Thursday, 27 February 2020

Skynests........Air New Zealand set to try out sleeping bunks in economy - maybe

Air New Zealand hopes its latest idea will revolutionise economy travel in a few years time  - it is looking at introducing cabin within a cabin for bunk beds to be called The Economy Skynest.    The firm says this latest concept is the result of three years of research and development, with the input of more than 200 customers at its Hangar 22 innovation centre in Auckland. The airline has today filed patent and trademark applications for the Economy Skynest which provides six full length lie-flat sleep pods. 

The idea of beds on aircraft is not new, lie-flat bed have been a feature of the premium cabins of many international airlines for years. Other airlines and aircraft manufacturers have flirted with the idea of having sleeping quarters or bunk areas either on the main deck or in cargo hold areas below the main deck.  Pretty much like crew rest areas that already exist on many long-haul aircraft -  but for fare-paying passengers.  Qantas considered such things for its ultra long haul project sunrise flights but decided against such slumber stations. 

Air New Zealand has some long routes as well,  Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod says that as the airline operates some of the world's longest flights, such as the upcoming Auckland-New York service at up to 17 hours 40 minutes one way,  "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 travellers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out. The development of the Economy Skynest is a direct response to that challenge,".

The carrier 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. General Manager of Customer Experience, Nikki Goodman says customer and cabin crew feedback on the Economy Skynest during its final phase of development has been outstanding with significant partners also keenly involved.  "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. This is a game changer on so many levels,".

 "We're so excited to be sharing this product development with our customers. This is one of the highlights of three years' intensive work centred on customer wellbeing. We're sure this innovation is going to be a game changer for the industry and bring significant improvements to long-haul flying. We expect other airlines will want to explore licensing the Economy Skynest from us just as they have with the Economy Skycouch."

 Will the Skynest work?  Will customers want to pay for a seat and also a birth in the nest? Is it going to be open like in the pretty pictures, which doesn't seem to offer much in the way of privacy? Will it be safe during turbulence and how will it affect the body being horizontal for 16+ hours.  I'm sure there will be loads more questions,  but there is also plenty of time for Air New Zealand to think of the answers.

There is no denying those little cubicles for sleeping look kind of cool and inviting in the images and sleeping cars on trains still attract interest from the travelling public,  but will economy passengers really want to splash out for a semi-private bed and a seat at the same time. I like the idea,  but in practice, I have my doubts such a concept would work.

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