Air New Zealand's new Skycouch

By James Wilkinson

Air New Zealand is set to take air travel to a new level, following this week’s unveiling of revolutionary Kiwi-designed lie-flat economy class seats.

The ‘Skycouch’ seats will debut in November 2010, when Air New Zealand takes delivery of its first new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and will initially feature on routes to Australia and the United States.

Air New Zealand's new Skycouch

“For the past three years we have been designing a new long haul experience that will reignite the passion of today’s travellers,” said Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe.

“For those who choose, the days of sitting in economy and yearning to lie down and sleep are gone.

“The dream is now a reality, one that you can even share with a travelling companion – just keep your clothes on thanks,” he said.

The Skycouch is a specially designed row of three seats which has been engineered to create an extendable fully flat surface at one end. From the area that would be the leg rest, one large section extends to come up in line with the seats, creating a space large enough for two travellers to lie together.

The first eleven window rows in economy on the new Boeing 777-300ER will be dedicated to the Skycouch and pricing will be announced when it goes on sale from late April.

According to Air New Zealand, the price of the Skycouch will be based on buying two seats at standard prices, with the third being sold for around half-price.

Air New Zealand's new Spaceseat

At the announcement in Auckland on Tuesday (Jan 26), Air New Zealand also revealed its next generation Premium Economy cabin, featuring all-new ‘Spaceseats’.

“Most airlines’ Premium Economy offering leaves travellers with economy-style food and service,” Fyfe said.

“By complete contrast, our new Premium Economy cabin with uniquely Kiwi designed Spaceseats will offer unparalleled comfort and legroom with new shared-meal experiences more familiar in tapas restaurants or bistros than at 35,000 feet,” he said.

The airline’s Business Premier cabin has also been given a makeover, with a new on-demand food and beverage service set to be offered, featuring cuisine akin to premium restaurants.

“Being able to order a steak, medium rare in Business Premier, a pizza for two in Premium Economy or a late night snack in Economy, whenever you want, will be a very cool experience,” Fyfe said.

“New oven technology that will cook food from scratch rather than simply reheating and a new digital in-seat ordering service will make this truly the first time real food has been served at 35,000 feet,” he said.

The airline’s new 340-seat Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will be configured with 246 in Economy (including 66 seats creating 22 Skycouch combinations), 50 in Premium Economy and 44 in Business Premier.

Air New Zealand will also refit its fleet of eight Boeing 777-200 aircraft from mid-2011, with all Asian, North American and UK services to have the new product by around 2012.