Air New Zealand's Skycouch: what exactly is it and is it worth it?

Anyone who has been on a long-haul flight knows there’s not much better than the opportunity to be able to fully recline. If your budget doesn’t stretch as far as a business class ticket, you may occasionally get lucky and have free neighbouring seats to stretch out across in economy. But, if you’re flying with Air New Zealand, you now may have the option to purchase a “Skycouch” row.

The airline’s unique Skycouch, also known as the “cuddle couch”, lets you convert three economy class seats into a bed – and the airline provides bedding, including pillows and blankets. Suddenly that 13-hour flight to Los Angeles may not seem so long, right?!

Last month, Air New Zealand won an Airline Passenger Experience Association award for “best airline product or service”. It comes after the Auckland-based carrier recently enhanced its Skycouch by adding a dedicated infant harness and modifying the Skycouch Cuddle Belt – which is designed to allow two passengers to lie side-by-side. In saying that, in its early days the Skycouch received criticism about it not being as large as customers had expected, being 155cm long, with flight attendants requesting feet not protruding into the aisle. So, what’s all the fuss about, and is the Skycouch worth it?

What are Skycouch seats?

Air New Zealand Skycouch seats are specially designed economy class seats that can be converted into a lie-flat bed. Available on Air New Zealand’s international Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 777 aircraft, they are blocks of three economy seats by a window where the armrests can be fully retracted. There is also a special footrest that can be raised to complete the “couch”.

Image supplied by Australian Frequent Flyer

The Economy Skycouch is available on Air New Zealand long-haul flights that are over six hours long. This means you can’t currently purchase a Skycouch when flying from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide to Auckland, but you may be able to use the Skycouch on the overnight flight from Perth to Auckland – or if you’re flying via New Zealand to further-flung destinations such as Argentina, Canada, the United States or Asia.

When booking flights on the Air New Zealand website, flights with a Skycouch are marked with the words “skycouch available”.

How much does Air New Zealand’s Skycouch cost?

The price of upgrading to Economy Skycouch varies by flight. But if you buy two seats and want to upgrade them to a single Skycouch, you’ll generally pay around 50% of the cost of the third seat. In other words, you get the third seat in the row for around half price.

When booking online, you can check the cost of upgrading by selecting a Skycouch row on the seat map for your flight.

Source: screenshot from the Air New Zealand website, accessed 30 October 2019

Using the Perth-Auckland route for example, a one-way economy seat for 11 February 2020 costs between $498 and $568 at the time of writing (depending on whether you add checked baggage, meals and movies). Premium Economy costs $954 per person.

For one person, a Skycouch row would start at $1,297 – slightly more than a Premium Economy seat. If there are two people sharing the row, the total price would be $1,395 – or roughly two-thirds the price of two Premium Economy seats.

Is the Skycouch on Air New Zealand worth it?

If you want the ability to stretch out, or particularly you’re travelling with small children, a lie-flat bed in economy class could make the flight a lot more comfortable.

That said, there are some downsides. The length of the Skycouch is only 155cm (5 feet, 1 inch) so, for the majority of adults, you won’t be able to fully stretch out without your feet dangling into the aisle. And the bed is only 74cm wide, so it could get squishy with two adults – especially if the people in the row in front recline their seats. Keep in mind that, in most marketing shots, Air New Zealand tends to show the Skycouch seats reclined but the row in front not reclined, creating the illusion of a bit more space than what may be available in reality if the seats in front of you are reclined.

If you’re travelling alone, the price of a Skycouch row is about the same as a Premium Economy ticket, although the exact costs will depend on when you book and when you fly. The Premium Economy seats are more spacious than regular economy (and you’ll get better food and drinks), but those seats don’t allow you to lie flat. So, it really depends whether you value the extra service in Premium Economy or you just want to lie down and fall asleep.

Ultimately, while the Skycouch is not a proper-sized bed and is not exactly a substitute for the comfort of business class, it is an upgrade over the usual comparatively cramped economy experience.

Lying flat in economy class on other airlines

While the Skycouch with the fold-up footrest is unique to Air New Zealand, some other airlines give you the option to purchase an entire row of seats for yourself. For example, Kazakh-based Air Astana offers Economy Sleeper class on its long-haul flights. Qantas gives passengers the option to purchase a “comfort row” on flight QF8 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney. And Etihad Airways invites its passengers to bid for one, two or three empty neighbouring seats on flights that aren’t full.

 

 About Matt Graham

Matt Graham is the Editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Australia’s largest online travel community. An expert in frequent flyer programs, he’s always looking for ways to maximise his frequent flyer points.

 

 

 

Main image source: TK Kurikawa (Shuttershock)

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