Air Travel

Air New Zealand Is Adding Lie-Flat Beds in Economy

Air New Zealand's Skynest will have six sleeping pods in the economy cabin.
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Flights have gotten longer and longer, but economy seats are only getting smaller and smaller. In a ground-breaking move, however, Air New Zealand is actually giving coach fliers room to stretch out and get some sleep: The airline is officially launching the first-ever lie-flat beds in economy class.

The new product, dubbed “Skynest,” includes six sleeping pods, which economy and premium economy fliers will be able to book in four-hour intervals on the airline's longest flights in addition to their regular seats. The lie-flat sleep berths will begin rolling out in 2024, when its eight new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner planes begin to fly.

Air New Zealand's Skynest will have separate sleep pods for six passengers.

Courtesy Air New Zealand

“We wanted to offer our economy customers a lie-flat option, and that's how Skynest was born,” says Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran. “It's going to be a real game changer for the economy travel experience.”

The economy beds are about six-and-a-half-feet long and nearly two feet wide at the shoulders, and each has a seat belt. The six fully flat sleep pods will be located in an area between the premium economy and regular economy cabins. Photos show the Skynest stacked like bunks, with two beds across and three high. There are privacy curtains and mood lighting in each pod, along with a full-size pillow, sheets and blanket, and ear plugs. Each bunk is also fitted with additional features such as a separate reading light, personal device USB outlet, and ventilation outlet. It’s not yet clear how much a four-hour session will cost in one of the sleep pods.

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The airline says it based the new product off of 170,000 hours of extensive designing and customer research conducted over five years that found passengers wanted a good night's sleep, as well as more space and comfort across cabins. It first began testing the economy-class sleep pods in 2020 with more than 200 customers in its Auckland innovation lab as part of an ongoing research project centered on in-flight wellness. It said at the time the feedback from customers, crew members, and other stakeholders had been “outstanding.”

The Skynest concept was originally conceived for Air New Zealand's ultra-long-haul flights, eventually including the first-ever nonstop flight from New York City to Auckland set to launch in September. The flight time on that historic route clocks in at about 17 hours and 35 minutes. That same month, the carrier will also be launching a 17-hour flight to Auckland from Dallas. Those flights will initially be operated by the airline's current Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which are outfitted with four different cabin classes: 27 seats in business class, 33 in premium economy, and 215 in economy class, as well as 13 of the airline's famous SkyCouch product.

Launched 10 years ago as kind of a do-it-yourself lie-flat bed, the Skycouch is a row of economy seats that convert to a “couch” after takeoff so fliers can stretch out. The Skynest concept is partially built on the couch's success, the airline said in 2020. The new Dreamliner planes coming in 2024 will also have a SkyCouch section, as well as an Economy Stretch section, essentially an extra legroom coach seat.

Additionally, when the new Dreamliners roll out, they will also feature refreshed versions of the other cabins, including a brand-new Business Premier Luxe class outfitted with eight private suites with fully closing doors, lie-flat seats, and enough space for two passengers to dine together. The jets will also have 42 lie-flat seats in Business Premier class and 125 regular economy seats. According to Fornan, the newly designed planes “will provide customers with options to get some shut eye wherever they're sitting.”

This story has been updated with new information since its original publish date.