Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Jury remains out on Airbus A330 lower-deck cabin modules

Airbus-Zodiac Aerospace lower-deck modules.

As Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace are refining the design of the lower-deck cabin module they are to offer on the A330, potential customers still must find a way to use the extra space and, eventually, a business case.

Depending on the service provided, flight attendants may have to work more during the cruise phase. Such a change may trigger negotiations between airline managers and unions. And the company selling the space—a sleeping berth or a conference room—may not be the carrier itself.

Airbus remains confident in the potential for success, as the unveiling of the concept in April followed an expression of interest from several airlines, Airbus head of cabin strategy Sophie Pendaries said during a visit of the mockup at Airbus' headquarters.

While Airbus is in charge of certification, Zodiac is responsible for the layout. One module can fit a welcome area, a small playground for children, a conference room for 6-8 persons or six berths. An A330 could thus embark a maximum 24 berths. But the concept is presented as a clean sheet of paper to prospect customers, which could create new passenger experiences.

The offering is still a work in progress, as the number of modules an A330 could accommodate is now suggested to be four, instead of an earlier reference to three. A demonstrator is planned to fly in 2020 with passengers, provided Airbus and Zodiac find a partner airline.

The move was targeted by the weakening value of freight, Pendaries says. A similar idea had emerged in 1992-93 for the A340-300 but went nowhere. Freight, at the time, was selling for higher prices, Pendaries explained. Moreover, the lower-deck cabin was to feature a standup arrangement and would have involved airframe modifications, which the new concept does not require.

Also supporting the plan is the trend toward market segmentation, where carriers offer a variety of level of services, Pendaries added.

(Thierry Dubois - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)

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