This year, I have taken some of the longest flights in the world (over 15 hours nonstop) and many of them have been in Economy class. So when I got an opportunity to try out Air New Zealand’s Skycouch category, I was intrigued.
Air New Zealand claims that its Skycouch product is the world’s first economy class that can be turned into a couch. In the air! How does it work? Here’s my firsthand review from recently traveling on Air New Zealand from Chicago-Auckland and Auckland-Houston.
What is a Skycouch?
When you book your economy ticket online, you have the option to add on a Skycouch under seat selection. At this time, you can choose a Skycouch for 1 or 2 adults, or a family of 3, which is a supplement cost. Basically, you are getting a seat plus access to row of seats.
In my case, I had a Skycouch for 2 adults, which meant there were 3 coach seats reserved to share between me and my husband. Now, these are no ordinary seats. There is an entire cabin configured for this. Only the sides of about 8-10 rows on the airplane have a special design feature that allows you to bring up an extension that makes the 3-seat row broader. Think of a pull out couch. As a result, there are a limited number of Skycouches on each flight and these are marked ‘Reserved for Skycouch customers.’
Skycouches come with normal size pillows, warm blankets and a white couch padding. Even if you have the Skycouch booked for 1 person, you will get 3 sets of pillows, blankets and headphones.
After boarding, the flight attendant brought us a laminated card with instructions on how to use the Skycouch and said she would come and assist in setting it up once we are on board, but she never did. It took me a couple of attempts to figure out how to adjust the footrests, though the seats wouldn’t recline when I had the couch configured. All the armrests folded up to create a lounge space.
We were also given a heavy duty set of “cuddle seatbelts” to use while sleeping, but they were bulky and uncomfortable. I did see some families using the cuddle belts for little kids.
The footrest foldout made sitting a bit uncomfortable as it blocked the under seat area. When pulled open, it was 29 inches wide, and 5 feet 1 inch in length.
You need to stow your bags, bottles, shoes, etc, under the bed and won’t be able to reach them when the Skycouch is extended.
Skycouch is ideal for lounging. You can sit against the window and stretch out your legs to read a book or watch TV. You can also sit cross legged.
The Skycouch seat description shows photos of adults with their legs stretched out, lying on their backs. At 5’5″, I could not stretch out my legs without getting on the way of flight attendants and other passengers hitting me every time they passed by the isle. I had to bend my knees at all times to stay within the Skycouch length. The good thing was I was able to rest my back and get some sleep, rather than sitting upright in coach.
As a couple, we had a very tight sardine-like squeeze to lie down at the same time. We had to stay in a locked down position and synchronize any movements. You have to be really, really close to the person you share your couch with if you are going to do book a Skycouch for two people.
A couple of other Skycouches were occupied by families. I saw a mom and kid adjust quite well as the kid folded into the mother’s arms. Another Asian couple managed to squeeze in the couch with their baby (only the baby could lie down).
The Air New Zealand Experience
Despite the stellar ratings, I had mixed experiences with Air New Zealand’s customer service. The on flight crew was courteous and smiled. At Queenstown airport, the agent would not check in my luggage for my connecting Air New Zealand flight unless I was a Star Alliance Gold member (I am Silver). So I had to disembark in Auckland, collect my luggage, drag it to the international terminal (through a badly designed airport), print luggage tags, recheck my bags, then go through security again. I barely made it to my gate on time.
At Auckland International Airport, there were no manned counters for Economy check-in. I wanted to ask about lounge access and my connection from Houston-Atlanta, but it was a complete self check-in operation.
Food was not very good on most of my flights. We were given same options as Economy passengers, which were only 2 (beef or chicken), and inaccurately described. The chicken curry was sweet (like Japanese curry), the cheese omelet tasted like rubber, and canned fruit.
On my way back, I special ordered Hindu Vegetarian Meal, but instead got a bland Vegan meal.
Mid-flight I went to the galley looking for snacks but all they had was one kind of sandwich and water for passengers. There was a display of fresh fruit, cookies and chocolates right next to it, but it was only for the crew.
The entertainment system was decent, with plenty of foreign language selections. You could even order New Zealand wines from the screen and have them delivered to your door.
There was a USB port at each seat. There was no WiFi available.
- Skycouch offers more comfort than an Economy seat. You can stretch out to a certain extent.
- It is cheaper than business class ticket.
- Air New Zealand markets their Economy Skycouch to younger client, which makes perfect sense for families with kids, so they can stretch out and play. Two children can also lie down side by side and share a Skycouch.
- The Skycouch makes sense for one adult or one adult+ a child, but it is not made for 2 adults to sleep in at the same time (unless they are hobbits).
- Since Skycouch is popular with families, you are more likely to encounter crying babies, then say in business class.
- There are no other perks for booking Skycouch. You don’t get any priority boarding, lounge access, or even a toiletry kit on board.