Lie-flat beds in economy class: Air New Zealand unveils bunks for budget travellers

Josh Taylor

Air New Zealand has announced it could have flat beds in economy for some of its long-haul flights, but it will be more than a year before customers could get the chance to sleep in one of the new pod beds.

The airline said on Wednesday it had filed patent and trademark applications for what it is calling the Economy Skynest. The Skynest would contain six full-length sleep pods at 200cm long and 58cm wide each. There will be three levels of beds and two beds on each level.

Accompanying each bed, which resembles a pod hotel design, will be a full-size pillow, sheets and blankets, ear plugs, and a privacy curtain. Air New Zealand was still assessing whether it could include other features like a USB outlet and a reading light.

The company’s chief marketing and customer officer, Mike Tod, said in the announcement that the product would be aimed at some of Air New Zealand’s longest haul flights, including the Auckland to New York service launching next year – the flight takes 17 hours and 40 minutes.

Tod said when that route launches Air New Zealand will make a decision on whether to go ahead with the Skynest.

The cost of the Skynest for customers has yet to be determined, a spokeswoman for Air New Zealand told Guardian Australia, but it would be separate to the cost of booking a seat on the flight.

“The concept is designed as a pod you go to during the flight,” she said. “You will still have your economy seat separately for the other portion of the flight.”

Customers could book a session in the bed during the flight, rather than the whole flight, the spokeswoman said, and the cabin crew would change and freshen up the pods with new bedding for each session.

The airline would need to get it certified with regulators before passengers can expect to climb into the in-air beds.

“But it was a prize worth chasing and one that we think has the potential to be a game-changer for economy class travellers on all airlines around the world,” said Air New Zealand’s head of airline programmes, Kerry Reeves.

If the product takes off, Air New Zealand has said it is open to licensing the Skynest to other airlines.

Related: My 17-hour Qantas odyssey in kangaroo pyjamas

The Auckland to New York flight results in 650kg of CO2 emissions per passenger, according to the UN’s carbon emissions calculator. Air New Zealand had not immediately responded to a request to confirm the amount.

Qantas has indicated its economy seats for the A350, which will be used for the mega long haul flights launching in 2023 between Sydney and London and Sydney and New York will be a bit more roomy with an extra 3cms in width than the current economy seats.