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Lie-Flat Economy Seats Are (Almost) Here

Lie-Flat Economy Seats Are (Almost) Here

And now for something completely different: lie-flat seats in economy.

Air New Zealand, the airline that brought you the Economy Skycouch™ is bringing even more opportunity to get horizontal in economy with the installation of new, lie-flat sleeping pods. Although the sleeping pods are still in the prototype stage, it’s still pretty exciting to see a fresh take on traveling long-haul in economy.

The Economy Skynest

Air New Zealand developed the Economy Skynest–featuring six full-length lie-flat sleeping pod–after three years of research and development and the input of “more than 200 customers at its Hangar 22 innovation center in Auckland.” While the seat isn’t in production yet, Air New Zealand has filed the patent and trademark applications. However, Air New Zealand must still seek regulatory approval and certification for the pods.

Air New Zealand’s Head of Airline Programs Kerry Reeves says that the scale of the challenge in developing the Economy Skynest and working through its certification with the necessary regulators is immense compared with the development of the Economy Skycouch.

lie-flat seats in economy

Kerry Reeves, Air New Zealand’s Head of Programs, with the Skynest

In it for the Long Haul

As direct flights get longer–like Air New Zealand’s upcoming Auckland to New York which will service at up to 17 hours, 40 minutes one way–the prospect of being in it for the long haul seems less daunting (and expensive) for passengers who don’t find themselves in the front of the plane.

Says Air New Zealand’s Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod, “We have a tremendous amount of development work underway looking at product innovations we can bring across all cabins of the aircraft.  A clear pain point for economy travelers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out. The development of the Skynest is a direct response to that challenge.”

How It Will Work

The plan is to allow economy passengers to book the Economy Skynest in addition to their Economy seat. This sounds like access to the Skynest will be communal, but the press release is unclear on whether or not each pod will be private or shared.

However, because it seems logistically difficult to navigate turnover (changing the bedding, waking passengers up) we’re assuming that you book a Skynest pod for the flight. Then you have the option to return to your seat to eat and watch the in-flight entertainment.

There is no in-flight entertainment in the berth. But it does come with “a full-size pillow, sheets, and blanket, earplugs 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.”

Each pod is “in excess of 200cm (6.56 ft)” in “overall length” and “in excess of 58cm (1.9 ft)” in “width at the shoulder area.”


lie-flat seats in economy

Where Will It Go?

Unclear. Says the press release, “The exact positioning of the Economy Skynest within the aircraft has still to be confirmed, however, it will be in the Economy cabin.”

When Is It Coming?

Air New Zealand will make a final decision on whether to operate the Skynest next year after it has assessed the performance of its inaugural year of Auckland-New York operations. So, late 2021–if it comes at all. Air New Zealand’s Skynest isn’t a foregone conclusion, but this is an official announcement that Air New Zealand is pursuing the option.

And, says Reeves, “It was a prize worth chasing and one that we think has the potential to be a game-changer for economy class travelers on all airlines around the world.”


And even if the Skynest doesn’t arrive on time, it’s good to see some airlines thinking outside of the box.


Want to join the FlyerTalk on the topic? Head to the Skynest FlyerTalk forum thread.

View Comments (18)


  1. hfb606

    February 25, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    They’ve already put seats in every square inch of coach with 31 degrees pitch. Where are they going to put the pods, on the wings?

  2. OZFLYER86

    February 26, 2020 at 4:13 am

    skynest won’t be available at cheap economy prices, but maybe at full economy prices, which can be 4, 5 or more times the cheapest economy fare.

  3. MitchR

    February 26, 2020 at 4:29 am

    I hope that this will be something that can be reserved and paid for, otherwise it will probably go the way of Amtrak’s observation car, where passengers migrate there at the beginning of the trip and never leave.

  4. jrpallante

    February 26, 2020 at 4:31 am

    In general, the price of each seat is tied to the square footage. If an economy seat is going to also include a separate sleeping berth, it is difficult to imaging how this configuration would cost any less than a business class seat.

  5. offerendum

    February 26, 2020 at 5:02 am

    Will be interesting what they charge for it. Considering the space they need it seems as you could easily book a J seat.

