These days most airlines are cutting back on the amenities they offer. If they still have amenities to cut back on, that is. Airlines already without frills are resorting to increasing extra fees in their quest to make your flying experience increasingly horrible—Ryanair is even considering charging for bathroom use.
In this race-to-the-bottom environment we’re thankful that a small handful of airlines are working on a novel concept: increasing their level of service. Air New Zealand is chief among them. Starting later this year, on select long-haul routes, the airline will be introducing lie-flat seats in their economy class and improved seats in premium economy.
Let’s start with the economy class lie-flat service, dubbed the Skycouch. What Air New Zealand is doing is eliminating the bumps between seats and introducing foot rests that can be raised to be parallel to the seat. So, if you raise the armrests between three seats and raise all the footrests a sort of bed is created. It isn’t exactly super-spacious. But it is large enough for two average-sized adults (or one adult and two kids) to sleep on.
The catch—and isn’t there always a catch—is that two adults traveling together will have to reserve all three seats to take advantage of this new sleep-friendly design (though the third unused seat can be purchased at half price). Also, the Skycouch seats will only be available in the first 11 window rows of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-300 planes.
More significant to travelers (although having less novelty factor) is Air New Zealand’s new Spaceseat in Premium Economy. On some carriers there’s not much “premium” about their upgraded economy class—United Airlines comes to mind as a particularly bad offender. On Air New Zealand Premium Economy is close to business class on some other airlines.
The new Spaceseats will be arranged six across, in a 2-2-2 configuration, compared to the 3-3-3 or 2-3-2 layout typical to many other premium economy classes. What’s really cool is that there will be two kinds of Spaceseats: Inner Seats and Outer Seats. Inner Seats are designed to maximize the privacy of solo travelers. Outer Seats will be angled towards each other in such a way that allows a couple to share a common table and oversized raised foot rest. (See photos, below). Every premium economy seat will also have a hard back shell, so a passenger reclining in front of you will not cut into your space.
In addition to these changes, Air New Zealand will be upgrading the interior cabin design in their long-haul aircraft and adding made-to-order meals in all classes.
Once these new features are implemented Spot Cool Stuff expects Air New Zealand to leapfrog Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines as our favorite trans-Pacific carrier. In the meantime, we’re happy that there’s one airline at least trying to make their service better.
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