Air New Zealand to test out bunk beds in economy class

The airline says it plans to launch the service on its direct flight between New York City and New Zealand's capital, Auckland, that will begin operating in October 2020.

Plan will be tested on 18-hour Auckland to New York City flight

The so-called Economy Skynest allows up to six people to lie down comfortably on the plane. (Air New Zealand)

Good news for travellers who think economy airline seats are small enough to make you feel like cattle: now you can opt for a capsule hotel in the sky instead.

Air New Zealand says it is going ahead with a test program to install at least six bunk beds in economy class.

The airline calls it Economy Skynest and says it plans to launch the service on its direct flight between New York City and New Zealand's largest city, Auckland — a long-haul flight with a 17 hour and 40 minute scheduled flying time that will begin operating in October 2020.

"A clear pain point for economy travellers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out," said Mike Tod, the airline's chief marketing officer, in a news release.

The airline hasn't decided on the exact location of the pods in the plane or how many pods each plane will have, but they will be in economy class.

Included features

The beds will be stacked three high and are about 200 centimetres (six feet five inches) long and at least 58 centimetres (just under two feet) wide.

A pillow, blanket, sheets and earplugs will be provided, and the pods will be equipped with privacy curtains and "lighting designed for sleep," the release said. 

"We are exploring other features such as separate reading light, personal device USB outlet and ventilation outlet."

The airline has yet to reveal pricing, but it did say the feature will be offered to economy class travellers.

"We have yet to determine the costs and are still assessing the commercial proposition and viability of this product," spokesperson Anna Cross told CBC News when asked about pricing plans. But she did say anyone booking the pod would also need to have purchased a standard seat before having the option of moving between the two.

"The concept is designed as a pod you go to during the flight," she said. "You will still have your economy seat separately for the other portion of the flight."

Expanding service

Some airlines already offer sleeping pods to their first- and business-class passengers, but the move from Air New Zealand builds on the airline's attempt to bring stripped-down versions of such perks to its economy-class customers.

In 2018, the airline marketed something it called Economy Skycouch to customers — essentially, a way to turn a row of three seats into one unit someone could lie down across. 

Watch the video below to see how it works. 

"We expect other airlines will want to explore licensing the Economy Skynest from us just as they have with the Economy Skycouch," Goodman said.