Air New Zealand offers long haul economy class bed seats, at a price

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NZ airline offers economy-class bed seats

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Air New Zealand said Tuesday it will set a new benchmark for longhaul flights by offering beds in economy class, but they come with a catch — passengers need to buy three seats to enjoy lie-down travel.

The airline’s “Skycouch” will use three economy seats that unfold to create a space where children can play or people can relax and sleep, airline chief executive Rob Fyfe said. The Skycouch is aimed at couples and families, and will be the price of about two and a half seats.

“For those who choose, the days of sitting in economy and yearning to lie down and sleep are gone,” Fyfe told reporters. “The dream is now a reality, one that you can even share with a traveling companion — just keep your clothes on thanks.”

Developed in-house by Air New Zealand designers and engineers, Fyfe said the Skycouch represents the first real improvement in comfort for economy travelers in more than 20 years and would help the airline set a new benchmark for international travel.

To create the bed, leg rests rise up to fill the space between rows of seats. A thin mattress is placed on top and full size pillows are provided. The result is a level bed across three seats, though it is not completely even due to the seat contours.

About a quarter of all longhaul economy seats will convert to Skycouches, taking up the first 11 rows in the economy cabin of the airline’s new Boeing 777-300 planes.

Passengers will pay the standard economy fare for two seats and receive the middle seat for about half price. Presuming it’s a couple that buys the seat, the total amounts to about 7,600 New Zealand dollars ($5,420) per person for a return flight to London.

Single passengers in business class lie-flat seats pay nearly $7,140 for the London flight, for example. A single premium economy seat that does not recline to a bed costs nearly $4,300.

Air New Zealand was rescued from bankruptcy by a billion-dollar government financial package in September 2001 that left the government owning 75 percent of the national carrier.

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