Airbus and seat manufacturer Zodiac are developing sleeping berths in modules that can be fitted in the cargo compartments of A330s.

They plan to have the sleeping berths certified and available on aircraft from 2020.

Details of the plan were unveiled at an aircraft interiors expo in Hamburg overnight. A concept video also shows lounge areas for passengers.

''The modules, which would fit inside the aircraft's cargo compartments, offer new opportunities for additional services to passengers, improving their experience while enabling airlines to differentiate and add value for their commercial operations,'' Airbus says.

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Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce raised the possibility for sleeping areas in planes after his airline's first Perth-to-London direct flight.

Airbus says the modules would be easily interchangeable with regular cargo containers during a typical turnaround if required.

''Moreover, the aircraft's cargo floor and cargo loading system will not be affected at all, as the passenger module will sit directly on it.''

Airlines would initially be able to choose from options certified by regulators for A330s. The modules could be fitted to new aircraft or retrofitted to older planes.

Geoff Pinner, head of Airbus cabin and cargo programme said this approach to commercial air travel was ''a step change'' towards passenger comfort.

He said several airlines had been positive about the first mock-ups.

Qantas uses A330s for short flights across the Tasman to New Zealand where they may be less popular. Hawaiian Airlines uses A330s between Auckland and Honolulu, a flight of about nine hours.

Airbus is also studying installing sleeping compartments in larger A350XWBs, which could be of more interest to airlines serving this market.

More airlines are flying ultra-long flights of 17 hours or more where the compartments could be popular and provide new revenue streams for carriers.