Normally, lie-flat airline seats are a luxury only available for first- and business-class passengers.
But that will change on some Air New Zealand flights when the airline launches Skynest, a beds-on-board concept for economy-class passengers, in September 2024.
The airline first announced the Skynest concept, in which six sleep pods in a bunk bed configuration are available on select planes, last year. This week, it provided more specifics about how booking, pricing and other details will work.
According to a press release issued by the airline, the six pods will be located between the economy and premium economy cabins on certain long-haul routes, including the 17-hour direct between New York City and Auckland, which ranks among the longest flights in the world.
Passengers will be able to pre-book a slot in the pod for between NZ$400-$600 (US$254-$380) for a four-hour block, in addition to the regular cost of their ticket. The cabin crew will change out the bedding in each pod after each use.
“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,” a representative for Air New Zealand told CNN Travel in 2022.
Amenities in the Skynests will include USB charging ports, a reading light, ear plugs, full-size sheets, a blanket and a pillow. There are also seatbelts to make sure that the beds adhere to onboard safety protocols.
Only one person at a time will be able to use the pod, even if people wish to share with partners or kids. To give more passengers the opportunity to try out the concept, everyone is limited to one four-hour session per flight, based on availability.
“We have zeroed in on sleep, comfort and wellness because we know how important it is for our customers to arrive well rested,” Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said in a statement last year.
“Whether they are heading straight into a meeting, or to their first holiday hotspot – they want to hit the ground running.”
Behind the scenes
Skynest has been several years in the making.
“Our extensive research and design process, which spanned five years and 170,000 hours, has resulted in a product that we’re confident will revolutionize the in-flight experience for economy passengers,” Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty said in a statement.
“By launching Skynest … we are bringing to life our commitment to providing choice, alongside the best possible experience for our passengers, and to continue to innovate and lead the way in the aviation industry.”
Several Boeing 787 planes owned by the airline are being refurbished to make room for the new sleeping pods. While the cabin upgrade will take place at a Boeing facility, Skynest will be made and manufactured solely in New Zealand, said an airline statement.
Despite still only being in the prototype phase, Skynest is among the finalists of this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards. an annual industry event highlighting innovations in the airplane interior design world. The winners will be announced in June.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand was ranked the second-best airline in the world in 2022.
The company, originally named Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), was founded in 1939 to connect New Zealand with its neighboring Pacific countries. It became Air New Zealand in 1965.