Air New Zealand has unveiled a new lie-flat product, dubbed “Economy Skynest”, which consists of six full-length lie-flat sleeping pods for the economy class cabin.
The airline showcased the sleep pods after three years of research and development with input from more than 200 customers at its Hangar 22 innovation centre in Auckland.
Mike Tod, Air New Zealand’s chief marketing and customer officer, said the airline is committed to “putting more magic back into flying” as it operates some of the world’s longest flights, such as the upcoming Auckland-New York service this October, which will have a flight duration of up to 17 hours and 40 minutes one way.
“We have a tremendous amount of development work underway looking at product innovations we can bring across all cabins of the aircraft. 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,” said Tod.
The airline said each Economy Skynest can accommodate six sleeping pods, each of which will include a full-size pillow, sheets and blanket, ear plugs along with privacy curtains and lighting designed for sleep. It’s also exploring other features such as offering passengers a separate reading light, a USB outlet for personal devices and a ventilation outlet.
Each sleeping pods will be more than 200cm, while the width at the shoulder area will be 58cm.
The Economy Skynest will be placed in the economy cabin. The airline said the exact positioning of the Economy Skynest within the aircraft has yet to be confirmed.
Air New Zealand said it 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 its Auckland-New York route operations”.
Nikki Goodman, the airline’s general manager of customer experience, said customer and cabin crew feedback on the Economy Skynest during its final phase of development “has been outstanding with significant partners also keenly involved”.
“We’re sure this innovation is going to be a game changer for the industry and bring significant improvements to long-haul flying. We expect other airlines will want to explore licensing the Economy Skynest from us just as they have with the Economy Skycouch,” said Goodman.
Kerry Reeves, Air New Zealand’s head of airline programmes, said the scale of the challenge in developing the Economy Skynest and working through its certification with the necessary regulators is “immense” compared with the development of the Economy Skycouch, the airline’s economy class product that be turned into a couch.
Last year, the airline said it would introduce a new economy class seat product called “Economy Stretch”, which will offer more legroom than a standard economy class seat, on its Boeing 777-200, 777-300 and 787-9 aircraft from late 2020.