Could Airlines Replace Overhead Bins With Beds?

Overhead bins

Long-haul flying comes in many different flavors. On one hand, some airlines offer excellent first and business-class products. On the other, an economy class can be a grueling long-haul experience.

But, what if airlines took out overhead bins and instead added mounted beds for passengers?

Beds in place of overhead bins?

A Simple Flying reader posed the idea and it got us thinking; what if airlines reconfigured the interior of aircraft? Instead of gutting overhead bins entirely, what if the bin space could instead occupy room underneath the seat or else in closets located throughout the cabin. And, instead of overhead bins, airlines offered mounted beds for passengers?

How would airlines handle beds instead of overhead bins?

Airlines could, as with the idea of “sleeper seats” on some airlines, let passengers book the overhead bed space at an additional price. There would not be enough space for every passenger to have their own bed.

However, this could work out for families or those traveling with small children. This would give passengers room to spread out both in seats and up in the hanging beds. For sure, there would not be as much space as business or first class.

Would airlines implement this?

It seems incredibly unlikely for airlines to replace overhead bins with beds. On one hand, this would mean a major retooling of aircraft space that could decrease usable cabin space or else remove some cargo space. Both of these could be incredibly costly for airlines.

Furthermore, the beds would either reduce overhead headroom or else the beds would be incredibly tight. Whether or not this would improve the passenger experience is a different story. It is easy to imagine a reduced sense of privacy and, in the case of severe turbulence, potentially more injuries.

Passengers may also not appreciate reduced under-the-seat storage for personal belongings. This could then require airlines to further restrict the amount of hand luggage allowed on board.

Overall

Although it is an interesting idea to replace overhead bins with beds, it is unlikely that airlines will jump at the opportunity to implement this. Whether or not many passengers would want this change is also a different story.

While some may want a bed on board, overhead bin space and headroom may be more valuable– especially since not every passenger would be guaranteed room to stretch out. For now, there are many airlines that have released products that are like “couches” on board.

Air New Zealand has a product known as the Skycouch available on several of its flights. But, until it becomes more widespread, it is probably better to start accumulating points and miles to score a long-haul flight in a premium cabin. Toyota has thrown its hat into the ring with a concept it calls the Cloud Capsule.

The Cloud Capsule

Toyota has floated a concept it calls the Cloud Capsule, which essentially replaces overhead luggage bins with what it calls a ‘multipurpose room’. This ‘room’ in the clouds can be used for economy passengers to get more comfortable on a long flight, with space to chill and even to sleep in a fully flat position.

The company clarifies that the capsules would only be accessible during the cruise phase of flight, as they are unlikely to be certified as safe for taxi, takeoff, and landing. They are accessed by a set of stairs from the cabin, which the designers envisage installing into the row ends of the seats below.

Once up top, passengers can be strapped in to allow them to remain in the capsule in the event of the seatbelt light becoming illuminated. There’s a large IFE monitor up there, as well as space for working, relaxing, and sleeping.

The company says that the space would be climate controlled, with plenty of ventilation, and would be akin to the private experience available in business class seats.

Toyota has suggested that this would be an add-on booking for passengers already booked to fly in economy class seats. This, they say, would create additional revenue opportunities for airlines, as well as a unique selling point for its passengers.

But what about the bags? Well, Toyota has also redesigned the rest of the economy class cabin. Down below, seats are configured in a staggered formation to allow for luggage storage underneath the seats. The shell around the economy class seats is designed for better airflow and more privacy than typical products.

While it’s an interesting concept, it’s not the first time a concept for sleeping in luggage bin space has been floated. In the past, certification for this sort of idea is fraught with pitfalls, so it will likely be an uphill struggle to get this idea onto a plane.

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