Skift Take

Long-haul flights just got much more appealing now that Air New Zealand announced a bunk bed system. Will "Skynest" allow economy passengers to recline and rest just like those deep-pocketed business passengers are doing up front?

Sleep, which is incredibly desirable but often so elusive on flights, will now be much more attainable for economy passengers thanks to Air New Zealand’s creation of bunk beds, yes, those bygone fixtures of adolescence and of global hostels. Say goodbye to landing in a new city without the ability to stay awake and explore it right away. 

Air New Zealand had always wanted to innovate further in the economy cabin, as that is where the majority of passengers travel, according to Kerry Reeves, head of aircraft programs for the airline. The idea for a full length, “lie-flat option” was proposed, and so-called “Skynest” was born. 

The target consumers for Skynest are premium economy and economy passengers, who could use a little more flexibility, space, and relaxation during their time in the sky. Instead of shifting around in a rigid, upright position for hours, Air New Zealand is putting passengers — who don’t have endless disposable incomes — first. This way, excruciatingly long flights can be comfortable for the bulk of travelers as opposed to very few. 

Skynest pods will be available to rent for four hours at a time, and it is currently unclear whether or not that time can be extended for the entirety of a flight. Passengers must be in their designated seats for take-off and landing procedures, so these details are still being discussed.

Reeve’s explained that “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.”

Not only does the ability to knock out four-hour chunks of a long flight lighten its load, but it will encourage economy passengers to visit places they never thought possible. Not to mention, landing without a complete lack of energy. Skynest makes that flight across the globe that you’ve never been able to seriously consider, feel like it is within reach. 

With that being said, Air New Zealand has yet to disclose pricing on the Skynest, as it will not be fully launched until 2024. If pods are truly financially accessible for the economy class, then they will be a great improvement. Indeed, a one-way ticket for October on Air New Zealand in business from JFK Airport in New York to Auckland is $7,400.

“The question is how the airline monetizes the offering,” said Edward Russell, editor of Skift’s Airline Weekly, raises the importance of this by stating that. “Every inch of space onboard is valuable, and the question is whether passengers will pay enough for these new bunk beds to make them worth the cost of the added weight and what they replace on Air New Zealand’s aircraft.” 

Air New Zealand’s team is on it. Since 2017, they’ve done “2,571 hours of customer research including experts, surveys, desk-based research, and customer testing.” More than 300 customers were invited into an innovation lab to test out Skynest, and comment on its strengths and weaknesses. 

Once Skynest is released in two years, it can be expected that long-haul flights with Air New Zealand will get more action considering economy passengers will be able to share the luxury of reclining with the business class. 

November 16, 2022
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX and Online
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Tags: air new zealand, economy, long-haul, longest flights, Sleep

Photo credit: Skynest pods offer bunk bed sleeping. Air New Zealand