Air New Zealand's 'Skynest' Bunk Beds Could Make Flying Ultra-Long Haul a Dream

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read
Four bunks on an airplane with people resting

We're calling dibs on the top bunk.

Air New Zealand

What's happening

Premium and economy passengers on Air New Zealand's new planes will be able to book private bunk beds for four-hour stints.

Why it matters

Flying 17 hours in a middle seat is a grim prospect. This could be a game-changer.

Picture this: You're waiting at the departure gate at New York's JFK airport to board your flight to New Zealand. You'll be flying economy, so no personal space or lie-flat bed for you. Oh, and the flight is 17 hours. How do you feel? Not jazzed, I'm guessing.

But would you feel differently about your impending journey if you knew that midway through your flight you could take a four-hour break from your middle seat and limited legroom in a private bunk (leaving enough time for two 90-minute sleep cycles)? I know I would.

The concept is more than just a pipe dream thanks to Air New Zealand, which on Tuesday unveiled new cabin designs to be fitted first in its 2024 batch of Dreamliners, including six "Skynest" pods. Stacked three high like a triple bunk, each pod will be bookable for four-hour stints throughout the flight by passengers traveling in economy, economy stretch (extra legroom seats) and premium economy.

The pods will be tucked away in the middle section of the plane between the economy and economy stretch cabins. The bedding will be refreshed for each passenger by the crew during a 30-minute changeover period. You'll be able to add a Skynest sleep session to your booking just as you would extra baggage. How much it'll cost has yet to be determined, but it'll likely be much more affordable than a seat in Air New Zealand's Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe cabins.

Air New Zealand's Dreamliners are set to service its ultra-long haul routes, including New York, Chicago and Houston. It's on those super-lengthy journeys that an opportunity for a properly restful snooze will likely be most welcome.

The airline first unveiled the idea of the Skynest back in 2020, but concept designs for revolutionizing airplane seating are often little more than a tease that comes to nothing. Not so on this occasion -- the Skynest is more than just blue-sky thinking and is set to become a reality. 

From its viral inflight safety videos to unique seating designs, Air New Zealand has a history of experimentation and not simply following aviation industry trends. Some of its experiments don't last (RIP premium economy Spaceseat, I'm sorry to never have flown in you). Others are still around today, such as the Skycouch -- a row of three economy seats that can be reserved and turned into a bed -- which the airline launched in 2011 and which will also make it onto the new Dreamliners.

But as far as getting forty winks in economy goes, the Skynest could be the ultimate game-changer, offering a level of privacy that the Skycouch lacks. Let's hope it sticks around -- and ideally that other airlines catch on.