Air New Zealand's Skynest brings the biggest perk of business class to economy

In a move that could shake up the ultra-long-haul travel industry, Air New Zealand has announced a solution to sooth the aches of economy class passengers: a lie-flat sleep service.

Dubbed Economy Skynest, the new service will be located in the Economy class section of the aircraft and be available for customers to book at the time they make an economy class reservation. It's unknown at this time exactly how much the service will cost or which ultra-long-haul routes will feature the service and when, or whether staff will tuck you in.

Counting sheep

Similar to Japan's famous capsule hotels - albeit at 30,000 feet in the air - six full length lie-flat sleep pods are available in the Economy Skynest. Each pod measures roughly two metres by 58 centimetres, and features privacy curtains, a full-size pillow, sheets and a blanket; along with complimentary earplugs.

"A clear pain point for economy travellers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out," said Mike Tod, Air New Zealand Chief Marketing and Customer Officer. "The development of the Economy Skynest is a direct response to that challenge."

The design currently tendered for patent registration and regulatory certification does not feature entertainment services, but Air New Zealand is looking at the possibility of adding reading lights and USB power outlets.

Longest of the long

Aimed at the company's longer routes - such as the planned Auckland to New York service, which sees passengers in the air for up to 17 hours and 40 minutes – General Manager of Customer Experience, Nikki Goodman says the Economy Skynest is designed to allow passengers to "get some quality rest and arrive at their destination ready to go."

Until now, the company's Economy Skycouch service – essentially, a row of three seats that converts into a bed - has been the only option for economy passengers to get horizontal.

The new ultra-long-haul routes the service is expected to be available on, will be serviced by the company's new Boeing 787-9 "Code 2" Dreamliner fleet – a 275-seat capacity aircraft that features more Business and Premium Economy seating than other 787-9 Dreamliner layouts.

Considering these aircraft already offer economy passengers a superior experience, the addition of an Economy Skynest ups the ante with the company's few competitors in the ultra-long-haul market.

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Business or pleasure

For the executive traveller, the choice between Air New Zealand's Business Premier service and the Economy Skynest is a no brainer. A leather lie-flat seat in a premium cabin will trump any lower class fare every time, premium or not.

However, what this does present is the opportunity to enjoy a more comfortable economy experience for last-minute flights where no premium cabin space is available. If you absolutely have to make that emergency board meeting, at least you will be well rested.

Of course, being able to work productively during your flight is another matter.

Stay tuned

There are still a few queries the company is yet to answer, such as exactly how passengers will book and use the beds (it is potentially the same process as booking an Economy Skycouch), if there will be a time limit on usage, or how you call 'top bunk!' It is expected these details will be available closer to launch, sometime in Q4 2020, depending on the positive outcome of trials.

Whereas once the thrill of having two vacant seats next to you on a long-haul flight was the peak of economy luxury, Air New Zealand may have just given their passengers a whole new way to get excited about their flight.