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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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