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Air New Zealand Skynest sleep pods would make economy class more classy

The airline wants to bring a bit of business class to the back of the plane. But don't start fluffing your pillow quite yet.

Have a rest on your way down under.
Air New Zealand

New Zealand, that lush island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, has plenty of attractions. It's just that flying there isn't one of them. Getting to a place that's a long way from pretty much everywhere requires a flight of several hours -- perfectly tolerable if you're in a premium class, but not so fun when you're in stuck in economy.

It's a challenge Air New Zealand isn't forgetting. On Tuesday, the airline announced it's exploring bringing one of the best features of long-haul business class, a lie-flat seat, to the back of the plane, at least in a limited way. The concept for the Economy Skynest shows six sleeping pods arranged in two triple bunks. Each pod would have a pillow, sheets, a blanket and privacy curtains, with options for a reading light and a USB outlet.

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"A clear pain point for economy travelers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out," said Mike Tod, the airline's chief marketing and customer officer. "The development of the Skynest is a direct response to that challenge." 

With the Skynest still in the idea stage, Air New Zealand hasn't said exactly how the system would work. Passengers would still have their normal economy seat, but it's not clear whether you could book a pod for an entire flight or for just a specific block of time when you wanted a rest. Of course, there would be an extra fee, but the airline didn't release details on that either.

The airline says the idea for the Skynest came as it continues to add even longer routes, like a 17-hour flight between Auckland and Newark, New Jersey, planned for later this year. Once it assesses passenger comfort on that route, which'll be flown by Boeing 787-9 airplanes, Air New Zealand says it'll decide whether to install the Skynest on select airliners, subject to regulatory approval.

Of course, airlines have been promising better economy amenities for years, almost of all of which have never come to pass. Air New Zealand, though, has done more than most. It's Economy Skycouch lets one or two passengers book an entire row of seats that can turn into a small bed for a sleep. You just have to be intimately comfortable with your seatmate.