Middle Earth’s New Zealand’s flag carrier Air New Zealand has unveiled new hard products for all three cabin classes. They will be fitted in all Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft Air New Zealand is set to receive from 2024 onwards. While new business class seats are usually the more interesting story, this time it’s an economy class feature that gets the most attention. After years of rumors and withdrawals from other airlines, the Star Alliance member is the first to introduce bunk beds for economy class passengers, elegantly named Skynest.
Air New Zealand’s Hostel in the Sky
Two years have passed since Air New Zealand first teased the Skynest concept. It looks a lot like a bunk bed. Other airlines like Qantas also offered interest in these constructions, but never followed through with the idea. This makes Air New Zealand the pioneer in this regard.
The plan is to give economy and premium economy passengers the opportunity to rent beds for a four-hour cycle during ultra long-haul flights (mostly nonstop connections between Auckland and the Northeastern USA). The airline has yet to communicate prices.
The Skynest will replace several rows of middle seats in the beginning of the economy cabin, so both eco and premium economy passengers can easily access it. The cabins will be cleaned by the crew after each use and passengers will be provided with fresh sheets and pillow.
Executive Traveller had the chance to test a mock-up of the cabin. While the concept is innovative, tall or broad shouldered people might find the Skynest too small to actually relax. The airline hopes the installation will give them the edge over competitors for on ultra-long-haul routes.
While this is the biggest innovation, each of Air New Zealand’s other cabin classes will get an overhaul:
Business Class: Business Premier & Premier Luxe
Current Air New Zealand long haul planes feature lie-flat-seats in a 1-1-1 seating pattern. Those seats and interiors have been designed 20 years ago and therefore feel a bit touched by today’s standards.
The new cabin features the industry standard 1-2-1 configuration. All business class travellers will still enjoy direct aisle access. The so-called Business Premier leaves a good first impression: You can convert it into a 203 cm long bed. If you’re not feeling sleepy, a 24″ touchscreen will keep you occupied. The airline does not plan to install doors on all seats.
These are reserved for the Business Premier Luxe compartments near the cabin bulkheads. Similar to JetBlue’s Mint Studio, these suite like seats will mostly likely come with a higher price tag than regular business class seating.
Unsurprisingly for a product aimed at ultra-long-haul travel, Air New Zealand plans to almost double their premium capacity from formerly 27 to 50 business class seats.
New Premium Economy Seats
German manufacturer ZIM Aircraft Seating provides Air New Zealand with their model Zim Privacy in premium economy. It is the same model Swiss (now) and Lufthansa (in the future) selected for their premium economy product. The seat comes with a 14″ touch screen, power outlets, USB ports and storeable leg rests among other amenities. A huge advantage compared to the Lufthansa group airlines is the seat pitch of 104 cm; instead of 99 cm in the European carrier’s planes.
Big Screens for Long Flights
In addition to the aforementioned Skynest, Air New Zealand also introduced new seats for economy class passengers. While it looks like the airline follows the industry trend to replace once opulent cushioning with paperthin styrofoam, at least they do everything to distract you from your (soon-to-be) hurting back: The new 14″ touch screen might be the largest that was ever used for regular economy seating.
Delivery and Retrofitting
Air New Zealand will receiver eight new Boeing 787 Dreamliners beginning in 2024 – all of them will feature the new cabin product. There are two configurations, depending on how premium heavy the market is:
- Version 1: 8x Premier Luxe, 42 x Business Class, 52 x Premium Economy, 125 x Economy
- Version 2: 4x Premier Luxe, 22 x Business Class, 33 x Premium Economy, 213 x Economy
Dreamliners already in service with the airline will be retrofitted. Air New Zealand’s 777-fleet won’t see any changes to its current product, as the airline plans to retire these aircraft by 2027.
Cover Picture: © Air New Zealand