Economy bunk beds could be the future of flying
Air New Zealand is considering installing economy bunk beds they call 'Skynestâ. Vision: Air New Zealand.
Air New Zealand is looking at what it says is a "ground-breaking" new lie-flat prototype sleep product for economy class travellers.
If it gets approval, the Economy Skynest will provide six full-length lie-flat sleep pods.
The national carrier says the development is the result of three years of research and development, with the input of more than 200 customers.
Air New Zealand Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod says that as the airline operates some of the world's longest flights, such as the upcoming Auckland-New York service at up to 17 hours 40 minutes one way, it is committed to putting more comfort into flying.
"We have a tremendous amount of development work underway looking at product innovations we can bring across all cabins of the aircraft," said Tod
"A clear pain point for economy travellers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out. The development of the Economy Skynest is a direct response to that challenge."
Air New Zealand will make a final decision on whether to operate the Economy Skynest next year after it has assessed the performance of its inaugural year of Auckland-New York operations.
The exact positioning of the Economy Skynest within the aircraft has still to be confirmed, however, it will be in the economy cabin. The pods, which will be in excess of 200cm in length and over 58cm in width, will include a full-size pillow, sheets and blanket, ear plugs along with privacy curtains and lighting designed for sleep.
Other features such as separate reading light, personal device USB outlet and ventilation outlet, are being looked at.
When asked about the pricing of the product, a spokesperson for the airline said: "We have yet to determine the costs and are still assessing the commercial proposition and viability of this product."
Also, the airline said that children won't be allowed to use the new pods: "The Skynest is designed to be used by adults with each pod for one person."
Aviation expert Irene King said she believes the sleep pods would be "a world-winning innovation" if they are rolled out and "much better than the Skycouch".
The Skycouch enables economy passengers on Boeing 777 and 787-9 aircraft to turn a row of seats into a single "couch" after takeoff. The price varies depending on how many people use the couch but costs less than three separate seats.
"The world has been looking at something that gives the long-haul economy [passenger] some relief and ability to sleep and relax," King said. "This pod would be a premium product and as competitive as the Skycouch."
While King predicts it will be a challenge to position the Skynest in economy, it's in the airline's best interests to make it work.
"It's about gaining competitive advantage and delivering something the customer wants... You have to keep working at improving product - it's the only way to stay in the game."
Commentators on social media have been full of praise for the idea.
"YES!!!! I can never sleep in normal seats, it's exhausting! Take my money," said one.
"That would be a kiwi dream come true!" wrote one commentator.
"Cool photo, looks like a backpackers up in the air," was another.
Although, some said there may be drawbacks: "Sounds good as long as doesn't include a snorer."
The Skynest follows Air New Zealand's previous economy class innovation, the Skycouch launched in 2011.
Nicknamed "cuddle class", the design consists of a row of three economy seats that convert into a "couch" through folding the armrests and raising the padded footrests into a position parallel to the seat.
Designed for couples and families, the Skycouch requires the purchase of three seats but a couple can buy the extra seat at a 50 per cent discount.