 is already slated to be able to seat 300pax - 4 class, and (at least for SYD-JFK) carry a reasonable amount of cargo.

    The 779 (a worthy A380 replacement) can seat 400pax in a 4 class arrangement if you wanna be cruel to Y class.
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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    28 Mar, 2018 10:21 am

    pt cruiser there is not much cargo on the Dallas flight and I suspect there won’t be much in the London or NY flight. Premium passengers are worth far more than cargo. How to use that empty space becomes the issue hence these ideas.
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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    28 Mar, 2018 10:45 am

    It's been reported there was no cargo at all on the inaugural QF9 to LHR. Will probably take a while for QF to get its weight and fuel projections finalised and then they will work out how much cargo can be carried.
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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    28 Mar, 2018 11:07 am

    The first QF9 was, as I understand, 500kg below MTOW...that's one heavy plane!
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  • Boof

    Boof

    28 Mar, 2018 12:13 pm

    They are adding fuel, and blocking a few seats to ensure there are no diversions in the first fortnight as all this good publicity can be unstuck with a bad diversion (looking at the DWC A380 diversion at Xmas time as an example). Things go back to normal full pax loads mid-April.
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  • GregXL

    GregXL

    28 Mar, 2018 12:29 pm

    Previous comments on QF 9 say 25 seats blocked and no cargo. Is it possible to be only 500kg short of MTOW with these restrictions ? That is only 6 or so passengers.
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  • Brenton Thevarakam

    whoppersandwich

    28 Mar, 2018 03:04 pm

    It also landed with 7 tonnes of fuel left... Theres definitely more room for revenue - once management at QF allow it!
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    29 Mar, 2018 10:51 am

    whoppersandwich, at cruise with this type of aircraft, say at FL38, how many nautical miles or kms extra would seven tonnes of fuel give an aircraft (i.e. range)? Is the minimum 'reserve' they must retain about two tonnes?
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  • Brenton Thevarakam

    whoppersandwich

    29 Mar, 2018 02:06 pm

    It depends entirely on what constitutes alternate fuel, with the necessary weather (INTER/TEMPO) additions. At cruising level I would expect a 789 to run for nearly 2 hours on that much gas (~800nm)

    This is fairly excessive for an arrival into the London Terminal Area as there’s a plethora of suitable aerodromes nearby. On the flipside, landing in PER would require more fuel because of the lack of alternates (most ME carriers for instance pack enough to get to ADL!) Thanks to tailwinds fuel carriage into PER should never be an issue, there are concerns that QF9 will struggle to get to LHR in the northern winter; so it’s possible QF just wanted to see if the aircraft had the endurance for those conditions. But with that much fuel leftover on the inaugral I daresay diverts will be few if any.
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    samson

  • hutch

    hutch

    28 Mar, 2018 12:00 pm

    Let's not take cargo for granted... It's important. When premium travel declined post gfc, cargo and human cargo (ie economy) kept the money coming in. Airlines shouldn't forget this when they're route planning.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    31 Mar, 2018 11:27 am


    Yes, cargo IS important at most airlines, however ...

    I'd suggest that you have a very good look at QF's last 10 years of Annual reports in respect of Cargo, hutch. In fact, it is now so important to QF that it is no longer reported on as a separate financial category. If there is an 'under-performing' division at QF .. it's this one.

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  • hutch

    hutch

    28 Mar, 2018 12:08 pm

    Whilst I look forward to QF flying to lots of ultra long haul routes in 5+ years, perhaps AJ can give us love in the next 12months by - outlining the 380 refurbs and starting them, finishing the 330 refurbs (like yesterday), letting us know where the last 787 will fly and scheduling upgrades to the SYD, MEL & AKL lounges.

    Then we can get excited about things that may or may not happen next decade.
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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    28 Mar, 2018 12:42 pm

    Hutch the A380 refurbished have been outlined and are essentially the upper deck being redone in the same style as the 789, and the removal of economy from the upper deck. The lower deck will get a refresh. All from next year over two years or 18 months I think. The last 787 will fly in about 20 years (there are 45 of them so a lot to come) and the Mel lounge upgrade has started, Syd is next and I have no idea about AKL. Most of this is on the public record.
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  • hutch

    hutch

    28 Mar, 2018 03:53 pm

    Yes, but nothing is set in stone with any detail (what's a 'refresh?' when etc).

    At the moment, the last 787, is number 8. The remaining 787s, whilst likely to be delivered, may not be. The wait for the extra US route to be announced remains.

    Mel Domestic lounge is being done. Nothing noted on international to my knowledge. Sydney is next? When exactly? How they doing it?

    The overall point being, QF is spending a fair chunk of time recently, talking about 2022 and beyond, when there are plenty of customer service improvements / announcements that can be provided much sooner.
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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    28 Mar, 2018 12:26 pm

    Are any of these planes currently evacuation certified for seating(sleeping) in a below deck configuration? My guess is the answer is no and both Airbus and Boeing would probably baulk at doing new evacuation tests particularly as FAA etc are starting to get a bit leery about the realism of the existing test processes.

    It sounds exciting and I'm sure the announcement was smart PR to get a bit more free press coverage but I doubt we'll be seeing this any time soon and I'll file it with the VS inflight casino and masseurs.

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  • AussieGuest

    AussieGuest

    28 Mar, 2018 01:17 pm

    Another 'out there' idea, why not have exercise bikes linked to generators powering the a/c.... Seriously, don't regs require all pax to have seat belts loosely fitted at all times? Difficult to achieve when 'exercising' in the hold.
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  • Charles

    SteveCF

    28 Mar, 2018 01:36 pm

    As the article states, these are 'out there ideas'. Nothing more.

