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Lie flat economy? A look at Air New Zealand’s planned Skynest cabin

We recently saw the innovative airplane cabin ideas shortlisted by the Crystal Cabin Awards. Although we’ll have to wait until June to find out who the winners are at Airline Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, this gives us a glimpse of what to expect in terms of air travel innovation soon. Lufthansa’s new first-class product Allegris, accessed by Simple Flying a few weeks ago, popped up on the list, as did one of Air New Zealand’s biggest potential economy class reshuffles: Skynest.

It’s not the first time the airline has tried to help passengers get a good night’s sleep on long-haul routes. Air New Zealand already offers a “Skycouch” product, a private row of economy seats with footrests that fold upwards to create flat surfaces, fitted with bedding and pillows. However, curling up on a set of economy seats isn’t particularly new; Passengers lucky enough to have a fight with themselves have done the same before. But Skynest is trying to offer something radically different.

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Air New Zealand’s Skynest is a self-contained six-pod structure with fully flat berths designed to offer the first true bed product for the economy cabin. As the airline puts it, passengers can…

“…rest, stretch out and increase your physical and mental well-being during the journey.”

At a time when ultra-long-haul travel is becoming more common, the industry must look for ways to make the economy class experience more comfortable.

Air New Zealand Skynest beds for Economy Class passengers.

Photo: Air New Zealand

Although not often discussed, sitting for long hours can have adverse health effects. Flights from Auckland to Houston take around 14 hours, while flights to New York take closer to 17 hours, and not taking the opportunity to exercise for that time can increase the chance of developing blood clots. Skynest would help combat this condition, in addition to making passengers feel more refreshed upon landing.

Travelers can purchase their Skynest experience as an add-on to an economy seat ticket, as they currently do with Skycouch. However, unlike Skycouch, you can only reserve a four-hour block and not space for the entire flight. This structure likely means that each bed will be available for three passengers per flight, although we don’t yet know the price of booking a few hours in a capsule.

What can we expect from Skynest?

Fortunately, the opportunity cost of adding six beds in the economy cabin was six economy seats. While a Skycouch add-on can more than double the price for solo travelers, multiple passengers share the cost of a Skynest bed. With one-way tickets from Auckland direct to New York in April 2023 starting at US$856, or an average of US$1,260, a four-hour nap would cost perhaps around US$350.

A map showing the cabin and seat configurations of Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 in 2024.

Photo: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand’s most innovative economy class product will debut next year on the new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. And while we eagerly await how Skynest fares, the new aircraft have something in store for all classes. Redesigned premium economy seats offer more privacy and space than before. The highest-end cabin includes multiple Premiere business seats and fully enclosed Premiere Luxe suites. Travelers to and from New Zealand have a lot to look forward to next year.

What do you think of Skynest? Would you like to try the product or see accepted versions on other airlines? Let us know in the comments below!

Sources: Air New Zealand, Crystal Cabin Award, OMAAT, CNN

  • Air New Zealand, Boeing 787, color edition

    Most of the missing bags found their way back from New York to Auckland via Los Angeles. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Easy flying

    Air New Zealand

    IATA/ICAO Code: NZ/NO

    Type of airline: Full service carrier

    Stroke(s): Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport, Wellington Airport

    Founding year: 1965

    Alliance: star alliance

    CEO: Gregory Foran

    Country: New Zealand

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