For those of us looking to save money on travel expenses, buying seats in economy class for a flight can make a vacation a good deal more affordable. However, if you’ve ever been on a long-haul flight, you know that even sitting in an upgraded plane seat can take a toll on the body. Now, imagine sitting for hours in a tiny economy seat for 17 hours. In no way does that seem enjoyable.
One airline thinks it has a solution to this problem: bunk beds! It may sound like something dreamed up by a 10-year-old boy on a whim but Air New Zealand is making it a reality.
Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, set to take off for the first time in 2024, will feature Skynest. This feature is being billed as “the world’s first sleep pods in the sky for economy travelers” according to the airline’s announcement on June 29.
Beds on airplanes are far from a new concept, but this amenity is typically reserved for passengers on luxury airlines or those willing to pay for a seat in business class. The addition of beds for economy class passengers comes as a result of research done by Air New Zealand regarding the importance of sleep, particularly for those who travel.
“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 — from the lighting and sleep ritual including sleepy teas and balms, to the healthier food choices and breathable fabrics,” said Leanne Geraghty, the airline’s chief customer and sales officer. “Meditative onscreen content, Zentertainment, will also help customers unwind and get ready for rest.”
Each Skynest will have six beds available for use throughout the flights. The program allows economy class ticket holders to rent a bed for a limited time during a long flight to allow them to get some rest and enjoy some space away from their seat. Crew members will change the bed linens between each passenger to guarantee cleanliness and health safety standards, the airline added.
“At this stage, each passenger will be limited to a four-hour session in one pod, at an additional cost to their regular economy class seats,” an airline representative told CNN. “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.”
In addition to the new Skynest area, the carrier also announced it would be changing its economy seating to accommodate a new feature called the Skycouch, which essentially converts rows of three seats into one more comfortable seat with no dividers. This optional feature will allow for more flexible seating, especially for families flying together in one row, to spread out or curl up once the seatbelt signs are off.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran said the airline invested in these projects because of the importance of the traveler experience on flights to and from the island nation.
“New Zealand’s location puts us in a unique position to lead on the ultra-long-haul travel experience,” Foran shared in the press release. “We have zeroed in on sleep, comfort and wellness because we know how important it is for our customers to arrive well-rested. Whether they are heading straight into a meeting, or to their first holiday hotspot — they want to hit the ground running.”