LONDON — Airbus has found a new way for passengers to stretch out — as long as they’re willing to sleep in the cargo hold.
The European airplane maker has partnered with France’s Zodiac Aerospace to create cargo sleeper berths for Airbus A330 jets. They’ll be available to airlines by 2020.
The mini-cabins — or passenger modules, as Airbus and Zodiac describe them — will sit directly on the cargo floor and will not affect the loading of freight and luggage.
Airlines will be able to swap the sleeping modules in and out of planes in place of regular cargo containers, the companies said.
“We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups,” Geoff Pinner, head of cabin and cargo operations at Airbus, said in a statement.
Designs provided by the companies showed rows of double-decker beds on either side of a corridor. Mock-up drawings also showed larger spaces for families, medical care or meetings.
While the exact use and pricing of the berths is yet to be determined, they are designed to be offered as an add-on option on long haul flights for passengers who want to get up from their seats and lie down, Airbus spokesman Jacques Rocca told CNN.
Passengers will purchase a regular seat on the aircraft, paying extra for a bed at a price to be determined by airlines. They would access the cargo hold via a staircase.
Claustrophobia sufferers may have a problem, however, as the cabins don’t appear to have windows.
Rocca said high definition display screens Airbus is developing to replace windows could be deployed in the cargo passenger cabins.
Carriers will be able to order new A330 jets fitted with the modules, or retrofit planes already in service.
There are more than 1,300 A330s currently in operation around the world with carriers including Air China, Etihad Airways and Lufthansa.
Airbus is also considering introducing the new modules in its A350 XWB planes, which are currently flown by airlines including Delta, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.