Thoughts on the new Air New Zealand SkyCouch

There has been quite a bit of reporting on the new Air New Zealand economy product that will be offered on their Boeing 777-300s and 787 Dreamliner planes that they will be taking delivery of starting later in 2010.  The idea makes a lot of sense.  Lie-flat seating is great but most folks cannot afford the cost of a business or first class seat.  Buying (or hoping to get) multiple coach seats has often worked but even still the experience wasn’t incredibly comfortable.  Air New Zealand is looking to both monetize that demand and also improve the quality of the experience.

The SkyCouch will work by having a leg-rest that rises up to a fully horizontal surface, effectively extending the seat cushion to completely fill the space between the seat-backsairnz1_P_20100125172210

In addition, they’ve designed the seats so that the armrests retract fully up into the seats rather than jutting out a bit like most current models do.  Overall it should be a rather comfortable option.

As long as you aren’t all that tall.

With the layout of the cabin Air New Zealand cannot make the seats particularly wide.  They will almost certainly be about the same width as the current 777 seats and possibly even narrower for the 787 seats.  That means the average length of the couch is going to be about 66 inches.  And figure about 30 inchs wide on the “couch” based on an average seat pitch of 32 inches and needing to account for the thickness of the seat back.  That is bigger than many business class seats – definitely wider – but it also has some serious limits.  There is a wall on one side and the aisle on the other.  Folks who don’t curl up will end up with their legs sticking out into the aisle.  And getting two people into a 30” wide bed is a lot more cozy than I recall of my experiences in a single bed (39” x 75”) freshman year in college.

Looking at the photo from the ANZ marketing group I have to wonder how tall those models are and just how much his neck would hurt after sleeping for any extended period of time in that position.

Don’t get me wrong – lie-flat coach is great.  I got to experience it last night on a Seattle – Newark flight and I slept like a baby and was mostly functional upon arrival this morning.  I’m just not sure that the premium that ANZ will be charging – estimated at an extra 50% for the extra space – is really going to make sense.  Especially when folks keep sticking their legs out into the aisle and getting awakened as the carts or other passengers pass by.

Some additional coverage of the new product can be found here:

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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