    I think what's clever from AJ and Qantas is that they are challenging the market, not just on increasing range of Long Haul but what such a product looks like. Many have rubbished Qantas for not being innovative in recent years, I don't think they can be accused of that now. They know all of these ideas won't come to market, but elements of them could that will support the new markets they are looking at.

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  • hutch

    hutch

    28 Mar, 2018 03:57 pm

    @SteveCF I hope to be proved wrong. But until then, I shall be reminded of QF most recent innovation... their 787 premium economy seat.
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  • highflyer

    highflyer

    28 Mar, 2018 02:48 pm

    If they can't make a Gym, Shower, Bar and other enhancements work on their A380 fleet with all that space, what are the chances of them working on a 787?
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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    29 Mar, 2018 01:57 am

    Highflier it won't be on a 787 it will be on the 778 or A359ULR.
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  • John Odlum

    John Odlum

    28 Mar, 2018 03:22 pm

    Thinking 'out there' ideas is where some brilliant concepts come from, I'm sure AJ is not talking about some sweaty gym but just a place for stretching, maybe a treadmill for walking, but I like the idea of train-style sleeper berths and no problem about them being in the cargo hold, don't forget this is where some of the original lounges used to be!
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    29 Mar, 2018 10:54 am

    A few years ago LH proposed railway sleeping berths in a couchette type arrangement. They even drew diagrams but nothing more was heard, at least not here in Oz. So QF is not the first to come up with this sort of an idea.
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    29 Mar, 2018 10:57 am

    shhh don't tell that to the media...QF are always the first to come up with every idea
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  • grov

    grov

    28 Mar, 2018 03:45 pm

    Remember Lufthansa's 380 double-height bunk concept with 3 stacked bunks, with the lower bunk converting to a 3-seat sofa for takeoff and landing?
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  • Simon Coveney

    Covvers

    28 Mar, 2018 04:25 pm

    A nice idea in theory and a useful way to secure a headline, but this is pie in the sky type stuff (no pun intended). Aside from the very real question about the feasibility of it from an engineering perspective, the bean counters will never allow this to happen.
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  • traveller90

    traveller90

    28 Mar, 2018 05:58 pm

    SYD-LHR flights are years away, so no concerns here. In regards to sleeping bunks and gyms, perhaps will not eventuate as aircraft real estate is golden, with stand up bars, showers etc costly. First class is the sleeper, and space for gyms simply a marketing exercise as the space can be used for light volume cargo rather than heavy cargo loads.

    We forget all these concepts were looked into during the 70's with lounges and seating in the holds of the 747's, DC10s and L1011's - non of which eventuated for obvious reasons. Even QF with its 747 200B's with the galley in the hold did not last long as was replaced in the 743 for cargo raising revenue.

    So fellow travellers, enjoy the high density of the ultra long haul flights are they are here to stay, for the coming decade anyway.

    My crystal ball tells me the EM3 may also soon ditch the bar/shower concepts when the numbers are crunched post 2020, as F is already slowly disappearing from their aircrafts and so to will the creature comforts that support the product.

    Happy flying all!

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  • bsb

    bsb

    28 Mar, 2018 07:24 pm

    Great PR. But it’ll never happen.

    The upstairs of the original 747s had a lounge and that didn’t last. Then the 380s never got bars or showers like their ME3 counterparts. And QF never put in F suites like most other 380 operators.

    QF has a very, very, very long history of conservative management style (which as of late, has been financially beneficial) and a leopard can’t change its spots. Blue sky thinking isn’t in their DNA.

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  • Bruce Dale

    Nalanji

    28 Mar, 2018 07:25 pm

    Is anyone else thinking back to the future? They had downstairs bar on the Stratocruisers in the 1950s.
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  • puppy79

    puppy79

    28 Mar, 2018 08:50 pm

    a gym even a small one would be a great start for all.
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  • zoomzoom

    zoomzoom

    28 Mar, 2018 10:50 pm

    I suggest they upgrade the J class product on the old 747 clunkers......or maybe lift the whole standard of the product offer. This is just a cheap thought bubble PR stunt. I will continue to fly other carriers with better product and much better price offers.
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  • puppy79

    puppy79

    29 Mar, 2018 07:10 am

    personally off the topic a little Qantas could and should have waited for the 747-8's when it was time to move on from the non extended range 747's and the later 747's that arrived in the 1999/2000 period.i flew on one of the later 400's and was impressed by economy standards.great airline let down by outdated product.
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  • sgb

    sgb

    29 Mar, 2018 09:10 am

    I can see constant jamming signals on the AV units for the old DVT messages and exercises. I wish flying could be more glamorous rather than passengers being treated like just human cargo.
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  • Dean

    deany83

    29 Mar, 2018 12:02 pm

    Reminds me of the lavs on Lufthansa's A340
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    29 Mar, 2018 12:08 pm

    see i liked that for it's uniqueness...in the end it didn't work too well but it was worth the effort for LH just to try out the concept on 1 aircraft which had the cargo space for it.
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  • sgb

    sgb

    29 Mar, 2018 01:45 pm

    I find all this Ultra Long Distance air travel talk quite exhausting, I'm more than happy to break my trip with one stop. This, less passengers but more fuel, theory sounds very interesting indeed. Lets see how it all works out as fuel costs increase. I would sooner arrive in tip top condition rather than with DVT. All this nonsense about certain types of food designed to combat the influences, sounds great, but will it really be the next best thing since sliced bread...I'd sooner be wined and dined twice on two legs and arrive marginally later.
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    puppy79

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18 Jun, 2019 07:35 am

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