Airbus could finally build the cruise ship of the skies

At a trade show in Germany, Airbus proposed adding sleeping berths on its wide-body airliners for more passenger comfort in the clouds.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read
Airbus A380
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When Airbus first unveiled the design of its double-decker A380 in 2000, it boasted that the giant airliner could become sort of a cruise ship of the skies. Private passenger cabins, shops and even exercise rooms would help make long intercontinental flights more tolerable. 

For the most part, those concepts did not come to pass. Some airlines have lounges and showers for premium passengers, and Etihad added a private stateroom to its A380s called "The Residence," but most operators simply used the A380's extra room for more seats, most of them in economy class. 


Get some sleep, have a meal and relax in your hotel in the sky. 


But today at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, the idea of maximum comfort at 35,000 took off again when Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace announced a plan for passenger compartments that would slide into the cargo holds of its A330 wide-body aircraft. 

The modular compartments could take a variety of forms, including six-bed sleeping berths, dinning rooms and lounges, conferences areas or a living room for an especially posh family traveling together. Airlines would be able to customize the compartments on an aircraft's overnight layover, adjusting between passenger demand and making room for money-making cargo.

Airbus says that airlines will be able to order compartments by 2020, starting with the A330. The company is studying compartment designs for the A350, as well as the struggling A380. (At the show, Airbus also unveiled a concept to add more premium-class seats on the A380 by eliminating two of the upper deck doors.)

The idea of a hotel in the sky is getting a revival partially as airlines add ultra-long-range routes, like Qantas's new flight between London and Perth, Australia, that can last 17 hours or more. Last month, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce suggested that the carrier could add berths or gyms to the Boeing 787s it uses on the route to make the flights more comfortable (Singapore uses the A350 on its 17-hour flights between San Francisco and Singapore). 

Watch this: A new Airbus soars on first flight

It's unclear at this point how passengers and crew would access a compartment or pass between them during flight. And as The Points Guy mentions, the compartments can only five feet high in order to fit in an A330's cargo hold. That means a lot of people won't be able to stand up inside, but you may not care if you're sound asleep on an overnight flight.