Could There Ever Be A Triple Decker Plane?


There is something special about gigantic flying aircraft. The Boeing 747 captured and the world’s imagination with its huge wingspan and the A380 cemented the love of a double-decker aircraft. But could we see a triple-decked aircraft sometime in our lifetime? And what would it look like?

Double decker
Would we ever see a triple deck plane? Photo: Flickr

What is a triple-decker plane?

Before we get into what is feasible and what is unrealistic, we should first define what is a triple-decker plane.

The Boeing 747 and A380 are currently defined as double-decker planes, but they are technically triple-decker when you include the cargo decks. With some slight modification, the bottom cargo deck could be made habitable for passengers and fitted out for their comfort.

In fact, this is the idea behind Qantas’ cargo class aircraft. Qantas has been looking at the cargo space of their long-haul aircraft (flying direct from Australia to Europe) and envisioned sacrificing cargo capacity for further customer amenities.

Some ideas that have been thrown around are:

  • A gym for passengers wishing to work out
  • A spa for those looking to relax
  • Hirable bunks per hour that allow passengers to lie down and get a good sleep
  • Work areas and communal areas for passengers to mingle and meet
  • A daycare center for passengers to drop their kids off before retiring to a lounge.

Or it could be filled with another large deck of economy passengers, pushing the capacity of aircraft like the 747 and A380 well over 1000 souls on board.


But what about a true three-decker aircraft, that included the fourth cargo deck in its design…

Cargo hold beds could be on aircraft in the near future. Photo: Airbus/Zodiac

Would it ever be built?

Whilst the engineering is relatively simple (you just have to make the aircraft larger and expand the internal space to accommodate a middle deck) there are a few problems that might prevent the aircraft from ever seeing the light of day.

The first is the engineering cost. Many years ago, Lockheed Martin designed a special delta-winged aircraft that could easily carry over a thousand passengers. The problem was that they needed the combined efforts of both Boeing and Airbus to even bring a prototype to life. A triple-decked aircraft which would be a brand new design would similarly require a mammoth amount of resources to bring into the world.

Options in 1996 for Very Large Subsonic Transport. Source: Lockheed / NASA

Likewise, airports would have shoulder the new cost of facilitating these new aircraft, with long runways and expanded terminals. Like with the A380, new gates would need to be built to allow up to three levels to board at once.

But the main reason it has never been built and might never make it past the drawing board is there isn’t a business case for such as large aircraft. Airlines have already fallen out of love with the lumbering A380 and the Boeing 747 is no longer under production (for the passenger model at least).

Until there is a massive demand to move as many passengers as possible at once (rather than the same amount over the course of a day with different frequencies) then we will never see such a beast of a machine.

What do you think? Would you fly on a triple-decked aircraft? Let us know in the comments.