  6. rpaverd

    February 26, 2020 at 5:35 am

    Total game changer – I only fly business class for the lie flat seat. Do not care at all about meals wines suites doors etc… If I am able to get an economy ticket with a Skynest I would never book a business seat again…!,

  7. jjmoore

    February 26, 2020 at 6:00 am

    I challenge this concept to show the square-ft / square-m utilization per passenger. I would bet that it falls somewhere between current Y and J space utilization per pax, but closer to J, which will impact the pricing accordingly. In the end, I think it will be tough to call this product “economy” or even “premium economy”…. maybe “biz-light” or something like that. Would love to see the numbers…

  8. DManzaluni

    February 26, 2020 at 6:07 am

    Kudos to Air New Zealand if they do implement this (and anyone with half a brain would go out of their way to fly on their airline), but why on earth would any other airline who can use load control to FILL THEIR FLIGHTS ever want to take revenue-producing space away from revenue-generation and allocate it to passenger comfort!! isnt worrying about steerage passenger comfort the absolute antithesis of the legacy carrier’s business model? Even on a nearly 18 hour flight?

  9. landwatersky

    February 26, 2020 at 6:30 am

    I wonder how they will secure people once they are inside a Skynest? I’ve also wondered about that during my Business Class “lay flat” international flights….

  10. ulxima

    February 26, 2020 at 8:14 am

    “I’ve also wondered about that during my Business Class “lay flat” international flights….”
    BA and AF (just to name a couple of airlines) explain clearly, in the safety video, how the passenger should place the seat belt not to be disturbed by FA during turbulence checks.

    The same would apply for Skynest and it makes sense.

  11. L4ibsch

    February 26, 2020 at 10:59 am

    My take is that you can rent this per hour or half-hour. Giving this away for the entire duration of the flight to only one single eco PAX would make this cost-prohibitive. An eco seat and the skynest in total quite possibly use up more space than a single business class seat.

  12. L4ibsch

    February 26, 2020 at 11:01 am

    My take is that you can rent this per hour or half-hour. Much like these sleeping pods you have in the airport these days. Giving this away for the entire duration of the flight to only one single eco PAX would make this cost-prohibitive. An eco seat and the skynest in total quite possibly use up more space than a single business class seat.

  13. t_cliff

    February 26, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    I think a tri-level sleeping pods is possible too. It would have very similar square footage with the current 3 seats layout, but a bit longer. Each level then has a stagger sit up position with seat belt, food tray etc.

    Move the overhead bin to be floor bin.

  14. kkua

    February 26, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    The problem with shared resource model is that NZ will need dedicated project managers to allocate and enforce scheduling (and subsequent cleaning) the nests after each passenger’s use. It should be sold as a separate seat for the entire flight duration. Get rid of the SkyCouch and the twin econ plus and sell this product as the economy add-on.

  15. 2stepbay

    February 26, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Any flight over 12 hrs is nothing short of abusive to Flyers in a crowded economy cabin, especially those with new tight seating configurations.

  16. Cotumely

    February 26, 2020 at 11:57 pm

    For a long-haul flight, renting it for 6 hours would make a lot of difference to somebody flying in economy.

  17. J S

    March 3, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Agree with the comment that airlines sell space in sq. feet (or sq. meters). I estimate that the combination of a bed like this and a coach seat will take the space of ~2.3 existing coach seats (full calculation and assumptions below). That is probably somewhat more space-efficient than a business class seat, but not overwhelmingly so.

    More likely, they will sell this to a couple travelling together who will buy two coach seats and one bed (similar to how they sell their sky couch today). On that basis, this would be about 1.65x the space of a coach seat. If they can charge 2x coach, they would make money and probably sell a fair number of these seats. It would also be a nice way to travel (one person can sleep while the other relaxes with space to spread out across two seats).

    Based on dimensions given and the picture:
    1) It is 1.9 feet at the widest part, tapering at the feet. Add a little for the divider at the head between the two beds, we get ~4 feet of width at the head-end of a unit (a “unit”=6 beds).
    2) It seems to be v-shaped (probably so that the “head-end” of one unit could fit slightly into the open foot end of the next unit).
    3) Assume they will put this in the middle section of economy, which is 4 seats across or ~68 inches (assuming 17″ economy seat width), which works with an assumption that they unit is 48″ wide at the head (and 68″ at the foot), since they are in a v-shape or herringbone).
    4) The bed is 6.5 feet (78 inches), but let’s assume they can put at least 12 inches of one unit into the next (because of the herringbone shape. Since they run 32 inches of pitch in economy, this would take up about 2 rows of coach.

    Thus, a set of 6 will take the space of 8 coach seats. Now, they say you will also get a coach seat, so 6 passengers will take the space of 14 coach seats or 2.3x the current space allocated to a coach passenger.

  18. swampwiz

    March 9, 2020 at 4:32 am

    So what happens if there is turbulence, and the staff directs the pax to buckle up? Would there be some type of buckle apparatus that would operate with a prone pax?

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