It’s called Skynest and a new lie-flat economy class product from innovator Air New Zealand could revolutionize travel at the back of the plane.
The Economy Skynest is a lie-flat sleep product for economy class travelers and the result of three years of research and development.
The airline has filed patent and trademark applications for the product, which was developed with the input of more than 200 customers at its secretive Hangar 22 innovation center in Auckland.
A nest of six sleeping pods will be positioned in the economy cabin and give passengers the option of sleeping in a bunk that is 200cms long and 58 cms wide.
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The plan is to provide each pod with a full-size pillow, sheets and blanket along with earplugs, privacy curtains and lighting.
Other features being explored include a separate reading light, a USB outlet for personal devices and a ventilation outlet.
Air New Zealand will make a final decision on whether to operate the Economy Skynest next year after it has assessed the performance of its inaugural year of Auckland-New York operations.
The airline says the scale of the challenge in developing the Economy Skynest and working through its certification with the necessary regulators was immense compared with the development of the Economy Skycouch.
“But it was a prize worth chasing and one that we think has the potential to be a game-changer for economy class travelers on all airlines around the world,” Air New Zealand’s head of airline programs, Kerry Reeves, said.
Air New Zealand chief marketing and customer officer Mike Tod said the airline operated some of the world’s longest flights, such as the upcoming Auckland-New York service, and was committed to putting more magic back into flying.
“We have a tremendous amount of development work underway looking at product innovations we can bring across all cabins of the aircraft,” he said.
“A clear pain point for economy travelers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out. The development of the Economy Skynest is a direct response to that challenge.”
Customer experience general manager Nikki Goodman described customer and cabin crew feedback on the Economy Skynest during its final development phase as “outstanding”.
She said there had been significant partners keenly involved and she expected other airlines to explore licensing the SkyNest in the same way they had with the airline’s Skycouch.
“We see a future flying experience where an economy-class customer on long-haul flights would be able to book the Economy Skynest in addition to their Economy seat, get some quality rest and arrive at their destination ready to go,” she said.
“This is a game-changer on so many levels.”
Goodman said three areas came up as important in designing the concept.
“One was being able to find a quiet mind,” she said. “The second is really about being able to relax your body. So that’s pretty tough in an economy seat if we’re honest.
“And the last one is really the right environment — whether it’s the lighting, whether it’s your blanket or where you’re stowing things — so creating that space in which you feel comfortable enough to rest and relax and nod off.
“And the economy Skynest delivers to all of those customer needs.”
Reeves said the project was a tangible example of the airline’s “can do” attitude.
“At Air New Zealand, we continue to nurture a can-do attitude, we’re not afraid of being bold and trying new things,” he said. ” The question is never ‘can we do this’ but instead ‘is it right to do this for our customers?’ and, if so, ‘how will we do this?’”
“Our ability to take a good idea, to execute and deliver an innovation that works in our environment, our market and for our people and customers gives us an edge.”