Airbus Testing Customizable Airplane Cabins With Spas, Coffee Bars Instead of Seats

The concept system would allow airlines to customize cabin layouts and amenities quickly and easily—even between flights.

byJosh Condon|
Culture photo

A New Way of Thinking About Air Travel

A3, the Silicon Valley-based incubation lab from French aviation behemoth Airbus, is testing a modular interior system that would allow the company to swap out seating for "experiences" like a spa, coffee bar, stacked sleeping pods, and more.

The idea, called "Transpose," would repurpose a system that already works for cargo planes—identical modules loaded through giant doors, then aligned and locked into place—and apply it to commercial aircraft, allowing a ground crew to quickly and easily transform an aircraft's interior, even in between flights. The potential for corporate sponsorship—an Illy-branded coffee bar, say—could help replace the revenue lost from losing all those crammed-together economy-class seats.

In the Works

Airbus debuted Transpose back in December, but it's not just a theoretical flight of fancy; Wired Transportation confirms that A3 has six people working on the concept full-time, with help from over 100 product designers and engineers, and tested the idea using 66 human test subjects navigating a mock-up in an airplane hanger. The concept is not without road blocks: the idea needs regulatory approval, of course, to say nothing of the engineering required to run the various systems—electrical, plumbing, fire, and oxygen—through a plane without a fixed interior. But the early tests show that potential passengers dug it, and how could one think otherwise? Anything is better than the current hell that is economy air travel. At the very least, it could help you avoid having to share economy class with a Saudi Prince's 80 falcons.