Right now all airplane cabins look pretty much the same — there are tiny little rows of seats and, invariably, a crying baby. But what if airlines could easily swap out those seats for an in-flight bar, coffee shop, or even a spa? It’s an ambitious idea, but Airbus wants to give fliers unprecedented ability to customize their flights with a new modular cabin system it’s calling Transpose.
“Imagine an afternoon flight landing at San Jose airport,” Jason Chua, Airbus’s project executive, wrote in a Medium post on Friday. “The passengers deplane, and within minutes the seats in the cabin are being swapped out for bunks, making the aircraft’s next route: a 12 hour redeye to Singapore — a much more restful experience for passengers.”
Chua says that making any sort of change to plane cabins is an arduous, difficult process. Most airlines only change their cabin design every decade or so, and the basic layout hasn’t changed, ever. Transpose could work because it doesn’t require a completely new plane design to work.
“Modular aircraft cabins already exist,” Chua writes, explaining that Transpose’s cabins would work using the same infrastructure that freighter variants of large commercial aircraft already employ.
“This system allows suppliers to focus their energies on building compelling experiences rather than on byzantine integration challenges,” he explained.
Chua says that Transpose would make flying a more enjoyable experience for passengers and that, due to the ease at which the modules could be swapped for one another, it wouldn’t make prices increase by that much. Which sort of makes sense, except you have to imagine that airlines would probably want to charge more for a seat on a plane with an in-flight gym or spa, especially since that module would be taking up space that could otherwise be filled with seats for more paying customers.
Transpose, which appears to be different from Airbus’ 2015 plans for a docking module which would allow passengers to take their seat before the plane even arrives, is looking for airline partners to help make the concept a reality.
“We’re developing Transpose in as open a manner as possible,” Chua writes. “We’re not working in stealth behind a closed hangar door because the complexity of this project demands a range of disciplines and expertise that’s not available in any single place.”
If they make a soundproof module for all the crying babies, I’m sold.