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Airbus Has a Solution to 17-Hour Flight Hell: Beds in the Cargo Hold

Airlines may be getting skittish about putting pets in cargo holds…but what about people?

Airbus (EADSY), the European plane-maker, has struck a deal with a company called Zodiac Aerospace to develop sleeper modules that can be swapped out with regular cargo containers on specific flights.

The sleeping berths would give carriers more flexibility in the way they plan their commercial operations, Airbus said Tuesday.

“This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort. We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups,” said Airbus cabin and cargo chief Geoff Pinner.

The first planes to get this option, in 2020, will be Airbus’s A330s—airlines will be able to have their jets retrofitted with the modules, or buy new aircraft with them in place. Airbus is also looking at the possibility of fitting the system in its A350 XWB airliner.

Airbus and Zodiac's sleeper module.
Airbus and Zodiac’s sleeper module.Airbus

The Australian carrier Quantas—a big Boeing (BA) customer—last month said it was considering using part of its cargo holds for sleeping berths, in order to make a proposed 8,900-mile Brisbane-Chicago route bearable.

According to Agence France-Presse, Air France-KLM (AFLYY) also came up with a similar idea back in late 2016, with the intention of giving more comfort to certain economy class passenger.

Zodiac Aerospace is a French company that makes aircraft components ranging from cockpit technology to waste systems. In February, it agreed to a takeover by the French aerospace giant Safran (SAFRY).