Flying in economy class can be bad enough as airlines find new ways to shrink seats and increase prices for budget fliers, but ultra-long-haul flights in economy probably take the cake as the most uncomfortable way to fly.
Air New Zealand, based on its home country’s geographic location, often has flight durations that reach double-digit hours. The small island nation in the southern Pacific Ocean is notorious for being far away from just about anywhere a tourist might be flying in from (Australians excepted).
The only direct flight to Auckland, N.Z., from Canada flies out of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and it takes a whopping 14 hours.
To address customer feedback and hopefully entice more travellers to brave the long flight times, Air New Zealand has developed the “Skynest,” a group of sleeping pods that economy class fliers can take advantage of to catch some shut-eye.
Premium and regular economy passengers can book four-hour sessions in the communal, bunk bed-style sleeping area for an additional fee if they want to escape their upright seats for a short lie down.
Air New Zealand recently acquired eight Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and will remove five seats from the economy cabin in order to install six Skynest pods — two rows of three vertically stacked beds — with completion slated for 2024.
The airline hasn’t determined how much a four-hour session will cost in the Skynest, but passengers will be limited to one session per flight. An Air New Zealand spokesperson told The Guardian that they expect demand for the six pods will be high across the more than 200 seats offered in the economy cabin.
Each Skynest pod comes equipped with a mattress and sheets (which will be changed between each booking), a privacy curtain, USB charging and “ventilation outlets.”
The beds will be limited to one person at a time.
A representative for Air New Zealand said, “The airline did a fair bit of research around sleep cycles. A typical sleep cycle is around 90 minutes, so a four-hour session gives the opportunity for customers to wind down, fall asleep and wake up.”
Air New Zealand’s CEO Gred Foran called the Skynest “a real game-changer for the economy travel experience.”
“New Zealand’s location puts us in a unique position to lead on the ultra-longhaul travel experience. We have zeroed in on sleep, comfort, and wellness because we know how important it is for our customers to arrive well-rested,” he added.
Leanne Geraghty, the airline’s chief customer and sales officer, said a slew of amenities will help passengers wind down for sleep in the Skynest including “sleepy teas and balms, to the healthier food choices and breathable fabrics. Meditative onscreen content, Zentertainment, will also help customers unwind and get ready for rest.”
“Research shows us the first night away from home is the hardest to get a good night’s sleep so everything we do onboard is to help create a sense of calm,” she added.
This is not the airline’s first foray into innovating new features for economy passengers. Air New Zealand already offers the Skycouch, where families or groups of passengers travelling together in one whole row in economy can request special footrests to turn their seats into a makeshift bed.