From 'cattle' to 'cuddle' class: Air New Zealand offers beds in economy

By Sarah Gordon
Last updated at 2:48 PM on 26th January 2010

We have all been there. Looking longingly at luxurious business class seats as we settle into cattle class to spend up to ten or more hours fighting for an armrest and some much needed shut-eye.

Now one airline has thrown down the gauntlet and is giving exhausted economy class passengers a chance to put their head down.

Dubbed 'Cuddle Class' the Air New Zealand offering applies to the three-seat blocks on its new planes and is being pitched at couples and families with two - admittedly young - children.

The airline has, however, been quick to squash any lingering thoughts from couples wishing to join the 'mile high club'.

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Enlarge   Air New Zealand Sky Couch

Cuddle class: The new seating area is being pitched at couples and families with - admittedly very young - children

Fold-out section on Sky Couch seats

Here the seats are upright with fold-out section extended providing a flat area to rest on

Ed Sims, group general manager of the airline, said this was not something the airline encouraged. 'Although we have no objection to cuddling,' he added.

The airline's CEO, Rob Fyfe was also quick to shoot down any mile high club aspirations, adding: 'Just keep your clothes on please!' 


The seating row can partially recline and has a retractable platform which can be raised to create a flat space across the footwell.

For a couple, the third seat comes half-price whereas for a family of four the idea is that one adult lies with their children while their partner has to make do with an ordinary seat.

The airline has also suggested children could be allowed to use the space as a place area.

The new seating is a welcome development for economy travellers who have faced ever decreasing comfort levels on budget airlines in recent years as business class seats have become ever more luxurious.

Flights with easyJet and Ryanair, for example, come at a cost to personal space. Standard easyJet seats have a pitch of just 29in, while Ryanair's are only slightly roomier, at 30in.

Air New Zealand will take delivery of the 777-300 planes from the end of this year which have been developed offering 22 sets of Sky Couches alongside the regular seats available in economy.

Pack 'em in: The crowded seating of a charter flight most air passengers are used to

Pack 'em in: The crowded seating of a charter flight most air passengers are used to

'We spent a long time observing how people contort themselves at all different angles to get comfortable on flights and how parents struggle to find a way for their children to curl up and sleep,' said Mr Sims.

'Then we hit upon this idea which is perfect for a parent with two children or for couples who can choose to buy the third seat in the row at half price and lie back and relax together.'

Although prices for the seats have yet to be released, they are expected to cost more than a normal economy fare. At present a flight to Hong Kong starts at around £463 return, with flights to Las Vegas for £531 and Fiji at about £1,000.

The first of five 777-300s will be delivered to Air New Zealand this year and will begin flights between New Zealand and Los Angeles. They will then be flying to and from Heathrow from April 2011.

Mr Sims said: 'We saw that airlines spent a lot of time trying to invent new concepts for business and first class but the majority of passengers fly economy which has remained unchanged for years.

'We decided economy passengers deserved more respect and that we could make some significant changes to their flight experience.'



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not debate this issue live on our message boards.

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One of the reasons that I decided to move away from the UK was due to negativity of the Brits. So it is reasuring to me that I have made the right decision to move away when I read comments like BT's. Yes you will have to pay a little bit more for the comfort of the extra seat but do you think the airline would have considered the 'seat belt issue'.....if you read the information that is available you will discover that they have designed seat belts specifically for the couch so you can use them whilst you sleep.

Whatever you do BT don't move away from Chester you might end up being less cynical and actually enjoying yourself!

Click to rate     Rating   22

As most airlines now insist on you flying with a seatbelt fastened for the majority of the time you are in the air, particularly when you are sleeping, I am no sure that ,in practice, you would actually get much 'cuddle' time.

Call me cynical, but isn't this just another way to extort more money from economy passengers - pay us 50% more & we'll give you an extra seat but we'll just not mention that you may not be able to use it due to health & safety concerns.

Click to rate     Rating   21

Long overdue development. Well done Air New Zealand and here's hoping others will follow either with the same or by going even further. Passengers deserve more comfort in economy - we aren't all business travelers with companies picking up the business/first class tag. More comfort without the throwaway frills is what we need and this looks like a step or even a giant leap in the right direction.

Click to rate     Rating   17

It's a nice idea but...
If I've paid extra for my seat, I want to use it!

That's impossible if the other passengers aren't my family or there are three adults!! I see many problems.

Click to rate     Rating   17

All i can say is ' about time'. Having flown the dreaded London- NZ long haul 6 times, I can't wait to have a seat that can fold down to become a bed without having to make myself bankrupt paying business or first class prices which i know i can never afford. I am 6ft 5 and being cramped with knees around my head for up to 30 hrs isn't much fun at all. I'm happy to pay more for this (within reason). Can't wait to try it out and maybe, just maybe I will get some sleep on a flight. :) Well done for leading the way.

Click to rate     Rating   33

"Economy seating is generally claustrophobic and inhuman... Animals get treated better"

No...they really do not, you obviously haven't seen the sorts of terrible conditions animals are raised and transported in. Chickens crammed in crates in the back of the lorry and cows in cattle trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse...

Click to rate     Rating   7

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