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Economy Kama Sutra: We Take Air New Zealand's New 'SkyCouch' for a Test Nap

January 4, 2011 at 9:31 AM | by | ()

As you might have guessed from our preview last week, we were all up in and around the all-new interiors on the first of Air New Zealand’s five 777-300ER’s last week, when we hopped aboard the delivery flight from Seattle to Los Angeles. Of course our first order of business was to cuddle up in the new SkyCouch.

Here’s a quick video we asked one of the friendly flight attendants to make showing us how to set up the SkyCouch for slumber, and then we’ll fill you in on our experience test-napping it during the long-haul flight from Los Angeles to Auckland...

As you can see, it was a pretty quick set up, and we actually did it ourselves in under a minute-and-a-half when we were ready to take a little snooze on our long flight from Los Angeles to Auckland. To quickly explain what the SkyCouch actually is, just imagine three economy seats with legrests up, then with a bed set on them. They're designed to sleep 1-2 people, but are probably best suited for one adult and one child.

The SkyCouch Experience
Now for the moment of truth: how was it actually to sleep in the SkyCouch? First we must confess that we were originally treated to a seat in Business Premier, seeing as the delivery flight was not a commercial one and the plane was pretty much empty. However, we trundled back into the Economy section, set up a SkyCouch for ourselves—complete with seat covering, fleece blanket, and two full-size pillows—and wondered whether we would nod off. Then, before we knew it, we were opening our eyes and it was several hours later and it was time to get up for breakfast.

A few caveats before we give it a full endorsement. First, we didn’t have to spoon or cuddle, so we had more room than the average SkyCouch passengers will. Also, we’re not very tall or bulky, so bending legs, switching positions, etc., wasn’t really a problem—though the airline provides a laminated sheet with diagrams of the different positions a couple or a family can pretzel into for optimal comfort in the SkyCouch. Economy class Kama Sutra!

While we think that perhaps a full night’s sleep is out of the question in a SkyCouch for anyone who is going to be sharing one on a flight, what we will concede is that you can definitely get a few hours of quality sleep in on one, and that being able to sleep horizontally (even in odd configurations) is still much better than being stuck upright in a conventional seat. All in all, we were more impressed (and well rested) than we thought we would be after our snooze.

The Other Options
When Air New Zealand was first conceiving of its new interiors along with the plane order for its fleet of 777-300ER’s, the airline went through 30 different seating options in all classes before settling on five. You can also check out our photo gallery of all the new seats.

Business Premier
The new Business Premier is kind of like the old Business Premier but with a white and “ink” color scheme, new mattress padding and duvets, and touch screen (rather than handset-controlled) entertainment systems that include food ordering (and which are now the setup in all three classes of service on the plane), oh, and ultra-luxe La Prairie skincare products and funky face masks in the goodie bags—it's more like the type of stuff you're have to pay for out of the Duty-Free catalog, but up here in Biz, it's complimentary.

Premium Economy
There are two pod-like configurations in Premium Economy, which we actually think will be the game-changing component to come out of these new planes. The inboard configuration is ideal for couples traveling together so they can face each other, share meals, etc., while the outboard configuration provides privacy for each passenger on the outer aisles of the plane.

Economy and SkyCouch
Apart from the SkyCouch, the standard Economy seating is roomier, with 32 inches of reclining pitch, and the same 10.6-inch monitors you’ll find in the other classes, plus iPod connectors and electrical outlets at every row. Then there’s the SkyCouch, also in Economy, which the airline proudly touts as the transformation of “cattle class” into “cuddle class,” a term the New York Times dubbed the “Travel Word of the Year.”

Disclosure: Special Jaunted correspondent Eric Rosen was a guest of Air New Zealand for the 777 debut. Regardless, all images, video and opinions expressed here are completely his own.

[Photos and Video: Eric Rosen for Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

i wonder about the seat belts

I wonder how easy is it to connect the seatbelt extension so you're wearing it while sleeping on the SkyCouch...and how far does it extend? Like, will it comfortably strap in two adults on the SkyCouch without restraining too much?