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Air NZ unveils new economy seats that turn into couches

Tuesday 26 Jan 2010 5:17 p.m.

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By Adam Ray

Air New Zealand has unveiled its new economy class cabins today – showing off new seats that turn into couches.

The so-called ‘Sky Couch’ is one of a host of new features the airline has come up with after three years of design and testing.

“The ability to relax and recline flat in economy is something that every airline in the world has talked about, but never delivered,” Ed Sims from Air New Zealand says.

The Sky Couch is formed from three economy class seats pulled flat.

Couples buying two seats can get the third at half price – families with three seats can reserve a Sky Couch for another $200.

That would be to Los Angeles; a Sky Couch to London and back will cost around $7000 – travel agents say it is a good deal at that price.

“I think that’s pretty fair,” says Andrew Stark of Flight Centre.

“Bearing in mind two passengers will be able to lie flat down flat on long haul to LA or London.”

Mr Sims thinks the seats will “fly out the door”.

“That will be a great problem to have,” he says.

The airline has spent three years working on the new seating – even building its own full-scale model of a Boeing cabin.

Experts say all that work has been worth it and they expect other airlines to follow.

“It looks like it has the ability to really improve the experience for economy passengers – which is not an area that a lot of airlines focus on,” says Brett Snyder, a US airline blogger.

However, there are some catches.

Sleeping couples still need a special seatbelt while lying down, and they are a little cramped for those over six foot.

Air New Zealand has also unveiled new premium economy and business class cabins today; Mr Sims says the airline is trying to accommodate two types of passengers.

“They were designed by two drivers: do you want to be private? Or do you want to be sociable?”

The new seats go on sale in April and will be available on Air New Zealand's new Boeing 777s from the end of the year.

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