Sleeping Compartments on Planes: Fact or Fiction?

Sleeping Compartments on Planes: Fact or Fiction?
When flying long-haul, sleeping in a flatbed is the ultimate luxury. You can put your jammies on, stretch out, sleep soundly and arrive at your destination with a refreshing lack of back ache or dark circles under your eyes. Of course, a flatbed doesn’t come cheap, with business class seats often costing several times that of economy, and it’s hard to justify this extra cost, especially if there’s a big group of you travelling. But what if there was an alternative? With plans being mooted of sleeping compartments on planes, let’s see if this idea could actually take off and the boost it could give to teams travelling long distance for their next match…

What are the plans for sleeping compartments on planes?

The concept of sleeping compartments on planes was discussed at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, held in April in Hamburg, when Airbus and partners Zodiac Aerospace, a leading aircraft seat designer and manufacturer, announced their plans to introduce passenger sleeping compartments into the cargo hold of the Airbus A330 and A350 in early 2020. 

How would plane sleeping compartments work?

This sounds all rather intriguing, especially as Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace showed off a mock-up of their visions for how these compartments might look. Not dissimilar to a Japanese pod hotel or the bunk beds on overnight trains, or indeed the crew sleeping arrangements on long-haul flights (minus the narrow staircases), they feature a central corridor with two layers of bunk beds either side. 

The idea has also been discussed of renting the beds out for allocated time slots during the flight, with passengers assigned a bunk for an hour or two, before returning to their upright seat. This would allow bunks to be sold as add-ons to economy seats, saving money for passengers and allowing teams to rest players at optimal times. 

The advantages of sleeping compartments on planes

Other than being cheaper than business class tickets, on board sleeping compartments would open up the possibility of passengers being comfortable enough to endure even longer flights than they do already. Bunk beds are likely to work especially well on long-haul flights such as the gruelling 16 hours from Doha to Auckland (currently the world’s longest flight), and the recently-introduced direct London to Perth flight with Qantas. They would also work well on as-yet non-existing routes such as non-stop London to Sydney or London to Melbourne, saving a team the hassle of having to navigate through an additional airport.

"Other than being cheaper than business class tickets, on board sleeping compartments would open up the possibility of passengers being comfortable enough to endure even longer flights than they do already."

The drawbacks of sleeping compartments on planes

Of course, sleeping compartments are not for everyone. Firstly, you’d need to be quite agile to get in and out of them, especially if you had the top bunk. Although this is not something that is likely to affect athletes, airlines will need to consider the needs of elderly or claustrophobic passengers, or those who get up regularly on planes. Secondly, safety and costs must also be considered. Endless redesigns will cost the airlines a lot of money. But, all seats must conform to regulations, with considerations over passenger numbers and their evacuation routes taken into account, as well as how passengers would eat while lying down. Some clever marketing would be required too to pacify those passengers with visions of being stuffed into their seats like sardines. 

Are plane sleeping compartments a new idea?

Although bunk beds on planes might seem like a new-fangled idea, it’s not actually a new concept. In the 1950s, Boeing Stratocruisers and Douglas DC-6s flying back and forth across the Atlantic offered sleeping compartments to passengers. However the idea fizzled out when the time taken to cross the Atlantic decreased enough for upright chairs to be adequate for most people.

In the noughties, the bunk bed idea popped its head up again, when Airbus’ head of Interiors Robert Lange stated the importance of using the all the space in each cabin, and how bunk beds in Premium Economy might be a way to do this. Lufthansa and Ryanair also expressed interest. This led to Airbus filing various patents for bed designs, although none of them have yet come to fruition. 

How sleeping compartments would benefit sports teams

For sports travel, sleeping compartments could be ideal. Constantly travelling the globe on their way to and from tournaments, sportsmen and women need their rest to perform at their best. But splashing out on business class for an entire football or rugby team and their coaches is not exactly cheap. Sleeping compartments would be a great way to get around this, allowing the team to arrive refreshed and relaxed at their destination without breaking the budget.

"Constantly travelling the globe on their way to and from tournaments, sportsmen and women need their rest to perform at their best."

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