The first lie-flat “pods” will soon be available in economy class on aeroplanes. The SkyNest concept has been under development for the past five years, and Air New Zealand revealed on June 28 that it would be ready for prime time in 2024. The seats sit at the back of the aircraft, just behind the premium economy section, and are totally flat, furnished with actual mattresses as well as cooling pillows and linen. However, there is a tonne of small print on this news, as there is with everything related to flying nowadays.
First off, the cost of an economy ticket does not include the seats. The airline has estimated that it takes four hours to provide passengers two sleep cycles, which are normally around 90 minutes long, plus additional time to wind down and wake up. SkyNests are a different product that consists of bunk beds piled three high. Six of these “pods” will be installed on each aircraft, and they will be rotated between “sessions” by the flight attendants who clean and change the linens during 30-minute cleaning periods.
Although the price of the SkyNest lie-flat seat has not yet been established, everyone travelling in economy or premium economy will have access to it. Although Air New Zealand hasn’t determined whether it will be fixed or dynamic dependent on demand or timing inside the flight, pricing will be the same regardless of the class of ticket.
Additionally, if you adhere to the meaning of “pods,” then only it is a real “first.” The SkyCouch, an existing lie-flat option offered by Air New Zealand, enables passengers to extend specially made footrests from each of the three economy seats in a row, essentially widening the seats and converting the row into a makeshift bed. Families love it because they can spread out horizontally over a row they’ve reserved together. However, the option is also available for a single traveller; three economy flights from New York or Chicago to Auckland cost around $3,000, whilst a business class seat costs about $5,000.
The SkyNest, in contrast to the SkyCouch, won’t have bothersome gaps and elevated armrests between seats; also, the mattress will be thicker because the SkyNest is designed specifically to be used as a bed. But because of the four-hour periods, you can only use it for naps.
There are 248 seats in the premium economy and economy cabins of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9s, so almost that many customers would be fighting for the 18 available slots. The airline hasn’t determined if you can book several sessions back to back, but it’s likely that demand won’t allow for it. (Given the dimensions—the beds are 80 inches long—the six bunks are probably going to replace about 12 seats.)
On aircraft operating Air New Zealand’s ultralong-haul nonstop routes, such Chicago or New York to Auckland, SkyNests will enter service in 2024. Starting in September, the nonstop flights from/to New York will be among the world’s longest at 17.5 hours. Beginning in October, Chicago-bound flights will take 15 hours.