Hangar 22 is Air New Zealand‘s moniker for its research lab, which has been working on the future of ultra-long haul cabins for no less than 5 years in a mirror effort to Qantas’s Project Sunrise. There’s good reason for Air New Zealand to invest heavily in a new product, as the airline will start flying to New York in September, with a flight time of no less that 17.5 hours.
Now the new route will have to do with the existing cabin for a few months as the new cabins – revealed today – will launch in 2024. On first glance, this is an impressive new cabin for the carrier, something that many would expect, but as we dig a little deeper, you’ll find out that there are more options available to a traveller than any other carrier.
Innovation is the name of the game for the carriers new and retrofitted 787-9 cabins, including a brand new product, never seen before in modern airliners – Skynest – the world’s first sleep pods in the sky exclusively for Economy travellers.
Unsurprisingly, feedback from extensive customer research over the past 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 on arrival.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran points to the airline’s ambition to create the greatest flying experience and says the new cabin, combined with world-leading Kiwi hospitality, is the winning formula.
“New Zealand’s location puts us in a unique position to lead on the ultra-longhaul 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.
“It’s a proud moment to finally unveil five years of hard mahi, in what truly is a cabin of possibility. One that will provide customers with options to get some shut eye wherever they’re sitting.”
In Business Class, there are two options. Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe both based on Safran’s brand-spanking new ‘VISA’ seat, which is totally new to the market. Both are Herringbone products that feature swathes of space interestingly with all seats still facing the aisle, however thanks to the angle, the seats feature a better view out of the windows than the current product.
The regular business class seats feature all aisle-access and privacy screens, as well as an interesting side table that allows for egress even when the table is out, as well as wireless phone charging. While these are already perfect havens for a 17+ hour flight, the Premier Luxe seats which are at the front of the cabins (which means there are either 4 or 8 of these seats depending on the cabin LOPA) feature a larger bed and the ability for two to dine at the seat thanks to the ottoman style seat at the front of the suite.
The LOPA of the ultra-long haul aircraft means there are 34 Business Premier Seats, 8 Premier Luxe seats and in the premium end, an impressive 52 Premium Economy seats. These premium economy seats offer more privacy and protected space as they are fixed-shell ‘ZIM Privacy’ seats, not dissimilar from those you’d find on multiple other carriers including the Lufthansa group.
However, the biggest innovation and range of products can be found in the intimate, yet perfectly formed economy cabin. On the lightest of the LOPAs, just 125 seats can be found across 14 rows, which play home to no less than 3 innovations. On top of the enhanced regular economy seat which features more storage, comfort and space as well as a 50% bigger screen for entertainment there are two other economy seats on offer giving passengers more choice.
A few of the economy seats also feature additional legroom, dubbed Economy Stretch, which allow taller travellers more space to stretch out. There’s also Air New Zealand’s famous Skycouch, which is already available on its fleet.
Thanks to an innovative leg rest that be raised to create a fully flat surface, the set of three seats turns into a short, but perfectly comfortable bed for one or two people to share, perfect for an adult and a child to nestle in for a long flight. Every seat on the aircraft allows passengers to connect to Bluetooth audio and pair a device to act as a remote control or second screen.
However, the crowning glory is the airline’s new Skynest, a module in the front centre of the economy cabin. This module, which helps keep the seat count lower, aiding the reach needed to make these ultra-long flights, also provides 6 beds for economy passengers to utilise during the journey. These pods are basically ‘rentable’ allowing passengers to sleep for a portion of their flight at the fraction of the cost of a business class ticket.
This innovation is making Air New Zealand a no-brainer for ultra long-haul travel from New Zealand and Australia to the USA. It’s innovations also set a high bar for rival project ‘Sunrise’ by Qantas. ANZ has always been seen in the industry as an incubator of new ideas, and it seems that although 5-years in the waiting, good things comes to those who wait.