Air New Zealand announces 'Skynest', allowing lie-flat sleep in economy class

Air New Zealand has unveiled a new product that will offer customers a lie-flat sleep option on long-haul routes.

The Skynest looks similar to bunk beds and consists of pods containing two sets of full-length single beds stacked three high.

The prototype is described as "groundbreaking" and is the result of three years of research and development by Air NZ, which filed patent and trademark applications for Skynest on Wednesday.

"We hear you, sometimes you just need to stretch out. Our Economy #Skynest is in development to help make your dreams come true! Who's ready for a lie down?" the airline said on social media.

Air NZ operates some of the world's longest commercial routes and will soon launch Auckland-New York services that include a 17 hour, 40 minute flight - so being able to lie down and have a snooze will be greatly appreciated.

The Skynest joins the Skycouch, another economy option offered by the airline that lets passengers lie down on long-haul flights, for an extra fee.

The extra cost to use Skynest has not yet been announced.

"We have a tremendous amount of development work underway looking at product innovations we can bring across all cabins of the aircraft," says Mike Tod, the airline's chief marketing and customer officer.

"A clear pain point for economy travellers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out. The development of the Economy Skynest is a direct response to that challenge."

Air NZ says each pod will include a full-size pillow, sheets and blanket, ear plugs along with privacy curtains and lighting designed for sleep.

"We are exploring other features such as separate reading light, personal device USB outlet and ventilation outlet," the airline adds.

As for when Skynest rolls out widely and onto which routes, Air NZ says it 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".