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December 10, 2011 / oneworld82

Air New Zealand revolutionizes long-haul coach class experience


We often hear of how airlines treat their premium customers in a bid to draw the business of the rich & wealthy (and of those who don’t pay straight out of their pockets): first-class suites with shower (Singapore Airlines on A380s’ first class), fully-fledged lounge bars (Emirates 1st class), gourmet dining…

Yet, Air New Zealand is in the news these days because it has introduced something innovative that caters – yes, it’s true! – to coach fliers. Something that, in my modest opinion, could give the company a huge boost in term of image and, possibly, revenue on its trans-pacific and Asian routes.

We are talking about the SkyCouch, of course: what is the SkyCouch? Well, it’s the possibility given to coach travelers to reserve an entire row that can be transformed in a real, futon-style sofa. As you can see from this promotional video, the SkyCouch will let you and whomever is traveling with you to have a personal space where to lay down and rest over a long flight. Booking a SkyCouch means booking the entire row, so if you are traveling with a partner the marginal cost per person would still be acceptable and definitely lower than the cost of a business class seat.

But Air New Zealand’s innovations don’t stop here. As the webpage dedicated to the company’s new economy class shows, fliers are now able to select drinks and snacks from their IFE system and to have dinner/lunch/breakfast served whenever they want to. A major step to make customers feel more satisfied and in control while allowing the crew to distribute meals and drinks in a less crammed and more efficient way.

Whether other airlines will adapt these innovations remains to be seen. Air New Zealand is introducing these new services while revamping its seats and cabins, as a major overhaul is needed to introduce new new SkyCouch seats. Yet, many airlines have orders of new 777s and other wide-bodied planes underway. With a little bit of planning on their side, we could be lucky enough to see these innovations introduced on many more carriers.

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