The future of flying: Air New Zealand's new business, premium and economy class revealed

It's been the best, worst-kept secret in the travel industry for years.

Rumour and speculation about Air New Zealand's new cabin offerings have been circling before Rico was just a twinkle in the airline's eye. But, not until this morning have we known exactly what the airline has been working on for the past five years.

The revelation that will likely make headlines around the world (something that Air NZ is very good at doing), is its new Skynests.

Think of a time when you've been sitting in the middle seat halfway through a long-haul flight and thought how you'd give an arm and a leg just to lie down for a couple of hours.

Next time that happens, you'll have the option of Skynest.

In what the airline is calling a "game-changer" for economy travellers, the world's first airborne sleep pods are essentially comfortable bunk beds in the sky.

The Skynest will be among the new onboard offerings available from 2024.

Passenger enjoys latest season of Friends on in-flight entertainment system.
Passenger enjoys latest season of Friends on in-flight entertainment system. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

The Cabin of Possibility

Hidden away in 'Hangar 22,' optimistic photographers and aviation geeks have been trying to get a snap of what was hidden inside, as if it was Mike Hosking holding a vacuum cleaner.

It wasn't until today that the airline of Middle-earth gave up its secrets.

Air NZ will offer a new business premier luxe suite, a new business premier seat as well as Skynest.

The airline said its new cabins will offer the most choice of any airline to get the best sleep available in the sky.

It said the company responded to overwhelming customer feedback on the importance of sleep and need for more comfort and space.

The updated interior design is inspired by the "uniqueness of Aotearoa", so customers will experience New Zealand as soon as they step onboard.

The airline said its new Dreamliners, due to arrive in 2024, will give customers the best sleep available on any airline in the world, regardless of what class they are flying in.

"Feedback from extensive customer research over five years has highlighted the importance for a good night's sleep and the need for more space and comfort, so the new experience is designed around creating a home away from home that leaves customers refreshed and raring to go at their destination," the airline said in a statement.

Air NZ CEO Greg Foran said the new cabin, much like everything else the airline has achieved, is ambitious and world-leading.

"New Zealand's location puts us in a unique position to lead on the ultra-long-haul travel experience. We have zeroed in on sleep, comfort, and wellness because we know how important it is for our customers to arrive well-rested. Whether they are heading straight into a meeting, or to their first holiday hotspot - they want to hit the ground running," Foran said.

The future of flying: Air New Zealand's new business, premium and economy class revealed
Photo credit: Air New Zealand

"Research shows us the first night away from home is the hardest to get a good night's sleep so everything we do onboard is to help create a sense of calm - from the lighting and sleep ritual including sleepy teas and balms, to the healthier food choices and breathable fabrics," chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said. 

"Meditative onscreen content and 'zentertainment', will also help customers unwind and get ready for rest."

The airline has also added a sky pantry to the premium economy and economy cabins, so customers can stretch their legs, grab a bite to eat and hydrate at their leisure throughout their journey.

Using modern fabrics, rather than leather, the design has saved around one kilogram in weight per business premier and premium economy seat, reducing overall carbon emissions. 

In premium cabins, the airline will also switch to serviceware that is 20 percent lighter, helping to reduce carbon emissions, and in economy, the new serviceware will reduce plastic dishes used inflight by 28 million every year.

Air New Zealand's new seating options explained:

Business Premier
Business Premier Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Business Premier Luxe

The airline describes this as the best sleep in the sky. 

"The new offering is for customers looking for the ultimate space and privacy. A luxury experience with all the features of business premier, but with a fully closing door and space for two to dine."

Business Premier
Business Premier Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Business Premier

Air NZ calls this "a comfortable and private nest for a blissful journey and tranquil sleep".

The middle row allows customers to open their nest and share their experience if travelling with a companion.

Premium Economy
Premium Economy Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Premium Economy

The airline says this offering is "for the treat-seekers looking for a little luxury to unwind and enjoy a taste of Aotearoa".

The new seat offers more privacy and protected space where you can recline at leisure without interrupting the person behind.

Economy Skynest
Economy Skynest Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Economy Skynest

"It's time to swap the headrest for some bedrest," Air NZ said.

"Say hello to the world's first sleep pods in the sky, Skynest. Stretch out in one of six pods for part of your journey and catch some shut-eye. A game-changer for economy travellers."

Air New Zealand Skycouch
Air New Zealand Skycouch Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Economy Skycouch

Use the Skycouch the way you want. Sit, spread out, or lie down and snooze. Share the space or keep it all to yourself. 

Economy Stretch

This seat is for those who want to rest and stretch their legs further than the regular economy seat - just as the name suggests.

Economy class seats
Economy class seats Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Economy seat

An enhanced economy seat designed with more storage, comfort and space and a 50 percent larger screen for entertainment. Connect to Bluetooth audio and pair your device to act as a remote control or second screen.   

Air NZ's eight new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners which arrive in 2024 will come with the brand new interior and seating options already built-in.

As for the airline's current 787-9 fleet, they will be retrofitted over time. Its ultra-long-haul aircraft such as the ones it will use on its New York route, will have six Skynest sleep pods added to their cabins.

What do you think of the new seats? Let us know on Newshub Travel's Facebook group.