Air New Zealand's new 'Skycouch' seats have attracted a lot of international interest, but in all honesty failed to live up to their pre-launch hype.
Dubbed 'cuddle class', the new skycouch does offer lie-flat or curled-up seating for a couple of passengers, provided they buy a row of 3 seats.
There will be 11 rows of skycouch seats, with the arm rests fully retracting, and foot rests coming up to meet the seats in front and create a 1.75 metre-long couch. A thin mattress fits over the top.
Suggestions have included seats which reclined back to an almost lie-flat position, staggered seating, and lie-flat stackable bunk beds along the sides of the aircraft.
The reality proved somewhat less revolutionary, although they are still the world's first lie-flat seats in economy or coach class, and will suit couples travelling long-haul, and those with a small child.
A team of designers have been working on the project for three years. Air NZ's Chief Executive Rob Fyfe says the challenge he gave was to "have passengers able to lie down in economy, but I don't want the seat to take up any more space and I don't want people to have to pay any more for it."
I guess the catch of two passengers also having to buy the middle seat (albeit at half price) to get a lie down means that goal wasn't quite achieved.
Interestingly, investors seemed unimpressed with Air NZ's seating revamp, with shares slipping slightly on launch day.
And it will be interesting to see how long the "2 seats at standard price + 1 at half price" skycouch deal lasts. Presumably giving away 22 seats at half the going economy rate is fine while capacity is down, but that policy may come into question once planes start filling up again or the seats "fly out the door" as the airline hopes.
The new skycouch option launches in November, when Air New Zealand's new 340-seater Boeing 777-300 comes into service, between Auckland and Los Angeles. The airline plans to refit all its long haul aircraft in the skycouch configuration by 2012.
There will also be changes for all other flying classes on Air New Zealand. Regular economy/coach class will get bigger video screens for the personal entertainment system, plus iPod ports (yay!), and a narrow head cushion that attaches to the seat.
A herring-bone layout with seats angling either inwards of outwards will also allow Premium Economy passengers to choose to have more personal space, or to interact with another traveller, including the ability to share meals.
There will be new contoured seats in Business Premier, with a thicker mattress and better seat lighting.
New oven technology will allow flight attendants to prepare fresh food 'on demand' for passengers... Steaks for Business travellers, Pizzas for Premium Economy, and Toasted Sandwiches in Economy (ordered via the onboard entertainment system).
It all sounds nice and classy, but it also sounds like the kind of colours that would get dirty and damaged pretty easily.
^ Ke$ha - Hungover (Dr Luke/Max Martin/Shellback)
^ Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band - Medley (Children in Need) ]
Posted at 9:41 p.m.