In 2016, Airbus launched its own moonshot-style project. Its Silicon Valley-based innovation group, known as A³, set out to build a fully modular airplane that could be customized with plug-in modules ranging from cafes to gyms. If airlines could cater to what passengers really wanted to do in the air, the idea went, people would pay for it. Airbus called off the project, called Transpose, earlier this year–but it appears Transpose's spirit lives on.
At a major expo for aircraft interiors in Hamburg, Germany, last week, Airbus announced that it will introduce modular sleeping areas to the cargo hold of its A330 planes by 2020. The modules, designed in partnership with the aircraft interiors company Zodiac, will sit directly on top of the cargo hold on the bottom of the plane–meaning that there's no need to reconfigure the plane's interiors entirely, as Transpose proposed. And crucially, Airbus would still be able to swap out the sleeping modules for cargo space when it needs it.
The news offers a glimpse at how, even if ambitious projects like Transpose never come to pass, air travel is shifting toward flexible designs that offer passengers more space–if they're willing to pay for it.