Airbus Beds in Plane’s Cargo Hold: 5 Reasons I Hope It Catches On

Airbus Beds in Cargo Hold
Photo: Airbus


Airbus Will Create Beds in the Cargo Hold, via modular designs that could also accommodate kids' play areas, a medical care center, meeting room, or fine dining restaurant or bar. The designs are still in the concept stage, and the earliest they'd be available would be 2020, on A330, and potentially A350 aircraft.

I've been wondering for years why airlines don't make use of part of the hold space for bunk beds for passengers who would prefer to sleep most of the flight rather than sitting in an uncomfortable economy class seat, but also don't need the fancy trappings of first and business class. After all, the cargo hold is usually pressurized and just a few degrees cooler than the cabin, and most people want a cooler cabin for sleeping anyway.

Here are the details of the Airbus announcement, unveiled earlier this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, followed by my 5 reasons for why I hope this catches on with airlines who operate long haul and ultra long haul routes.

  • Airbus is partnering with Zodiac Aerospace to create the  beds in passenger modules for the A330 cargo holds
  • These are bunk bed in style, contained within modules that are designed to be removable, so they can easily be loaded or unloaded in place of regular cargo containers
  • This would be for A330 aircraft, and potentially A350 aircraft in the future
  • Mock ups released by Airbus also depict the option of a kids' play room, medical care room, bar, and meeting room


5 Reasons I Hope the New Airbus Beds and Interiors in Cargo Holds Catch On

1. Sitting for Long Periods is Hazardous to Your Health

Everyone knows that exercise is important for health, but recent studies such as this one have also correlated long periods of sitting with increased mortality, even when study participants exercised. In the study of nearly 8000 adults 45 and older, those who sat for 12.5 or more hours total in a day and sat for 30 minutes or more at a time had the greatest risk of death, and was unaffected by the participants' race, gender, age, body mass index or exercise habits. Those who sat less than 30 minutes at a time had about a 55% lower risk of death than those who typically sat more than 30 minutes at a time.

While airline in-flight magazines do tell you to move around, it's pretty hard for everyone in the economy cabin to move around frequently, given the narrow aisles and service carts that often block them. Being able to go down to the cargo hold for a walk or to sleep would be healthy.


2. Finally a More Humane Long Haul Option at Lower Cost Than Business Class

While we don't of course know yet what the cargo hold beds would cost, they would presumably be much more reasonably priced than business class on the same flight, as these beds are bunk bed in style, in the hold, without any windows, and don't require the same catering and service that is used for business class.

Airbus has proposed that passengers would still book a regular economy seat, but the airlines with the cargo hold beds could sell the beds as an add-on. They could also be sold for a certain time increment, rather than the entire flight, so that would potentially make the offering far more affordable to more passengers as well.


3. Kids' Play Room

One of the Airbus sketches depicts a kids' play room, which would be awesome not only for kids and families, but also fellow passengers. Parents, imagine not having to dread 12+ hours of wrangling rambunctious toddlers in economy seats, glared at by seat mates every time your child is a bit too loud or kicks or bumps a nearby seat. And fellow passengers, imagine being able to politely suggest to parents that the kids might enjoy visiting the kids' play room.

Airbus Beds in Airplane Cargo Hold-Kids Play Room
Photo: Airbus


4. Medical Care Room

Another Airbus sketch depicted a medical care room, with a screen for conference call assistance from a medical professional. While no one wants to have a medical emergency on a plane, medical emergencies, births and deaths do sometimes happen. Airlines usually rely on a combination of ground-based medical services such as MedAire, in combination with asking if there is a doctor on board (also see Airline Compensation for Doctor Assisting with In-Flight Medical Emergency).

On a full aircraft, it can be extremely challenging to effectively treat the patient, and many airline emergency medical kits are woefully lacking. A medical care room, appropriately stocked, would be extremely helpful in these cases.

Airbus Beds in Airplane Cargo Hold-Medical Care Room
Photo: Airbus


5. Greater Innovation in Aircraft Products 

If Airbus beds in the cargo hold are popular, this could spur greater innovation and improvements in aircraft products that positively impact more passengers, not just first class and business class. Over the past years, most innovation has been in better premium class products, at the expense of squeezing more seats in economy. Sure, there's often Premium Economy, with a bit more legroom and recline, but few would say that Premium Economy is very good for sleeping, unless it's someone who just happens to sleep well in a sitting position.

What do you think of Airbus plans to offer beds, a kids' play room, medical care room, and other amenities in the cargo hold?

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