# How is the cargo hold volume for passenger aircraft designed?

An A380 has up to 2 decks for passengers and only 1 deck for cargo (for passenger's luggage), whereas a B777 has 1 deck for passengers and 1 deck for luggages. It looks like the volume of luggage per passenger is reduced in a A380 compared to a B777. Is that true? Is the volume of luggage per passenger the same? Is there a method to calculate the volume of the cargo and then to design its shape?

The cargo hold volume is a secondary result of the design process. Pressurized fuselages need to be round for best structural efficiency, and the passenger compartment needs to be high enough for passengers to stand upright. The rest has to follow from that, and the old narrow-body aircraft (like the DC-8 or the Boeing 707) were mostly volume-limited (which means that they would have benefited from more internal volume), whereas the early wide-bodied aircraft (A300, Boeing 747) are weight-limited (which means operators flew them with some volume unfilled to avoid overloading the plane).

The picture shows the fuselage cross section of an A310 (left) and a Boeing 737 (right), which are typical for wide-bodied rsp. narrow-bodied designs. Note the relatively bigger freight compartment of the Airbus fuselage.

Even bigger fuselages than those of the Boeing 777 or the MD-11 offer so much internal volume that two passenger decks are needed to avoid flying lots of empty space around. McDonnell-Douglas planned for a while to expand the passenger load of the MD-11 by adding a lower passenger deck forward of the wing, and Airbus did the logical thing and designed the A380 from the outset as a double-decker. Other designs of a similar size came to the same conclusion.

Note that cargo volume on long-range variants of several aircraft is reduced because a fuselage tank had to be added aft of the wing.

In all cases the cargo volume was determined by what was left unfilled.

• Next to the Su KR-860 you could also mention the MD-12. Oct 7, 2014 at 13:35
• @florisla: Did you check all the links in my post? Several words are links, and sometimes every word points to a different link. The one about the expanding passenger load of the MD-11 points to the Wikipedia article on the MD-12. I wanted to avoid another lengthy post ... Oct 7, 2014 at 15:07
• Sorry, I missed that. Got confused by your statement that the lower deck was forward of the wing; wikipedia mentions that the MD-12 double decks were 'extending the length of the fuselage'. Oct 7, 2014 at 15:21
• @florisla: These were different steps of the project. Initially, McD wanted to put a lower deck into a slightly modified MD-11. Did you see the link to the Sukhoi project? Oct 7, 2014 at 15:55
• Yes, I saw the link to the Sukhoi, that's why I was tempted to mention the MD-12 ;-) Oct 8, 2014 at 7:29

The cargo compartments are not only for luggage. Commercial cargo also travel on passenger aircraft, besides cargo aircraft. With luggage alone, there are plenty of spaces in the cargo deck.

In fact, if you fill all the seats, all the cargo space and sufficient fuel for a long trip in a B777, the plane won't takeoff - its GW (Gross Weight) exceeds the MTOW (Max Take-Off Weight).

Airlines are smart people - if a flight is not full, dispatch will put more cargo on the aircraft to utilize it. A lot of passenger airliners also offer air delivery service.

Some passengers complain, "I can't book the flight. The staff says it's full, yet there are many empty seats!" Commercial cargo yields more revenue than an economy seat. Thus, given the weight limitation, an airline may prefer cargo vs passenger.

I don't have info about A380, but I'd guess that the A380 has less extra cargo space than the B777. But as long as it's enough, it isn't a problem.

• Also while for passengers 1 deck is 1 deck, cargo can be stacked, so the height matters. Oct 5, 2014 at 19:51
• If I understand correctly the response, the volume for passenger's luggage in the cargo hold is only a small part of all cargo volume available, and passenger's aircraft commonly convey commercial cargo not related with passenger transport. Oct 6, 2014 at 18:05
• @kayson Please spell out GW and MTOW Oct 6, 2014 at 22:05
• @ManuH yes, that's what I'm trying to say. Oct 7, 2014 at 1:22

Cargo compartments in airliners are generally in two categories: regular cargo and bulk cargo. This graphic shows the compartments in a 777.

The normal cargo compartments are generally filled with containers called Unit Load Devices. These are standard containers that can be filled with cargo and easily loaded/unloaded from the cargo compartment. Palletized cargo can also be loaded.

The bulk cargo compartment is for non-containerized cargo like loose luggage. You can see that the majority of cargo space is reserved for non-bulk cargo.

In the case of the A380, there is a large bulk hold as well as plenty of room for other cargo.

• ...so the bulk hold is an "abnormal" cargo compartment? :-P Feb 17, 2019 at 4:28