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ANZ’s £5,000 Skycouch

31 Jan 2011 by BusinessTraveller

There was much excitement when Air New Zealand (ANZ) unveiled its Skycouch seating a year ago. At last, it seemed, here was an airline smart enough to offer a lie-flat economy class seat at what was expected to be a value-for-money price.

Skycouch sees three economy seats converted into a 61-inch long flat bench complete with a sheet, two blankets and two pillows. ANZ claims there is enough space for either one or two adults or two adults and one child.

Our forum readers praised ANZ’s innovation. It seemed they believed that when one passenger booked Skycouch he or she would get to sample the lie-flat advantage of business class but at much less cost. (Click here to read the forum string.)

Typical of reader postings was the one from “LuganoPirate.”  He wrote: “Business Traveller have a look at this photo which I think shows the seat in a very attractive light and could even tempt me, a seasoned first and sometimes business traveller.” (Click here to see the image on the airliners.net forum.)

Until now ANZ has kept everyone guessing on pricing. My colleague Jenny Southan who attended an ANZ media briefing in Auckland last December reported back that Skycouch  would be “priced at the equivalent rate of 2.5 standard economy seats.”

But now the cat is out of the bag. ANZ has just revealed the real price of Skycouch and readers will be dismayed to discover that it is not the bargain for one passenger that had been anticipated.

Amazingly anyone booking a return Skycouch ticket (for one person) between London and Auckland in the December peak period will pay £4,882 which is substantially more expensive than the business class fare (for one person) of £4,369, let alone premium economy which costs £2,774 at that time.

Even when flying at a less busy time, such as next May, one Skycouch passenger would be paying £3,084 which, although slightly cheaper than business class at £3,304, is far costlier than premium economy at £2,134.

When asked to comment, an ANZ spokesperson told Business Traveller that “Skycouch is dynamatically priced based on forecasted demand for each sector.”

“We never promoted Skycouch as a business class replacement even though some commentators may have suggested this. Our promotional material portrays couples and families using Skycouch.”

I pointed out to ANZ that when one passenger attempts to book an economy class ticket he or she is then invited to upgrade to Skycouch where there is a photograph of a single traveller occupying the bench. In reply, the spokesperson says, “We have never promoted Skycouch for one person, however it does exist if someone looks for it.”

Skycouch will debut on the Auckland-Los Angeles-London route in a couple of months’ time. Initially it will appear on ANZ’s new fleet of B777-300ERs operating flights NZ 1 and NZ 2. The first flight out of Heathrow will be on April 2.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the new seating, see Jenny Southan’s report from December 2010.

For more information visit airnewzealand.co.uk.

Report by Alex McWhirter

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