Review: Air New Zealand's Skycouch seat (soon for China Airlines)

By David Flynn, January 7 2014

Air New Zealand's innovative Skycouch economy class seat will soon be appearing on China Airlines flights, with the Taiwanese carrier adopting the Skycouch design for its fleet of new Boeing 777-300ER jets which take wing from September this year.

The Skycouch – which features on Air NZ's own Boeing 777-300ERs as well as its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners – is a unique concept for boosting passenger comfort during those long-distance flights in economy.

In short, it's a row of three economy seats in which an oversized legrest swings up to create a flat sofa-like space on which travellers can stretch out and relax.

Air New Zealand primarily markets the Skycouch as a space for families – the airline's PR photos invariably show a parent with one or two children.

However, it's also been tagged 'cuddle class' for couples – with a clever ad to communicate appropriate and inappropriate behaviour for those tempted to join the Mile High Club.

When it's time to sleep, the Air New Zealand crew lay down a mattress pad and a full-size pillow... hopefully China Airlines will also adopt this same 'icing on the cake' service. 

However, don't mistake this for a lie-flat bed. It's still just three economy seats, which means most travellers will need to either curl up on the seats or lean against the wall and stretch your legs out along the 'couch'.

Air New Zealand sells its Skycouch as a package in which two passengers travelling together can buy the third seat at a reduced rate.

Skycouch for business travellers?

We'd suggest this arrangement might also suit two business colleagues who are forced to fly in economy class due to their company's budget and/or travel policy.

Don't worry – we're not suggesting that you put "cuddle class" to the test with your co-workers!

But if your company does make you fly economy, you might be able to persuade your travel people to make a Skycouch booking – especially for long-distance flights with a solid overnight component.

(Of course if you're travelling on your own, booking all three seats on a Skycouch could end up costing somewhere between a premium economy and business class seat, so good luck with that!)

For colleagues travelling together in the window and aisle seats, this makes some sense.

Firstly, only Air New Zealand's Skycouch economy seats have legrests, which can be set individually at a 45 degree down-angle to give some support to your legs – there's no legrest in standard economy seats.

Secondly, the reduced-price middle seat will mean you have much more elbow-room and can potentially spread out business papers or a laptop between you and your colleague.

It's also eaiser to spread out into the middle seat because the armrests in a Skycouch row can be raised flush with the seatback, unlike the armrests in many other rows.

Air New Zealand is licensing the revolutionary Skycouch to other airlines "on non-competing routes” says airline CEO Chris Luxon, who is clearly keen to keep the Skycouch out of the hands of its competitors.

In other words, don't expect to see a Qantas Skycouch any time soon.

Additional reporting by John Walton. 

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

undertheradar Banned

undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

bear in mind that even in  'couch' mode', laying pax are required to wear a seatbelt during a flight for safety reasons..and if 2 laying pax sidebyside you require an 'extension' belt to cover both pax..not the most 'comfortable' experience...and if you dont..be prepared to bring yourselves sitting upright if the 'seatbelt' sign gets illuminated inflight due to turbulence...because once that fasten seatbelt' sign comes on...you have no recourse to blame an airline for injuries sustained  if you dont have a seatbelt on..of course airNZ will be happy to take the money and run... i seriously doubt China Airlines even have/ or if they do...will enforce these safety requirements......sorry to sound blunt...

VA Beats QF

VA Beats QF

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards platnium

30 Nov 2013

Total posts 43

You have a pretty good point!

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

I looked in the encyclopedia for the word "Gimmick" and saw a picture of the  Skycouch...

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Nonsense - it is very appealing proposition for families and couples on budget. When I decide to go to LAX with my half this option will be on top of the list. Indeed it is nice ALWAYS fly business or even first, but as my accountant said money always matters.

And if you do not mind can we have a link on that encyclopedia?

VA Beats QF

VA Beats QF

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards platnium

30 Nov 2013

Total posts 43

That's quite funny!

