What Is It: Air New Zealand's Economy Skycouch, the option to buy a row of three economy seats that turn into a couch. The Skycouch is more than just an empty row of three seats—the armrests flip all the way back, and footrests on each seat flip up to turn the entire area into a couch wide enough for two people.
Price and Where to Buy: The price is like a regular airline ticket. It's based on demand and availability, and it changes often. (Depending on your travel route, the Skycouch can cost between $300 to $800 extra.) However, two people upgrading to the Skycouch will cost you less than buying a third seat. It's available on Air New Zealand's new 777-300 planes, which currently fly between Auckland, Los Angeles, and London. When you make a reservation on qualifying Air New Zealand routes, the Skycouch option upgrade will be offered if it's available.
Pros: Sitting in a packed section of coach for a 12-hour flight can be torture. With an upgrade to the Skycouch, I enjoyed a "free" glass of New Zealand wine, watched Arrested Development on demand on the seatback TV (all without annoying seatmates to deal with or jockeying for the armrest), and then unfolded the Skycouch for a nap. I didn't wake up until breakfast arrived on my tray table. It turned a long flight into a comfortable one, and let me sleep away most of the journey—something I usually can't do when sitting upright. The Skycouch really made this the easiest, best long-haul flight ever (and that's not just the free wine talking).
The Skycouch seats come with everything you need to turn it into a comfortable bed, including bedding, pillows, and a special seatbelt extender that lets you be buckled in while lying down. It's also easy enough to turn from seat to couch (and back again) without needing help from the flight attendants, so you can recline on your own schedule.
Cons: The envious stares of your fellow passengers. The Skycouch is located in economy, which means if you get it, you'll be surrounded by people stuck in crowded rows of three or four, all of whom will give you dirty looks as you lounge about like a first-class passenger in your very own row. Hey, at least I didn't recline all three seats into the people behind me!
Also, at 5'5" I could just lie flat without dangling my feet or head into the aisle by lying diagonally across the Skycouch. People who are taller, or sharing the Skycouch with a partner, would probably not have fit so nicely. (The Skycouch is actually 5'1" in length, but it's wide enough for one person to lie diagonally. Taller people could lie down, but would have to curl up to not be in the aisle.)
How it Rates:
- Comfort: 10/10. I slept for close to 10 hours straight. I rarely get that much in a real bed! Also, getting off a flight and not having the back and neck aches that come with sleeping sitting up? Priceless.
- Convenience: 10/10. There's a card in the seat-back pocket that instructs you on how to use the Skycouch (including sleeping positions), but it's really easy to switch between the three seats and the couch position. Plus, the friendly flight attendants would be happy to set it up for you if you asked.
- Value: 9/10. You'd have to upgrade to business class to get a lie-flat bed on Air New Zealand, and it would cost thousands. If you're short enough, go for the Skycouch, and save money while lying down. I imagine it would be worth the money to have the extra space if you're a parent traveling with two kids, as well; or a couple that didn't want to have to share a row.
- Extra Perks: 2/10. You're still in economy class, so don't expect special meals or even early boarding. All you'll get is extra pillows and bedding. However, Air New Zealand has the seat-back TVs, free food and free drinks that you rarely see in coach anymore.
- Cool Factor: 10/10. Cool factor: 10. Guilt factor: 9. Sorry, other economy passengers. We'll take Skycouch if it's on offer any day.
Final Verdict: Want some extra space on a long flight but can't afford to upgrade out of coach? The Skycouch is the perfect compromise, and sleeping through almost a whole flight is worth the money.
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