AirNZ ‘Skynest’ brings lie-flat bunk beds to economy

The innovative Skynest will let economy travellers book a bunk above the clouds – but just how comfortable will it be?

By David Flynn, June 29 2022
AirNZ ‘Skynest’ brings lie-flat bunk beds to economy
Executive Traveller exclusive

Flatbeds in economy class? Yes, you read that right: Air New Zealand is adding economy sleeping bunks to its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 

First revealed as a concept in early 2020, and now due to take wing in 2024 on non-stop flights to New York and Chicago, the innovative Skynest makes six railway-style berths available to premium economy and economy class passengers.

Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.
Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.

With three tiered bunks on either side, each full-length sleeping pod will include a mattress pad, pillow and soft blanket, with curtains to ensure privacy.

In many ways the Skynest is a passenger adaptation of the ‘secret’ sleeping bunks already used by cabin crew.

Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.
Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.

Here’s what we know about Air New Zealand’s Skynest beds 

  • each of the six Skynest berths is approximately 203cm (80”) long, with width at the shoulders approximately 58.4cm (23”)
  • there’ll be a strict limit of one passenger per bunk
  • each Skynest bed will be available for advance booking by premium economy and economy travellers, although Air New Zealand says it’s yet to finalise the cost
  • the Skynest beds can’t be occupied during the take-off or landing stages of the flight
  • each bunk will be reserved in four-hour blocks – a period which sleep experts claim is equivalent to two sleep cycles (which are typically about 90 minutes) with a half-hour cleaning period when cabin crew will remove and refresh the mattress, pillows and blankets while also wiping down the interior of the pod
  • built into each pod is a receptacle for storing personal items plus a USB charging socket and reading lamp
  • the economy Skynest will be exclusive to a fleet of ultra long-range Boeing 787s dedicated to deep US routes such as New York, Chicago and Houston

Located at the front of the economy class cabin, the Skynest module takes up space which would otherwise be allocated to two middle rows of economy: but it’s a sacrifice the airline feels will tilt the numbers in its favour as a competitive X-factor on 14-16-hour non-stop flights.

Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.
Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.

Skynest is a ‘dare to be different’ play from Air New Zealand, which developed the Skynest in its Hangar 22 research and development centre and proudly touts itself as an innovative airline known for punching above its weight.

The Kiwi carrier has previous form in the economy sleeping game, after pioneering the Skycouch set of three extendable economy seats, which will continue to make an appearance on the Dreamliners, along with extra legroom Economy Stretch rows.

Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.
Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.

Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran says the Skynest typifies the airline’s ‘tip to tail’ approach to its refreshed long-range flight experience, which is of course crowned by all-new Business Premier Luxe suites.

“We think it’s appropriate to consider the entire plane,” he told Executive Traveller on the sidelines of an exclusive briefing in Auckland.

“As we did the research we knew what customers wanted at the front, but we also knew there was an opportunity to do something different down the back, and that's why the Skynest product is so critical, so you can have a lie down and get a proper sleep if you are doing a long flight…and a lot of flights from New Zealand are long!”

What’s it like in the Air New Zealand Skynest?

So what will it be like in this economy crib above the clouds?

After spending some time in a mock-up of the Skynest during an invitation-only media briefing in Auckland earlier this week.

Executive Traveller was quick to note the bunks will be best suited to passengers of slim-to-average dimensions (or children).

Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.
Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.

At just over 2m long, there’s sufficient room for most travellers to stretch out – but there’s a definite squeeze around the shoulders and elbows, with limited space for side-sleepers to do a shoulder-shuffle and easily manoeuvre themselves into position. If you’re a passenger of size, you’ll want to stay in your seat.

Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.
Air New Zealand's Economy Skynest bunk beds.

It’s also undeniable that the close quarters of any confined space such as this is going to feel claustrophobic to some flyers, so wearing an eye mask and taking a sleeping pill could be high on your list.

If you really really want a spacious fully lie-flat bed for that 14-16 hour trek, make a beeline for Air New Zealand’s Business Premier business class pods at the pointy end of the plane.

David Flynn travelled to Auckland as a guest of Air New Zealand

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2017

Total posts 20

So is the passenger confined to that bunk for the entire flight?  Uugggh!

