Lie-flat beds for economy passengers could become a reality with Air New Zealand bunk bed-style pods

Feb 26, 2020

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Flying long-haul in economy could get a whole lot more comfortable thanks to a brand new prototype unveiled on Wednesday by Air New Zealand called the Economy Skynest.

The Economy Skynest will feature six fully lie-flat sleeping pods, giving passengers flying in economy on long-haul flights the ability to stretch out and get proper rest. The six pods will be spread across three levels of beds, with two beds on each level.

(Photo courtesy Air New Zealand)

Each pod boasts a full two metres (or 78.7 inches) in length — only a couple of centimetres less than the airline’s lie-flat beds in business class. Passengers can also expect up to 58 centimetres (22.8 inches) of width at the shoulders.

Added comforts are set to include many of the amenities that are usually exclusive for business-class passengers. Plans are to provide a full-sized pillow, sheets and blanket for each passenger in the Skynest, as well as ear plugs, privacy curtains and lighting designed to help passengers sleep. In the future, Air New Zealand might add extras like a reading light, USB port and in-pod ventilation outlets.

“We have a tremendous amount of development work underway looking at product innovations we can bring across all cabins of the aircraft,” said Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod. “A clear pain point for economy travellers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out. The development of the Skynest is a direct response to that challenge.”

The final decision about the viability of the operation of the seat will be made next year after the airline’s inaugural Auckland (AKL) to New York (EWR) flight — set to take around 17 hours 40 minutes.

Related reading: The world’s longest nonstop flights, updated

Photo courtesy Air New Zealand
(Photo courtesy Air New Zealand)

The exact position in the cabin of the Economy Skynest as well is the routes it will fly and pricing are yet to be confirmed by the airline, and it still needs to be certified by regulators. However, booking the Skynest would be in addition to booking an economy seat. Meaning, you would likely need to be seated in your standard economy seat for taxi, takeoff and landing, before being able to head to the Skynest to stretch out.

A spokeswoman for the airline said that it is testing the option of being able to rent one of the pods for a set period of time. Crew would have the ability to refresh each pod during the flight to accommodate new passengers looking to use the Skynest.

Air New Zealand was the first airline to introduce a dedicated couch product for economy passengers in the form of the Skycouch. With it, passengers can stretch out across three seats, with leg rests extended to make the “couch” wider. Other airlines have taken to adapting the design, such as ANA.

“We expect other airlines will want to explore licensing the Economy Skynest from us just as they have with the Economy Skycouch,” said Nikki Goodman, general manager of customer experience.

Featured photo courtesy Air New Zealand.

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