Air New Zealand unveils economy-class sleeping pods
There are people who can sleep anywhere, any time, in any position -- including upright in an economy-class airplane seat.
And then there are the rest of us. Neck pillows just don't cut it. Reclining a few inches does nothing. We need to lie flat, which is what makes Air New Zealand's prototype sleep pods so exciting.
On February 25, the airline filed patent and trademark applications for the "Economy Skynest" -- the result of three years of research, development and testing based on input from more than 200 customers at a hanger in Auckland.
First, the specs.
According to Air New Zealand's announcement, the Skynest will consist of six full-length lie-flat sleep pods in the Economy cabin. The exact location within the aircraft is yet to be confirmed.
Each pod will be about 200 centimeters (6.5 feet) long and 58 centimeters (22 inches) wide, and come with a pillow, sheets, blanket, ear plugs and privacy curtains. The airline is reportedly also exploring additional features such as reading lights and USB outlets.
"A clear pain point for economy travelers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out," says Air New Zealand chief marketing and customer officer Mike Tod in a statement from the airline. "The development of the Economy Skynest is a direct response to that challenge."
So will the Skynest actually take flight?
There's reason to be hopeful. After all, this is the airline that's already proved its commitment to making economy class more comfortable, given so many of its flights are long-haul. It launched the "Economy Skycouch" in 2011, allowing passengers traveling together to transform their seats into a bed.
Staff from Air New Zealand tell CNN Travel no formal certification application is in process yet, "however we have designed the concept to meet all regulatory requirements."
As for pricing, the airline is yet to determine the costs and is still assessing the commercial proposition and product viability.
But given there are only six pods on one aircraft, they will likely be in high demand.
"We see a future flying experience where an economy-class customer on long-haul flights would be able to book the Economy Skynest in addition to their Economy seat, get some quality rest and arrive at their destination ready to go," says Nikki Goodman, general manager of Air New Zealand's Customer Experience.
The airline will reportedly make a final decision on the Economy Skynest in 2021, once it has assessed the performance of its inaugural year of Auckland-New York operations, due to take flight in October this year.
That flight will take an estimated 17 hours and 40 minutes one way, making it one of the longest in the world.