Air New Zealand to install 'Skynest' bunk bed compartments for economy, premium economy passengers from 2024

Air New Zealand wants to put you to sleep. No, it's not planning to run soporific continuous footage of the All Blacks' best tries on its entertainment channels (well, not that we know about). No, the airline wants you to wing it into its new Skynest for a decent flight's slumber.

It has revealed its world-first lie-flat sleep pods will become a reality in as soon as 18 months with the arrival of its eight new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and will form part of a wider cabin overhaul, including in business class,  announced in Auckland this week.

Combined with major improvements to business and premium economy experience, the Kiwi carrier boasts that it will provide the greatest "choice of any airline in its three cabins [in order] to get the best sleep in the sky".

Each Skynest, infused with soothing pink light and available to economy and premium economy passengers, sleeps six passengers in streamlined high-rise bunk-beds.

The new pods, which will be subject to regulatory approval, are akin to long-distance train compartments with usage limited to a maximum four-hour period and subject to yet to be determined charges.

From 2024, Air New Zealand - which in September launches non-stop, 17 hour and 40 minute ultra-long haul flights between Auckland and New York - will also introduce a new Business Premier Luxe suite and a new Business Premier seat.

In other innovations by the airline, premium economy seats will allow passengers to recline at leisure without interrupting the person behind them with Economy Stretch offered for those who want leg space beyond the usual economy seat.

The existing pro-sleep and relaxation Skycouch, which allows passengers to stretch out over three seats, will continue to be offered.

"We have zeroed in on sleep, comfort, and wellness because we know how important it is for our customers to arrive well-rested," says Greg Foran, chief executive of Air New Zealand.

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"We wanted to offer our economy customers a lie-flat option and that's how Skynest was born. It's going to be a real game changer for the economy travel experience."

Foran says New Zealand's remote geographic location allows for a unique opportunity to lead on the ultra-long haul air travel, with the scene-stealing Skynest innovation first revealed as a concept in 2020 with roll-out plans delayed by the pandemic.

For those fortunate enough to fly in the so-called pointy end, the airline's new Business Premier Luxe seat comes with space for dining with a companion and, crucially, with a sliding door for privacy, a feature destined to become standard on most premium carriers for this class and above.

In a determined effort to reduce weight, leather is surprisingly out and modern lightweight fabrics are in. In the age of sustainability and with airlines under pressure over carbon emissions, Air New Zealand says this will save around one kilogram in weight per Business Premier and premium economy seat.

Video: The Skynest concept

In its premium cabins, Air New Zealand will also switch to crockery that is 20 per cent lighter, helping to reduce carbon, while in economy the "new serviceware" will reduce plastic dishes used inflight by 28 million every year. That alone is surely going to deliver the airline's bean-counters a better night's sleep on the ground.

Back in the non-pointy end, Air New Zealand will also introduce a new Sky Pantry - a selection of edible and drinkable goodies - to its premium economy and economy-class cabins, encouraging customers to stretch their legs, grab a bite to eat and hydrate throughout their journey.

But it all comes back to sleep for Air New Zealand, with counting sheep jokes best avoided. Even beyond its seats, Air New Zealand really does mean business (and premium economy and economy) when it comes to shut-eye with everything from lighting levels, teas and balms, healthier food choices to be offered to its passengers.

They will be teamed with "meditative on screen content" dubbed "Zentertainment" (does not contain traces of All Blacks).

The writer travelled courtesy of Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand. See airnewzealand.co.nz; newzealand.com 

See also: The new must-have feature for business class seats

See also: How (and where) crew get their sleep on long flights