Airbus Silicon Valley (Airbus SV also known as A3) has invented a modular cabin for commercial aircraft named Transpose.

Jason Chua, Project Executive at Airbus SV, said in his blog: “Why, despite incredible overall advances in commercial aircraft, do most cabins fundamentally look the same as they did when air travel started a century ago — seats arranged in forward facing rows?

For the past year, I’ve been working on Transpose: a clean-sheet rethinking of aircraft cabin architecture and passenger experience possibilities.”

According to Jason, it is difficult to change aircraft cabin layouts as it stands today. Even moving a bathroom forward or backwards a few feet can kick off extensive structural engineering and testing work. This seemingly simple modification also triggers important, but time intensive, regulatory procedures to ensure safety. It is because the way the factories manufacture and update aircraft cabins are highly integrated with the other systems onboard. This is a major reason that airlines change their cabins so infrequently (7–10 years on average).

So in order to create new passenger experience possibilities, the company must first work to simplify the process of customizing aircraft cabins.

He added: “We’re doing this with the development of a modular aircraft cabin, and by giving the ecosystem of airlines, manufacturers, passengers and regulators the tools to rapidly bring more diverse experiences to market.”

The idea of modular aircraft is not new. What makes Transpose different, is that Airbus SV does not require a completely new kind of aircraft or the fundamental redesign of airport infrastructure — developments that would take decades and billions of dollars. In addition, modular aircraft cabins already exist in the form of freighter variants of large commercial aircraft.

Besides new revenue streams, Jason said that Transpose enables significant savings for airlines. A modular cabin architecture eliminates aircraft downtime due to customization operations, which can currently take up to a month to complete.

At the same time, manufacturers of aircraft and aircraft interiors will take benefit from the technology. Transpose is claimed to allow aircraft manufacturers to deliver finished aircraft to customers more quickly. Currently, work on cabin interiors can’t begin until the final weeks of the manufacturing process, but modular cabin interiors could be developed on a parallel timetable with the core fabrication of the aircraft itself.

Transpose is also claimed to make the job of specialized aircraft interiors manufacturers less complex. With current design and manufacturing processes, cabin suppliers and integrators must navigate a number of complicated and interrelated systems, such as segregated electrical systems, zoned temperature controls, and bundles of in-flight entertainment wiring.

Airbus SV aims to have Transpose-enabled aircraft flying within a few years.