Air New Zealand has a fairly unique proposition, offering daily ultra long-haul flights across the globe while catering to a home country with just half the population of London. As such, its had to innovate to remain at the top of it’s game, and has already rolled out products like the (short-lived) Premium Economy Spaceseat, and Skycouch to help bolster ancillary sales while catering to the needs of passengers who can’t afford the premium price a business class ticket affords.
Before the airline commits itself to the 17 hour 40 minute direct flight from Auckland to New York, it has revealed a conceptual new product to ease the daunting prospect of spending just shy of a day on a plane.
The Economy Skynest is the result of three years of Air New Zealand 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.
Air New Zealand Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod says that as the airline operates some of the world’s longest flights, it is committed to putting more magic back into flying.
“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,” Mr Tod says.
But this isn’t just a clever marketing gimmick. These long-haul flights push the limits of the Dreamliner’s operational capabilities. So by removing seats and replacing with ancillary building products such as the Skycouch and Skynest means that the aircraft is lighter with less passengers, but now offers premium services offsetting the loss in revenue these passengers bring.
Don’t expect to be curling up in these train-like bunks any time soon. Air New Zealand won’t make a final decision on whether to operate the Economy Skynest until 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,” Ms Goodman says. There’s also a licensing possibility attached to the product, much like Air New Zealand’s reciprocal licence of Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite that features in the carrier’s business class cabins, or it’s own licensing of the Skycouch to carriers like China Airlines.
Air New Zealand’s Head of Airline Programmes Kerry Reeves says ‘can do’ is one of the airline’s key values and the Economy Skynest prototype is a tangible example of this. “Our ability to take a good idea, to execute and deliver an innovation that works in our environment, our market and for our people and customers gives us an edge.”
Mr Reeves says 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™. But it was a prize worth chasing and one that we think has the potential to be a game changer for economy class travellers on all airlines around the world.”