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

IMHO brilliant idea. I cannot get why other carriers so reluctant to implement it. As to Qantas - sure ANZ does not like Qantas (or anyone else for this merit) to compete on LAX route, but I am sure that Qantas could make an agreement to use it on London routes.

Hugo

Hugo

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Well, other carriers would have to (a) replace their existing seats and (b) pay a licence fee to Air New Zealand who apparently have patents on the design. 

Besides, by my calculation this is approximately three times seventeen inches equals 4.25 feet long. So it's no surprise that Air New Zealand marketing seems to now be promoting hobbits as the ideal Air New Zealand passenger...

(Actually I looked it up and Air New Zealand assures me that it's really five foot one in length. Still, significantly shorter than the vast majority of us. I'm sure that many people try it out, but how many try it twice?)

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

No questions if you can afford business. But I remember in good old days when each second fly was half empty plenty of people (me included) was using opportunity to take a nap using 3 empty seats. Skycoach is far more comfortable then 3 "ordinary" seats and I am sure that small extra payment worth it. No, it is nowhere business replacement, but it allows people to have a nap instead of torturing themselves for 14 hours in uncomfortable awkward posture. 1.5 claimed meters is not that bad considering that we naturally curl when sleeping and the fact that there is extra space between window seat and the wall.

I would try it and I am sure would repeat experience - MEL - LAX ridiculously overpriced, it is almost as much as MEL-LHR, so cheaper alternative to lye down is very welcome

YMMV

spinoza

spinoza

01 Feb 2012

Total posts 370

IMO, total gimmick. Its great in that if you are lucky enough to buy 1 seat and no one is sitting in your row, you can lie down more comfortably.

Other than that, i completely do not get it. I don't understand why someone would pay money for it. Maybe I would if I was flying with a kid, and then he/she can lie down while I find another seat (or head on my lap). It'd be much more sensible and comfortable flying PE, altho this might be much cheaper..

Hugo

Hugo

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Serg: It's not really a "small extra cost" though. For one person, it's two and a half times the price -- more than premium economy and getting up there towards biz-class (depending on route). For two people it's a relatively small extra cost but by all accounts two people can't get comfy unless at least one of them is very small indeed. 

The way I figure it, if you're gonna fly economy (which I do, because I'd rather *be* rich than act rich) you might as well just suffer it out and arrive at your destination richer. And if you're gonna spend a lot of money to be comfortable you might as well go the whole hog.

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Hugo, 

Of course we talking "small" premium for 2 person  - if I recall correctly it is about $600 to LAX ($300 each), I would pay this money. Once again it is nothing like business, but I rate it better then PE - even if you and your partner big enough, you still can manage space better and arrive more like human been rather then like an animal from RSPCA cage. Plus if you found one empty seat somewhere - far more lickely then find empty row! - you can relax in turn.

As to act rich and be rich.... Everyone has own measures and I personally will not fly long distance in cattle - if I cannot justify proper seat price, I would rather do not fly at all and became even reacher then you :-P.

Koru17

Koru17

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

04 Sep 2012

Total posts 136

I think the skycouch is a good idea its not 'gimmik'. NZ is the first airline in a while to change up the economy seat. 

Also, NZ also flies to LHR so why on earth would they allow QF to use it. (Qantas would need MONEY to pay for it and that aint going to happen any time soon). 

mackey

mackey

29 Nov 2012

Total posts 11

"Air New Zealand sells its Skyouch as a package"

Are you trying to start a new catchphrase refering to the price/comfort David?

LOL

LOL

07 Jan 2014

Total posts 1

Just to clarify that China Airlines (CI) is TAIWANESE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hugo

Hugo

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Taiwan being *actual* China and home to the only legitimate Chinese government, yes.

jyh189

jyh189

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 May 2013

Total posts 12

Interesting article! Any chance of a China Airlines review anytime soon? :-)


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