24 Apr 2022

Total posts 2

4 hour prebooked slots for Y and PY pax. Cody but innovative.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 70

4 hours only??? What on earth is the point. I'd just stay in my seat.

Tav
Tav

20 Oct 2020

Total posts 11

You’ll still have that option ;)

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 367

You have to give Air NZ bonus points for innovation here but I'm struggling to see how this going to supersede the overall  practicality and revenue that Premium Y or Y seating would earn over that real estate. This Skynest product will always end up as a cost to Air NZ on every flight and just like the SkyCouch, no other airline will replicate it because it's a loss maker, unlike the Premium Y concept which is a big revenue earner (so all carriers are introducing it).

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 227

I think you will find the aircraft 787-10 will be range and payload limited on the routes they want to operate. Just like Qantas is with its 789 and A350-1000. So it would need to be capped at a max passenger limit. 789 = mostly full with seats. 

A350-1000 / B787-10 the longer fuselage means dead space. 

Qantas used it for communal dead zone.

Air NZ is more savvy and I’d say they used the space to make more revenue (as if they sold more seats) the weight of the pax load hasn’t gone up because the passenger is EITHER in their seat or the sky nest.

The other give away is it’s location- same as the QF 350-1000 so it must be a optimal location for range. 

Air NZ have just taken the chance to make revenue and a point of difference.

And ironically after all QF articles about cargo holds and running tracks / beds over promise and deliver nothing - you have actually got to give it to Air NZ here they promised nothing like this and have come out and delivered.

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 175

@MKSII 4 hours only??? What on earth is the point. I'd just stay in my seat.

There are only six of them for the entire economy cabin, so I guess this way more passengers can take advantage of four hours horizontal rest.

I'm not sure what the flight duration is from AKL to NYC but they could get in two, maybe three or even four cycles of passengers (depending on whether they'd allow people down there while the meal services are going on).

I'd jump at the chance to lay flat for four hours on such a flight.

13 Dec 2019

Total posts 16

If you really really want a spacious fully lie-flat bed for that 14-16 hour trek, make a beeline for Air New Zealand’s Business Premier business class pods at the pointy end of the plane.” well that’s a little bit elitist for those who can afford 4-8x fare $

11 May 2018

Total posts 13

That will be a nightmare for the staff to police if people oversleep their 4 hour slot. Could be of interest but I don’t think it will be cheap.

26 Mar 2020

Total posts 54

you will find that all 6 slots will be timed at the same time - so an announcement will be made for booked passengers to enter their bunk and their announcement made once the 4 hours is up.

It won't be exclusive at all and i assume there will be have mutiple 4 hour slots open during a 16 hour flight - so no one will want to book the 4 hour slot straight after take off etc etc 

So you will find the price might change based on when during the flight you want to book the 4 hour slot - price is higher mid flight or prior to landing as opposed to straight after take off

Etihad - Etihad Guest

10 Apr 2019

Total posts 5

I think this is a bit of a PR/Marketing gimmick and will be removed eventually. If you want to lay flat in economy, book skycouch. Looks a bit like a cramped hostel bed and I feel sorry for the crew having to wake people up and clean. Especially those people (like me) who get cranky when woken up. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2018

Total posts 20

Having just flown BNE-LAX on a crammed full A330 three days ago in the only available seating in Y, I would gladly pay a premium for the opportunity of four hours of lie flat.    Trying to sleep in a seat at my gentle age of 70 was very trying and the resultant aches and pains badly affected my arrival and first 48 hours.    I can live without the extra drinks, meals and big screen in J but the opportunity for some decent shuteye is why I choose it when I can.   For example my last arrival nearly 3 years ago I shuttled over to Budget, picked up a car and drove to Pahrump NV before stopping, absolutely unimaginable this trip.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 130

Nice concept, but doubtful it will be successful, hope I am proven wrong though. Quite a workload for the crew to manage, 4 hrs at extra cost for the P passenger - most may pass as only 24-30 lucky passengers will have the opportunity to utilize the product per flight. Marketing ploy - am sure.

so on ultra long haul, if they can't sell any more seats, it makes perfect sense to offer this, as an extra add on & people will talk about it.


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