By Karla Cripps, CNN
For the first time ever, economy class passengers are going to have the option of stretching out for some sleep on actual beds during their flights.
Air New Zealand has announced its “Skynest” concept, which features six full-length sleeping pods, will be among the offerings included on its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, due to enter into service in 2024.
Each pod in the sleep zone will be located between the Premium Economy and Economy cabins and include a full-size pillow, bedding, ear plugs, a reading light, USB port and a ventilation outlet. The pods are stacked like bunk beds, with two rows each containing three beds.
An Air New Zealand media representative told CNN Travel via email that the airline is still working through the exact details of how the pods will be booked but offered a few insights into how it may look.
“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,” says the rep. “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.”
The bedding will be changed between each session.
Considering Air New Zealand operates some of the longest flights on the planet, the beds will provide a welcome respite for travelers unable to sleep sitting up.
In September 2022, Air New Zealand is launching nonstop flights between Auckland and New York’s JFK airport. The flight time? 17 hours — making it them the world’s longest regularly scheduled passenger flights.
“New Zealand’s location puts us in a unique position to lead on the ultra-long-haul travel experience,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran in a statement.
“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.”
New offerings include ‘Business Premier Luxe’ suites
Creating innovative new seating concepts is the easy part. Getting them into the skies is a long, complicated process involving mountains of tests and government approvals.
CNN Travel first reported on the Skynest concept back in early 2020, when the airline filed patent and trademark applications following three years of research, development and testing based on input from more than 200 customers at a hanger in Auckland.
As noted above, it will still be another two years before the Skynest is available to book.
In addition to eight Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which will be delivered to the airline from 2024, Air New Zealand is also retrofitting its current 787-9 fleet.
The planes will have either eight or four Business Premier Luxe seats, 42 or 22 Business Premier seats, 52 or 33 Premium Economy seats and 125 or 213 Economy seats.
Aircraft used on the ultra-long-haul routes will include the six Skynest sleep pods.
“Research shows us the first night away from home is the hardest to get a good night’s sleep so everything we do on board 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 Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty in the statement.
“Meditative onscreen content, Zentertainment, will also help customers unwind and get ready for rest.”
Economy class passengers aren’t the only ones getting an upgrade either. The new cabins will also feature “Business Premier Luxe” suites, which offer added privacy.
These will feature all the trappings of the airline’s Business Premier class, but with a fully closing door and enough space for two people to dine together.
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Top image: Air New Zealand’s Skynest sleep zones will be available to book in 2024. Credit: Air New Zealand