Qantas is looking to stow American passengers in its cargo hold in a bid to lure them across the Pacific.
The airline is investigating turning Airbus underbellies into lie-flat bunk rooms or exercise chambers as it targets premium economy passengers with a yen for air space.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce had begun exploring the new ‘cargo class’ concept for long-haul flights from Sydney to the US and London.
But rather than targeting the British, who already have strong ties with Australia, industry insiders have told Fairfax Media the move is aimed at getting middle-class Americans to shed their traditional reluctance to take long flights across the Pacific.
According the latest figures from Tourism Australia, North America has leapfrogged the UK to become Australia’s third largest inbound market for visitor arrivals behind China and New Zealand. Almost 800,000 US visitors made the trip Down Under in the year to February 2018.
The Cargo hold idea, while still in its infancy, could involve installing bunk berths which Airbus has announced it is developing in partnership with Zodiac Aerospace, or it could feature a common area for stretching, exercise and relaxation.
The target market is likely to be premium economy customers, who would be allocated a time during the flight that they could stretch their legs below deck.
Tourism Minister Steve Ciobo told Fairfax media: “Americans have a very high aspiration to visit Australia.
“However, culturally it is perceived to require a big-time commitment. We’re always highlighting, especially from the West Coast, that it is close.
“Any innovation from the airlines that helps make the perception of distance shrink is going to help drive North American tourism to Australia.”
Tourism Australia is targeting the US market with a $36 million advertising campaign in 2018, which kicked off with February’s Crocodile Dundee Super Bowl advert.