Air New Zealand goes lie-flat in Economy Class

Air New Zealand (ANZ) has unveiled a new economy class seat dubbed the ‘Skycouch’, to give economy passengers a lie-flat experience once reserved for premium cabins. The Skycouch is made up of three standard economy seats that can be changed into a single, horizontal space by removing arm rests.

The seats, designed by the airline in cooperation with IDEO and built by manufacturer Recaro, have large flip-up cushions that fill the space between the end of the seat and the next row of seats. When all three seats are reclined with the footrests up, they form a flat surface 156 cm long and 76 cm wide on which two adults can sleep (a standard single bed is 190 by 90 cm). Seat-belt extenders enable passengers to be buckled in when prone.

Individual travelers can buy the Skycouch seats, but ANZ has designed them chiefly for couples and families with young children. Passengers would need to buy the three seats together, and pay the full price for two economy seats and half price for the third.

Twenty-two sets of Skycouch seats (about a quarter of all economy seats) will be available, being the first 11 window rows on either side of the economy cabin. Every seat also comes with in-seat power and USB connections.

ANZ’s move is the first by an airline to give economy passengers an option to sleep more comfortably. The economy cabin has been ignored by airlines for years as they spent to upgrade first- or business-class seats that provide higher profit margins.

ANZ says it flies a disproportionate number of long-haul routes with 70% of its passengers being visitors to the country, so it it set the challenge of developing a new category of air travel that would allow economy passengers to arrive refreshed.

ANZ will install the seats on its new fleet of five Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, and the new cabin will be available on select services between Auckland and Los Angeles from December 2010, and from Los Angeles through to London from April 2011. ANZ expects to refit its fleet of eight Boeing 777-200 aircraft from mid 2011 until 2012.

ANZ is also introducing a new Premium Economy seat, callled ‘Spaceseat’, which available in two configurations. The Outer Space seats, in pairs by the windows, are angled to provide privacy for people travelling alone. The Inner Space seats, also in pairs, are for people travelling together.

Other innovations include on-demand ordering of food and beverage via the IFE screen, synchronised viewing and listening to IFE content with fellow passengers, and a visual flight planner on the IFE, so passengers for example know when lights will be dimmed.


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